Discipline Isn’t Always Meant To Be Punishment

Deu 8:2-5
2 Remember that the Lord your God led you on the entire journey these 40 years in the wilderness, so that He might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. 3 He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then He gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your clothing did not wear out, and your feet did not swell these 40 years. 5 Keep in mind that the Lord your God has been disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.

I hate exercising. It feels like punishment for eating. It reminds me of a coach making you run laps for doing something wrong.

But exercise is really a matter of disciplining yourself, your mind, your body, your muscles. It is part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle. It stretches the heart and body muscles so they will be stronger, more efficient, more responsive when our body needs them. It also tones and tightens our bodies.

Now take a look at your life. You see one exercise after another testing your faith, hope, patience and love. You see one wilderness experience after another. It appears to be one long wilderness experience, just like the Israelites in the desert for 40 years.

But notice the first words in Deuteronomy 8:2 – remember that the Lord led you. You were never there alone. Then it says that He led them there to humble them and to test them so they would know what is in their own hearts – to show them how they really were and what they really believed. He also allowed them to make bad decisions that lengthened their wilderness experience.

However, it was not necessarily out of punishment that the wilderness experience continued, but mainly so they could learn from their mistakes and recognize their dire need to rely upon Him at all times. So often our attitude is “Thanks for getting me this far, God. I’ll take it from here.” We think we can go it alone and make our own decisions at some point, but we can’t.

In verse 3, we are remembering how God provides for us even in the wilderness. It may not be the onions and leeks from Egypt, but life sustaining manna strengthens us for the journey – as long as we depend upon Him every day for just the amount that we need and no more.

In verse 4, God even adds unnatural long life to our belongings and coverings instead of buying us new things. We would rather have new stuff, but the miracle that we can keep going with what we have gets overlooked because of our demand for new things.

Lastly, verse 5 reveals that the entire point of this wilderness experience is God disciplining us. Just like physical exercise, this develops and strengthens our abilities to trust, love and obey Him. No one is exempt from the wilderness (including Jesus), regardless of what lies Satan tells you. Everyone goes through trials and temptations that reveal what we really think and believe – because our actions in the wilderness are the outward expression of our faith, hope and love – or lack thereof.

So when you look back over your wilderness experience, be careful not to resent it, as Satan would have you do, so you might resent God. Don’t see it as punishment for your mistakes, either. See it as God’s disciplining of your mind, body and spirit. See it as proof of His promise to always be there for you and provide for you, although not always in the ways you would have chosen.

He does not leave us in the same pitiful state that he found us, just as a parent doesn’t leave it’s child in a crib for it’s entire life, but helps it discipline it’s body to crawl, then walk, then run, climb, jump and even more. These are proof of a parent’s love and care, just as the wilderness discipline is God’s care for us and our growth. We may not always like it, but it is God’s way.

Penny Haynes