Not many of us like correction. When you were little were you timid and easily molded by your parents instruction or did you have a rebellious internal spirit, difficult to tame and lead, what Dr. Dobson would refer to as the “Strong Willed Child”? Maybe you were a mash up- delightful one minute but bullheaded.
Even if we were easily corrected as a child, no child really likes correction. Who loved a spanking or even a good talking to? Whether we cowered at our parents’ mention of time out or busted full throttle through a threat and on to serious discipline, the correction itself is not the part we liked so much as the satisfaction of independence.
As adults, we’re not much different. No one naturally likes a demerit at work, no one loves to be the one who receives a redo on a project, or a “honey, could you do such-and-such differently” at home. We might like the fruit of correction eventually – a promotion, better understanding, richer marriage communication – but criticism, even when it’s absolutely and wholly constructive, is not found on any of our lists of “Favorite Things”.
James has something to say about correction in James 4:5-10. First focus only on the center of this section and then we’ll zoom out. James 4:7-9:
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
This is correction. A requirement to submit to the authority in charge, namely our mom or dad, our husbands, our teachers, our bosses, or our government leaders. Our internal spirit vacillates between relief that someone else is in charge and frustration that it’s not us. We like control, so submission, even in the most submissive of individuals, is a task of growth, best done intentionally.
Listen to James’s words – submit, humble, cleanse, purify. I’m reminded of just how hard it is to get my kids to remember to intentionally wash their hands after using the bathroom, much less the intentional work of submitting to my husband, even though he is kind of gentle, and to my government leaders when I rarely 100% agree with their ideas and laws.
But we submit to a Higher Authority first. Our big beef with correction when we get down to it, is that God is in charge and we are not. We like to choose our own path, direct our own ways and we simply were not made for that. James uses the best language imaginable for the type of submission that goes with correction in our relationship with God. Look back at James 4:8 –
Draw near to God…
Write it somewhere to remember it. If I were crazy (and I am) I would write it on my hand, or my foot, or the top of my knee, to remind me that relationship with God means bending said knee and bowing my pretty little head. It is submission and that’s important- He’s Holy and Mighty and Far Above. But God operates differently in relationship with Him than He does outside of relationship with Him. Submitting in relationship with God is drawing near, being held, and yes, being corrected.
Zoom out to the wider view of James 4:5-10. Read the whole passage below. If you have your Bible out, underline verses 5-6 to see the relationship that we are given with our Father through the Savior.
5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
He gives more grace…
That’s Who He is. He gives more grace. Correction is hard…
That pinprick of the conscience when we know we’ve done wrong
Opening our mouth for words of apology when we have spoken too harshly
Walking the hard road because we took our own way the first time around
Correction is hard.
But take heart! Correction by the Father is always delivered with grace. We can see the fruits of it through this lens.
Forgiveness can come in –
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
Goodness comes in, completeness comes in –
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16
Rootedness comes in –
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates reproof is stupid.
3 No one is established by wickedness,
but the root of the righteous will never be moved. Proverbs 12:1,3
These are good fruits! God fruits.
James calls our laughter to be mourning and our joy to be gloom, but only because he knows that in that correction for a moment, we can see the light of Eternity forever.
We see our God clearer and closer. He’s right there, eyes in the back of His head, just like a Father, watching in tenderness.
He gives more grace…Draw near…
He’s ready to pick us up when we fall down, dust us off, and help us along as we journey the steep and the narrow, the wide and the open, always one day closer and nearer to Him.
What were you like as a child? How did you deal with correction?
Is there any particular instance of correction you remember growing up?
How has God corrected you in adulthood and when is a time you came through the correction, thankful for His guidance?