Is God trying to punish me?
“How dare you go on persecuting me, saying, “It’s his own fault? You should fear punishment yourselves, for your attitude deserves punishment.” Job 19:28-29
Several years ago, I had a wonderful science teacher who led me to a new poster in his classroom. Before I could see what was on the poster, my teacher instructed me to close my eyes and he positioned me up against the poster. Then he told me to open my eyes and tell him what was on the poster. Since I was so close, I couldn’t tell for sure… all I saw was a bunch of dots! Then, he said… “slowly move backwards so you could see the poster from a different perspective.” I did, and what was once a collection of multi-colored dots was, in fact, a picture of Abraham Lincoln as he is seen at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.! Why didn’t I recognize who was on the poster when I was up close? Could it be that simple? That viewing something from a different perspective or relying on someone who has that different perspective, holds the answer to understanding what we’re dealing with right in front of our faces?
Perhaps one of the most significant burdens of suffering is our often unanswered question, Why? As humans, I believe we have an innate desire to make sense of things that happen to us. So if we must endure something difficult, we at least deserve a reason for our suffering, don’t we? God, can you at least give us that much?
Suffering often plunges us into introspection, where we hash out (and often re-hash, again and again!) how we may have earned such awful consequences. Surely God wouldn’t let us hurt so badly unless we deserved it as punishment. Right?
Not so fast… It’s anyone’s guess where we got the idea that suffering must be a consequence of sin. Sometimes God does allow suffering as a discipline, but that is only sometimes. As a result of the fall, pain is an unavoidable part of life. It’s here to stay until we’re with our Heavenly Father for eternity.
The Bible, shows us that it isn’t only us that needed to deal with difficulties and pain. Looking at Job, we find that God was extremely pleased with Job for the way he lived. And yet, God allowed Satan to test Job’s faithfulness. Not a shred of Job’s pain came as a result of sin. Job wasn’t merely a halfway good man; he was characterized as “blameless… a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil” (Job 1:1). If anyone didn’t deserve to suffer, Job was that man… and yet… he did!
God’s purpose in allowing Job to bear huge pain was the opposite of punishment… He held up Job before Satan’s face as a pillar of integrity (Job 2:3), a man who brought glory to God, a man whose life put Satan in his place.
When, not if, we go through difficult times, perhaps a paradigm shift, of sorts, in our thinking process, might have us seeing things or issues we’re dealing with differently. Perhaps start with the fact that our God loves us always and would never do anything to hurt us, and consider how our life can be a testimony of faithfulness to God rather than a tale of sin’s afflictions. We might be amazed what God will do through the situations that hurt us. The lesson might not be obvious in our time, but in God’s perfect timing, He may allow us to see our trial through His eyes as a means of stretching us in ways we would not have otherwise been able to do on our own. It comes down to faith, doesn’t it? What will we do when we’re put into those places of struggle, pain, and suffering? Move closer to Him or turn our backs and walk away? A good friend of mine said to me one day that “You’re either walking towards God or away from Him… it’s your choice!”
International Christian best-selling author Chip Brogden shared a story we can all benefit from… “One man’s experience drives him to curse God, while another man’s identical experience drives him to bless God. Your response to what happens is more important than what happens!”
Lord, I don’t like that pain is a part of life, but I thank you that you’re so gracious to spare me from the suffering my sins deserve. Please help us to honor you even when our questions remain unanswered! Amen…
gstefanelli (Greg Stefanelli)