In the pathway to joy we must understand there is a distinct difference between the pain inflicted by Satan as he seeks to keep us in bondage and the discipline of the Lord as He leads us to freedom. Satan fills our lives with empty promises and beats us down to keep us in His clutches. God builds our lives on truth and shepherds us through the valleys to still waters. At times, the two experiences can feel similar, but the motivations behind them could not be more different.
The writer of Hebrews encourages us to embrace God’s discipline because it is a clear sign of His concern for our welfare: ‘And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?’ (Hebrews 12:5-7) It is natural for children to dread the discipline of even a loving father, but they learn to accept it if it is delivered in love and produces a positive outcome.
It is also important to realize the Lord’s discipline is active in all kinds of mourning, whether it is a result of sin or circumstances over which we have no control. Regardless of the source of our personal suffering, Satan will try to use it to gain a foothold in our hearts, and God’s truth is always our best defense. In fact, I have counseled as many people who are innocent victims of suffering as those who have brought trouble on themselves. It seems the conscientious are always concerned they will sin and bring dishonor to the Lord, and as a result they usually grow in their devotion, although others would be hard pressed to find anything wrong with their spiritual walk. This is why we find ourselves running into the arms of our heavenly Father, ready to do whatever He asks for the sake of receiving His comfort.