There is a downside to the fact that God wants what is best for us: He is willing to do whatever it takes to get us to cooperate with His plan.
If you subscribe to the concept of free will, then God is never going to force us to do anything. But He will arrange circumstances to “encourage” us to move toward Him.
Hebrews 12:7 tells us to “endure hardship as discipline.” I’m not sure when the word discipline got its negative connotation, but, originally, it was a positive thing. Discipline meant “instruction which aims at increasing virtue” (BLB). And that’s how the author of Hebrews is using the word, too. He says, “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness,” and discipline “produces a harvest of righteousness and peace” (Hebrews 12:10-11).
Holiness. Righteousness. Peace.
These are all things I want. These are all things God wants for me. But when I can’t see how obeying God in a given situation is going to help me reach these goals, God is willing to do whatever He has to in order to adjust my vision. He is willing to send hardship. He is willing to discipline in the hopes that I will be trained by it (Hebrews 12:11).
He can correct me all day long, but if I refuse to learn from the discipline, I’ll never share in his holiness or righteousness or peace. Instead, I’ll stay in my selfishness and turmoil. And God, in turn, will have to tweak my circumstances once again in order to show me the way I am operating is not in my best interest.
A long time ago, God told Jeremiah, “In vain I punished your people; they did not respond to correction” (Jeremiah 2:30). God was exasperated with Israel! Year after year they traded His Glory for worthless idols (Jeremiah 2:11). The rest of the book tells of how Israel is unwilling to do what is in their best interest. They are unwilling to be trained by the discipline God has been employing. He is going to have to go to extreme measures if He wants to convince Israel that their idol worship is bad for them. So He does. He lets Judah be conquered, and the Israelites were taken into captivity for 70 years.
I don’t want God to have to go to extremes to get my attention. I don’t want Him to have to keep turning up the heat because I am so stubborn I refuse to pursue what’s best for me. I want to respond immediately to His discipline. I want to be trained by it. I want to trust Him enough to obey Him even when I can’t see how anything good will come from it.