“Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:9-11 NIV)
These words from Scripture do not show God as a gentle God, as a forgiving God, as a God who loves man. Or do they? I just read today’s Girlfriends in God devotional, in which Sharon Jaynes reflects on the above Bible verses. She recounts several examples from the Bible in which God punished His own people, as well as an example from her own life.
Now I for one would never choose to use corporal punishment on my child if I had one. Then again, Sharon’s son chose the paddle rather than a wee without his Nintendo. The important message in this text is not that children deserve corporal punishment, however – people vary in their opinions on this. The message is that the child should 1. suffer consequences for their wrongdoing, 2. know why they are being punished and possibly 3. choose their own consequences within reasonable limits.
After all, Sharon’s husband gave their son a choice between five paddlings or a week without his Nintendo. In the Bible, too, many times God gives the people who disobey him choices of consequences. This sort of control over the consequences of one’s wrongdoing is advocated in many parenting books, including those by authors who would never advocate corporal punishment. The message is that the child understands what they’re doing wrong, that they’re being punished and why, and that they have control over their actions and thereby have control over the consequences of these actions. This taches children not just righteousness, but also self-control and flexibility.
Does this too mean that God allows suffering as punishment? Sometimes, yes. People often say that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, and this is true, but He sometimes tries to drive us back towards Him.
God is, as Sharon says in the devotional, a great parent – the best parent we can imagine. We may not always understand His actions as they happen, or even as we read about them in the Bible. Ultimately, however, we will understand, and even if we won’t, these actions will shape us to become the best us we can be.