Learning Life’s Lessons

by Norman Harber

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) When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for the joy that a human being has been born into the world. (John 16:21)

Who wants to be uncomfortable? Who wouldn’t want to wear familiar, comfortable jeans rather than scratchy, stiff dress pants? Discomfort is exactly why we don’t want to diet or exercise. We tend to lean toward the easy, the familiar, and the comfortable. But the easy path is seldom the best. Never confronting the unfamiliar turns us inward. Always being comfortable makes us soft and selfish. Avoiding diets or exercising is the very reason why you start thinking about starting a diet or exercise program. You have let yourself get into a condition where it’s now necessary to change in order to avoid something worse. You may have come to this conclusion on your own, or perhaps someone else suggested it. How did you respond when that person talked to you? Anger, resentment, embarrassment?

You may be angry, but that person may have just saved your life. From childhood, we learn that discomfort is a good thing in the long run. Burning your finger on a flame taught you the danger of fire. Cutting your hand on a blade taught you to be careful around knives. Maybe more than anything else, we learned from our parents’ discipline to obey those in authority. Temporary distress taught us lasting lessons. We applied those childhood lessons to our lives. Getting good grades in school meant doing the homework and studying for tests. Winning at sports meant putting in the hard practice time. the homework and studying for tests. Winning at sports meant putting in the hard practice time.

Promotions at work meant going beyond the minimum to impress your superiors. Choosing a mate included awkward but necessary conversations and final decisions. You made the difficult choice to set boundaries for certain things or people in your life. We learned that any worthwhile goal was going to take hard work that would make us uncomfortable at times ‐ often for a long time. Scripture abounds with these lessons: Funerals are difficult; parties are fun. But which teaches us more? (Ecclesiastes 7:2‐4). Fasting was a form of self‐discipline to focus on the important (Matthew 6:17-18; Daniel 9:3). Paul’s thorn in the flesh humbled him (II Corinthians 12:7).

The wide road is easy. The narrow road is difficult. Only one leads to life. (Matthew 7:13‐14) Paul and Barnabas had an uncomfortable disagreement about John Mark. They had to go their separate ways. That awkwardness led to many more people being reached with the gospel message (Acts 15:36‐41). They later reconciled (Colossians 4:10).

Haggai reprimanded the people for living in paneled houses while God’s house was in ruins. It was not a pleasant conversation, but it led to the right thing being done (Haggai 1). Confronting a brother about sin in his life will never be easy, but it is our duty (Galatians 6:1-2).

That brief time of discomfort might bring about a lifetime, and perhaps an eternity, or joy. That initial conversation you have with a non-Christian may be awkward, but just think of what it may lead to. So many Christians are now very thankful that someone had the courage to make them uncomfortable. Your discomfort may be your salvation.

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