I have been thinking a lot about parenting. And about God. Because God is in everything, and my mind loves to fly to Him.
I have been contemplating how good parenting is a symbiotic relationship between discipline and delight. Because God is a God who disciplines and delights in us.
Hebrews speaks of how God’s discipline reflects good parenting, as well as His love for us. The writer says, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.” (Hebrews 12:5b-6).
Psalm 18:19 says, “He rescued me because He delighted in me.”
There are countless other verses that solidify what I’m saying, but those were the two that came to mind instantly.
I hung out with a 3-year-old over the weekend, and couldn’t stop thinking about how she desperately needs both. How we all desperately need both. We need to know and receive God’s correction, to submit to what He says is right or wrong. To trust His better judgment and let Him teach us self-control. But if we don’t know He delights in us, this feels like harsh criticism rather than love and care from a good Father.
I pulled up a chair and cracked the Bible this morning, wanting to revisit 1 Kings 17 because, well, I love that part of the Bible so much. And that’s where my bookmark is from the last time I cracked the Bible. (Sometimes I like to re-read the same thing many times in a row, because the Bible isn’t just information but transformation.) God tells Elijah that there’s going to be a drought (which also means a famine) and to head to the brook Cherith so the ravens can feed him, then to Zarephath so the widow can feed him. At the widow’s house, her son dies and she says this “What have you against, me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!” (vs. 17). If we read the rest of the chapter, we find that this is the first occurrence in the Bible of someone being raised from the dead.
What strikes me about this passage isn’t so much the circumstances as the perspective. The widow assumed her circumstances were God’s angry judgment over her for all the wrong she’d done in her life. Karma. She believed in Karma. In Karma, if we’re honest with ourselves, we all lose.
Elijah had met her, incited her to trust in the Lord, and through him, she’d seen God’s miraculous provision for her and her son in the midst of a famine. Yet, here she hits something hard and she doesn’t actually know God delights in her. She knows she deserves discipline, but doesn’t recognize that she was singled out for the incredible honor of living with the prophet Elijah, having a miraculously endless oil jug and flour jar while everyone else was starving, and of making this cameo in the Everlasting Book! She was highly favored by God… yet she didn’t yet know it because her confession when her son died is that God has brought her sin to remembrance.
This is where delight enters. We who follow Christ ought to know that Jesus’ blood proves His affection. We still straddle the line between Karma and Christianity sometimes though, especially in our youth. The longer I mature in the wisdom of the Bible and the nourishment of communion with God, the more I recognize that Jesus actually delights in me. Here is where I feel overwhelmed with the magnitude of Scriptures I could insert to validate my point, and where my eyes begin leaking tears over the truth and glory of what I am saying. This is the truth that makes me dance. The truth that frees me to actually want His correction and help. To smile in the face of adversity. The Lord Himself, King of kings and Lord of lords, Creator of heaven and earth actually loves me! I mean deeply loves me. He numbers the hairs on my head and the molecules in my body. He handcrafted me in my mama’s womb. And He never, ever leaves me or forsakes me! I wish I could impute the emotion I feel writing each of those sentences, but these are simply typed out words, though they are coming from a soul engulfed with the fires of joy and gratitude and bliss and glory. .
Hosea describes well what I am saying. It is the story of a whore and a God who strips her of her superficial treasures. It seems as though she is getting what she deserves. She’s a whore, after all. Yet, He is disciplining her to woo her into the wilderness and shower her with His delight. This is not how humans behave. But this is how God behaves. This is what the cross is all about. He strips us of our self-sufficient pride. Shows us the deathly price tag for our sinfulness. And simultaneously shows us we mean so much to Him that He would take the death penalty for us!
This isn’t Karma-Christianity. This is Grace! This is God’s delight flowing from the pierced side of Jesus like blood and water. When I filter my circumstances through the affections of Christ (rather than my knee-jerk reaction to whether or not I like my circumstance), then I am able to see His glory and goodness even in the hard places. Because I know that my God is a Father who delights in me, and His discipline is an overflow of His delight!