Is God disciplining me? How do we answer that question?
It can be really confusing. When things start going sideways in our lives, we naturally want to look for the source. In our worst moments, we look for someone to blame, whether a person, an institution, or a former friend. In our best moments, we look to ourselves, wondering if we are actually the unwitting engineers of our own circumstances and whether we have something to learn or some area in which to pursue growth through difficulty. It’s in this second realm of questioning that we come to the question:
Is God disciplining me?
Again, the answer here is tricky. Perhaps the Lord has engineered a season of difficulty that we might learn and grow. But then again, isn’t this always the case? Isn’t it always the case that God is working all the time in order to make us into the image of Jesus? If that is true, then we should not dread the question of God’s discipline. In fact, it is a reason for us to rejoice, for one of the ways we know we are a child of God is because of God’s discipline in our lives. This is surprising because when things don’t go the way we think they should in life, there is often a creeping, prosperity-esque thought that comes to our minds: “Doesn’t God love me? Because surely if He did, then this wouldn’t have happened.”
But Hebrews 12 torpedoes that line of thinking out of the water:
“Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline—which all receive—then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had natural fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but He does it for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness. No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:7-11).
The discipline of the Lord isn’t evidence of His lack of love; it’s proof of it. In fact, if we never received discipline from God, that’s when we should be wondering about the Lord’s love. He disciplines us because He is not only our Father; He disciplines us because He is the best Father imaginable. The evidence of that “bestness” is His discipline for our good.
Think about it for a minute. Let’s say there are a hundred children on a playground, and as you look across the landscape you see a group of kids doing something dangerous. Not dangerous in the sense that someone’s going to be permanently disfigured, but unsafe nonetheless. Now you might be compelled to step in, but then again, you might say to yourself, Those aren’t my kids. There are a bunch of parents out here, and so I’m going to mind my own business. But your posture completely changes when your own child is involved, simply because that is YOUR child. And as your child, it is your duty to intervene for their welfare. Chances are they will look at you as someone who has spoiled the fun, but you know better. You are acting for their good. In a similar way, God intervenes with His discipline because He is our Father. We aren’t somebody else’s kids – we are His. Because we are, He is compelled to act.
So, Christian, perhaps today you sense the disciplining hand of your Father upon you. It does not mean He has abandoned you or ceased to love you. Quite the contrary. It means you are His true child.
Because that is true, here is one good way to answer the question of whether God is disciplining me or not:
Is God disciplining me? I surely hope so.
Do not despise the Lord’s instruction, my son,
and do not loathe his discipline;
for the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
just as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights (Prob. 3:11-12).