As the children of Israel prepared to enter the promised land, Moses reminded them of the numerous blessings they had received during forty years of wandering in the wilderness. God had fed them with manna, their clothes had not worn out, their feet had remained strong. Then he added this blessing, which I’m guessing the people hadn’t thought of as a blessing:
Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth theeDeuteronomy 8:5
It makes sense. Why would you bother to correct someone whom you don’t care about? But if you really love someone, if you really want them to be happy and successful, you will be willing to provide corrective feedback to them.
The writer of Proverbs picked up this thought and took it a step further: If we realize that God’s correction is evidence of His love, then we ought to accept it as the gift it is.
My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction:
For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.Proverbs 3:11-12
The apostle Paul would later quote this passage in his epistle to the Hebrews, adding the punchline: “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” (Hebrews 12:7).
But he also acknowledged that correction doesn’t usually feel like a gift when it is being received: “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Hebrews 12:11).
As Samuel the Lamanite stood on the wall of Zarahemla and warned the Nephites of the terrible consequences which would follow naturally from their current behavior, he paused to remind them of this principle. The Nephites, he said, “have been a chosen people of the Lord; yea, the people of Nephi hath he loved, and also hath he chastened them; yea, in the days of their iniquities hath he chastened them because he loveth them” (Helaman 15:3).
If the Nephites had been capable of getting outside of themselves and seeing things from Samuel’s point of view, this concept might have been obvious to them. What did Samuel have to gain from standing on the wall of their city and preaching to them when they had already cast him out? (See Helaman 13:2.) What was in it for him? And if he had nothing to gain from this endeavor, why should they not accept the message he was giving them at great personal sacrifice as a gift from a loving God?
How does God chasten me?
- Sometimes through the words of other people. A few days ago, a friend made a comment which caused me to think about my actions, something I can do better. The comment wasn’t even directed at me, but it has caused me to rethink my behavior in important ways.
- Sometimes I receive personalized messages about how I can improve from the scriptures or from the words of modern prophets.
- On some days, bad experiences lead me to seek counsel from God. The sting of failure can open my heart and make me more teachable.
Today, I will remember that chastening is evidence of God’s love for me. Even though I don’t enjoy being corrected, I will strive to see it as a gift and a blessing. I will remember that God chastens me for my own benefit, and that if I am receptive and “exercised”—if I convert the chastening into action—then as the apostle Paul promised, it will lead me to “the peaceable fruit of righteousness.”