Ever see a chef prepare a cut of meat? There are a lot of ways to keep it tender and tasty, but one of the most dramatic methods is with a meat tenderizer. This simple, spiked mallet breaks down the toughness in the meat. This isn’t a gentle process, like marinating or slow-cooking, though. When the chef pulls out the tenderizer, brace yourself (and maybe cover your ears) for “WHAM!” The meat isn’t going to break down with just a tap, though, so the chef has to really apply some force: WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM-WHAM!
In our lives, we all have some tough spots. These aren’t the callouses on our hands from hard work, nor the stains in the carpet that we can’t seem to get out. Instead, these are internal qualities, like hard-headedness and stubborn sins, which are more difficult to expunge.
In an ideal world, people would learn the truth about Jesus and choose to follow Him. On our respective paths of obedience, we would each receive the Holy Spirit to convict, empower, and direct us, and we would live a sinless life. Grace and love would pour out from us, as given to us by God in the first place.
In the real world, though, sometimes it takes more than good goals to change our habits. God, who loves us and doesn’t want us living a sub-par life, sometimes needs to discipline us. We, like wandering sheep, need a little direction or correction.
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Hebrews 12:11 NASB
However, when guidance and subtle discipline don’t work, God has shown that He is is willing to apply some pretty dramatic “tenderization” of our hearts. Sometimes, He chooses to intervene in a forceful way, in order to get our attention and keep us from going down a really bad path.
Consider these examples from the Bible, where a hardened heart needed some severe tenderizing to change its ways:
- Pharaoh lost his firstborn son (Exodus 12:29-32).
- Balaam had to be warned by his donkey that he was in mortal danger (Numbers 22:22-35).
- Jonah got an underwater tour (Jonah 1:17).
- Saul was struck blind (Acts 9:1-9).
No wonder Stephen identified certain people as follows:
“You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.
Acts 7:51 NASB
That term, “stiff-necked”, is a great illustration of people who wouldn’t bow to any authority. When they needed to bow their head and be humble (or maybe listen to someone else), their neck just seemed to be stuck in place.
To be clear, not all bad things in our lives are a direct result of God trying to get us to stop a major sin. Sometimes, though, God does what it takes to get our attention, such as when there is something really important for us to learn (and when we are going the wrong way).
As a result, I invite each of us (including myself, of course) to take a look at our hearts, and consider if there is some stubbornness or fortified resistance to God’s direction. If so, may we soften our hearts willingly, before God has to bring out a more severe solution (see Hebrews 3:7-11).
(OK, I wish I didn’t have to say this, but here’s the disclaimer: This spiritual transformation should change our attitudes and mindset. Do not use a meat tenderizer on your actual body. You have been created in the image of God, with body, soul, and spirit. You are far more than just “meat”.)