I recently created a 31-day Advent/Christmas devotional booklet for my church called “Glory to God in the Highest.” I will be posting a devotional from it each day between now and the end of the year. Enjoy!
Scripture: Luke 1:11-25
But not so fast. “Punishment” might be too harsh a word. The Bible tells us that our heavenly Father disciplines his children for the same reason that human parents discipline their own children: because he loves us (Hebrews 12:6) and wants to shape us into better people. As the apostle James writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
C.S. Lewis, using the old-fashioned word “punishment,” puts it like this:
I am beginning to find out that what people call the cruel doctrines are really the kindest ones in the long run. I used to think it was a “cruel” doctrine to say that troubles and sorrows were “punishments.” But I find in practice that when you are in trouble, the moment you regard it as a “punishment,” it becomes easier to bear. If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.[†]
“It’s not so bad,” indeed!
Even this year, I’ve experienced a lot of anxiety about my health—including a biopsy which returned a “suspicious” verdict from the pathologist before a second, larger sample ruled out cancer.
For someone who is already a borderline hypochondriac, this wasn’t easy for me. But because God is sovereign, I know that God allowed it to happen for a reason. For one thing, it forced me to my knees in prayer, which is always a good place to be.
I can see how God used this anxiety about my health as “punishment”—or discipline—to teach me to trust in the Lord more.
Do you believe, like Lewis, that this world is meant for our “training and correction”? How have difficult experiences made you a better person? Take a few moments to thank God for the ways in which he’s disciplined you.
† C.S. Lewis, “Money Trouble” in The C.S. Lewis Bible, NRSV (New York: HarperOne, 2010), 1123.