“The Discomfort of Discipline” by Forest Benedict

Missteps are part of being human. We all make mistakes, choosing things that go against our own values and goals. Often we interpret these choices as “failures” and find it difficult to begin again. Even when we know we’ve left our path, why do we so often continue resisting changes we know will get us back on track and bless our life?

I wonder if part of our resistance to change is not wanting to endure the discomfort of discipline. We so often choose immediate gratification over long-term gain. The temporal over the eternal. Pleasure in this moment over purpose that endures. Like Esau (Genesis 25:34), who traded a bowl of soup when he was hungry for his inheritance, we too are so quick to relinquish the blessing of faithfulness for a momentary sense of relief.

For all of us, old habits and addictions die hard. Consistency and commitment will be essential as we rewire our brains to believe that the new behavior is natural. Nobody does this perfectly, so learning to start again as fast as possible will prove to be an essential skill. Faithfulness doesn’t mean we never fail but are willing to start again (and again), continuing to strive for the goals that bring meaning to our lives.

Think about it: What would God say to you after a misstep? After a “big failure”? Would he be mad or mean or harsh? Would he invite you back with open arms? I believe his words to us would be both compassionate and challenging. As if He’s reminding us, “I love you, I accept you, now are you ready to trust me?”

I wonder if God would remind us of something like this:

“Discipline is not easy and there will be a season of doing new things you don’t always want to do. But you can choose them anyway. Expect that uncomfortable time, when doing the right thing is hard and unnatural, to be part of this process of change.

Do you trust Me enough to do My will? Do you trust Me enough to listen to My voice and know that what I tell you to do comes from a loving place and will bring you life?

Do what is unnatural today, do what is right. Even when it feels awkward, do the things that will bring you life. Resist the urge to escape into what is easiest, into what brings the most pleasure in the moment. You will experience greater pleasure through obedience to Me.

Trust in me, despite your own understanding. Keep reminding yourself to trust in Me. That’s where you’ll find life and peace. Trusting in me.”

May we accept God’s compassion and learn to be compassionate with ourselves. May we learn from our missteps as they teach us how to walk on our path. May we endure discomfort now for the greater reward to come. May we all learn to trust God more as we move forward in the difficult yet rewarding work we were created to do.

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.
Run to God! Run from evil!
Your body will glow with health,
your very bones will vibrate with life!
Honor God with everything you own;
give him the first and the best.
Your barns will burst,
your wine vats will brim over.
But don’t, dear friend, resent God’s discipline;
don’t sulk under his loving correction.
It’s the child he loves that God corrects;
a father’s delight is behind all this.” (Proverbs 3:5-12, The Message)

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

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