God always deals with His children in love, even though sometimes He must inflict pain in order to keep them in line—or get them back in line. The Bible insists, however, that God never inflicts pain willingly. In a sense, you might say that God is a lenient disciplinarian. He’ll let you get by with an awful lot before He really comes down on you.
The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “For the Lord will not cast off forever. Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men” (Lamentations 3:31-33).
God doesn’t strike willingly!
When I was growing up, just before my dad disciplined me, he used to say, “Son, this hurts me worse than it hurts you.” I never believed him. I thought, Come on! Who are you trying to kid? I thought it was just a line—until I became a parent myself, and then I understood. When I had to administer proper and appropriate punishment for my children’s misdeeds, it really did hurt me worse than it hurt them. In the same way, God never afflicts His children willingly. He shows us compassion “according to the multitude of His mercies.” Whatever He does, He always does in love.
“But if He really loved us,” someone might say, “He would never strike at all.” Such a perspective reveals a serious case of spiritual amnesia. For the Bible replies, “And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives’” (Hebrews 12:5-6).
From the Bible’s perspective, the failure to discipline reveals a lack of love. God demonstrates His love for His children when He disciplines, in love, those who stand in need of it. That is why we hear Jesus saying, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19). And that’s why we hear the apostle Paul saying to the carnal believers of ancient Corinth, “What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?” (1 Corinthians 4:21).
When God disciplines us, He does so out of love. He wants to bless us, not blast us. God does not delight in judgment. He would much rather show mercy than judgment. As He said through the prophet, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezekiel 33:11). God wants to show us His mercy and demonstrate His grace. That is why He is so slow to exercise judgment.
And to be honest, sometimes I wish He weren’t.
A lot of people fill the earth with their filth, condemning other men’s souls and exerting a rotten influence upon our children. I’d like to snuff them out, right now! Sometimes, God’s patience seems like a big problem to me. “God, why do You let them get by with that? Why do You let them do that? Lord, why don’t You just smite them?” God delays His judgment because He wants to give everyone every possible opportunity to turn from their evil—chance after chance after chance.
Still, there is a limit, even to the patience of God.
“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. Nevertheless, He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever” (Psalm 103:8-9).
The prophets speak of the day when the cup of His indignation will overflow—and then watch out!
Don’t misinterpret God’s patience as evidence that He doesn’t know or doesn’t see the evil you do. He does see—and what He sees pains Him greatly. But He loves you and thus He remains patient with you. Never imagine that God approves of your sin simply because He has let you get by with it, so far. God can never support evil or sin. But He is merciful. He is slow to anger, of great kindness, and He doesn’t want to bring pain into your life. He doesn’t want to bring His judgment—so don’t force Him to do so.
- excerpted from Love The More Excellent Way by Chuck Smith