On January 13, the sermon by Dan Doriani in the morning services at Central Presbyterian Church focused on Hebrews 12:5-13, which addresses the Lord’s loving discipline of his children. A major lesson from that biblical text and sermon is that God allows some hardship in our lives in order to refine us and strengthen us, just as a good physical trainer and a good parent challenge us to help us grow and mature.
However, as Dan said, not all suffering and hardship are expressions of the Lord’s discipline to correct and challenge some weakness or sin in us. The whole book of Job and Jesus’ encounter with the man born blind in John 9 are only two of many examples of suffering in the Bible that have no direct connection to anything done by the individuals who suffered. Some hardship is inflicted upon us by the weakness and sin of others for reasons that may be completely unknown and unknowable by us.
These observations, of course, raise an obvious and most practical and existentially pressing question: How do I know if some specific hardship is the Lord’s discipline for my own weakness or sin? Biblical scholar Donald Carson has a wise set of reflections on this issue in the following article on The Gospel Coalition blog: How Do We Know if God Is Disciplining Us?