It Is God Who Restores Us After He Disciplines Us
1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
4 Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
5 Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.
Dreaming after Discipline
When we are being disciplined, it can seem as if there is no future. Our very dreams may be stripped from us as God allows us to be sifted like wheat. The fortunes of yesterday become the poverty of tomorrow. Women who bore children may now be barren, and any thought of success is marred as God does the opposite in our lives.
5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 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.
It may seem impossible to dream of the future while God is disciplining us. And although discipline is designed to bring about the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it, the training may seem excruciatingly painful, cruel, unloving, and hateful. But that is our Earthly emotional response to the unpleasantness that is required for training. If we focus on the feelings rather than the goal, we can become embittered, disillusioned, distant, withdrawn, and even depressed.
While a significant portion of discipline is achieved through God allowing Satan to have his way with us, God does sometimes supernaturally intervene through the withholding of His blessing and hedge of protection for reasons that appear obtuse to us. Even His silence during this time is calculated to drive us closer to Him in prayer, with pleading and tears, rather than anger, scorn, and bitterness.
When your dreams seem like a distant echo of some great feast of long ago, let go of them to embrace the discipline that God is using to train you. It may very well be that God is trying to sanctify you by removing the Earthly dreams and desires that you have so that He can give you new Heavenly desires and future visions of His plans. For when the discipline is over, the time to dream dreams has arrived.
When God restores our fortunes, we will have songs filled with joy and praise on our lips. And like a woman who has travailed through a long, difficult, and painful childbirth, the joy of seeing her child for the first time makes her forget the pain that she endured to birth him/her.
For the first time in what seems forever, we will have laughter on our lips, and God will give us a new song in our hearts to praise Him. The former things will have passed away, and the current joy will overshadow any pain that we may have endured. This does not mean that we won’t bear the scars. The emotional, psychological, and physical scars of our discipline may well follow us throughout the rest of our lives. But God will restore and sanctify what was once broken.
It is the scars that remind us of where we came from, what we came through, and where we are going. Humans are a forgetful people. That is why God needed to tell us that we should praise Him in remembrance when He prospers us. Soon after the pain is over, if we do not remember our training, like a dog returning to its vomit, we may very well return to our old ways of living. That is why God had His people erect Stones of Remembrance.
When God restores the fortunes of His people, the nations take notice, and they see the grace, mercy, and provision of the Lord God Almighty. In 1948, God kept His promise and restored His people to their land. In 1967, God kept His promise and His people threw off the yoke of Gentile control for more than 2,000 years. God has been restoring the fortunes of His people, and it has been a great and mighty testimony to the faithfulness of God. And while the enemies of God and God’s people gnash their teeth and cry out in agony at the sovereign power of Almighty God, YHWH, as He marches forth His sovereign plan, the rest of the world looks on in wonder and envy as Israel grows, strengthens, and prospers.
Howling and Hymns
When we sow with tears, we reap with joy. God is close to the brokenhearted, and hears their cries for His help. God is not deaf to the suffering of His people:
13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.”
Growing and Garnering
The Bible says:
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
When we sow seed in weeping, God will send us away with joy in our hearts as we reap the efforts of our labors with the fruit that will satisfy us. God gives us not only physical provision, but also spiritual provision as well. He will give us the fruit of our labor, and we will be satisfied in it. When we drink from the fountain of living water, and eat of bread of communion, we are filled with such great abundance of joy and satisfaction that the world in its desire to physically satisfy its carnal desires cannot even begin to appreciate what we have. For the deepest hunger of our hearts – the spiritual need and desire to be in communion with God – will be truly fulfilled, and no amount of wealth, food, or Earthly attainment can compare to the immense riches of the blessings that we have in our Heavenly inheritance.
A Qualifying Question
Let’s ask a question: When faced with trials and discipline, am I able to see God’s endgame – my sanctification and His glory – through it?
A short prayer of preparation:
Father in Heaven, Your discipline seems like blows on my back. I can sometimes barely even breathe under its weight. Give me strength through my trials, and keep my heart steadfastly focused upon Jesus, that I may honor and glorify Your name though them. Father, even Your Son, Jesus Christ, asked three times to have His cup removed. Father, may Your will be done, not mine. Help me to endure my trials as Jesus did His. Help me to see the light at the end of these trials, so that I can look forward to laughter, joy, and song, and dreams again. May my suffering and loss glorify Your name. Please use my pain, suffering, sorrow, and loss for Your glory so that I may know that my suffering serves some greater purpose. Thank You, Father, for all that You are and all that You do. May Your mercy and grace be upon me and my family through all of our trials. Remember me – act divinely upon my behalf – this day, and give me what I need to both survive and thrive. This I ask in Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.