Am I Being Punished?

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Welcome  There are many questions we tend to ask during the face of struggle and difficulty.  Why me?  What next?  What did I do to deserve this?  Will I make it through?  Am I being punished?

Many of us have grown up believing that bad experiences are like consequences we face as an act of punishment.  After all, a number of life’s most difficult circumstances result as natural consequences of our bad choices.  But not always.  Many other times there seems to be no explanation for why something bad happens, especially when we see these things happen to good people.  Then there are the times when we feel like we’ve done everything right, we feel like we’re on the right track, and yet a tragedy or crisis will strike, leaving us to ask…am I being punished?

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Today’s Scripture

Food For Thought  In addition to reading today’s Verse of the Day, I also recommend reading Hebrews chapter 12.  In verses 3-17 we are given an important lesson about God’s discipline.  I believe we are often confused by the words “punishment” and “discipline,” both in the spiritual sense and in every day life.  While punishment is more a direct action taken against a single wrong choice, discipline is a pattern of shaping and teaching acceptable behaviors through lessons and instruction.  This is an over-simplified explanation, of course, but it helps me understand the connection between our circumstances and punishment or discipline.

When thinking in these terms, God is more our disciplinarian than our punisher, although He has certainly used punishment in different cases in scripture.  In fact, I found 29 verses alone addressing the “punishment of the wicked.”  However, God did not “punish me” with a flat tire because of the curse word that slipped out the day before.  I was not punished for not giving more at church by coming home to a broken water heater.  My friend was most definitely not punished with her cancer diagnosis because she skipped a few church services.  The family that lost their home to a fire was not being punished by a sinful act of any family member.  And, at least to my own limited knowledge, I don’t think a city or location is punished with natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes.  These are tragic events that are brought down on the human population, regardless of personal choices.

Discipline, though, is another matter entirely.  As a good and loving Heavenly Father, He takes it upon himself to teach us the paths we should go.  Our character is shaped by the lessons we learn through these acts of discipline.  I can speak to these experiences directly.  They are not always pleasant, as discipline usually isn’t, but we do grow and learn from the process.

I became a little too prideful in my life, thinking I was better than others in some areas or giving myself way too much credit in other areas.  God has used several occasions to teach me lessons in humility and some of those lessons definitely felt like punishment at the time.  I was left asking, “Why did God take this away from me?”  After the hard lessons of learning, I found that God removed things from my life that caused me to stumble and sin.  It was an act of discipline.

I’ve learned discipline in the area of patience many times, with God delaying my answers and requests until I learned to rely on Him and trust His will.  During moments of waiting, denial can feel a lot like punishment, but the act of learning to wait is a lesson in discipline I continue to need.

In the past year, I found myself asking, “Am I being punished for quitting my teaching job?”  This has popped into my head from time to time, when things at home break or the car needs to go in for repairs, again, or I experience difficulties on my path to a new career choice.  But then I realize, that’s not how God works.  Regardless of my employment situation, we are bound to run into expenses and appliance failures and transportation issues.  Stuff breaks.  Unexpected bills come up.  No job is easy or without obstacles.  These experiences have nothing to do with punishment, but are simply the day to day hardships we are destined to face (James 1:2-4).  So, when I’m facing life’s difficulties, I am not being punished.

Now, having said that, I will not say God does not punish.  Matthew 25:46 references the punishment coming to those who deny Him, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (ESV).  But the beauty of God’s discipline is that it SAVES us from His punishment.  I would rather have difficult lessons along the way in this life than to receive that punishment at the Final Judgement.

So, back to my original question, am I being punished?  No, it may just feel like it.  In reality, it is either a natural consequence of the choice I made (Proverbs 12:21), a lesson in discipline to help me grow my character (Romans 5:3-4), or part of earthly struggles (John 16:33).


Happy November and Today’s Recipes  We are well into fall and the seasonal food that goes with it.  It is also time to begin thinking of Thanksgiving dishes.  I have two very simple vegetable side dishes to share today, both would make great additions to your holiday feast.  If you need large quantities, these recipes are easily doubled without doubling the work.

Easy Corn and Zucchini Saute
Simple vegetables and simple seasonings combine for a lot of great flavor in this skillet side dish.

 

Easy Corn and Zucchini Saute (as written, serves 6, but easily doubled)

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large zucchini, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 bell pepper (any color will work), diced
  • 6 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • dash of cayenne pepper

 

Heat olive oil in large skillet.  When hot, add onion, cooking 2-3 minutes.  Add zucchini and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cook about five minutes or until zucchini becomes tender.  Add bell pepper and mushrooms, cooking another 4-5 minutes.  Add corn and cayenne (if desired), stirring until corn is heated through.

 

Mashed Sweet Potatoes
No sticky marshmallow topping here, just sweet potatoes, butter and cream!

 

Mashed Sweet Potatoes (as written, serves 8, but easily doubled)

  • 6 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 TBS butter
  • 1/2 cup cream

 

Peel, wash, and cut sweet potatoes.  Add to large pot with enough water to cover the potatoes and the salt.  Bring to boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low, cooking until soft, about 20 minutes.  Once cooked, drain water and add butter and cream.  Mash the sweet potatoes with a potato masher.

Interested in more delicious side dishes?  Visit my Vegetables and Sides Board on Pinterest!

Today’s Recommended Products  I seriously don’t know how I would get my holiday cooking finished, or even my every day dinners, for that matter, if I didn’t have my great Calphalon pots and pans.  They are sturdy, durable, heat well and hold a lot.  Over the years, I have continued to add to my collection.  Here are links to the two pots I used today.

Calphalon Signature Nonstick Hard-Anodized Every Day Chef Pan, with Lid

Calphalon Contemporary Nonstick Hard-Anodized Pot, 5-Quart

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