Do you recall any time as a child when your parents punished you and you instantly regretted whatever it is you did to get you there? Maybe you didn’t even fully understand the reason for your punishment. Maybe you thought the punishment didn’t fit the crime, or your parents were being too harsh in response to whatever you did. In your heart you might have said, “I knew it was a bad idea to do such-and-such.” The possible reward wasn’t worth the risk. Maybe you didn’t consider the consequences of your actions or didn’t even think that if you got caught, they wouldn’t be as severe. I personally can connect with a few of these instances in my childhood and those feelings of regret, desperation, and utter despair come back as I read Psalm 80. I get it. I understand the psalmist’s lament in this moment.
As a side note, we must understand the difference between punishment and discipline. Discipline is restorative. It occurs as a result of love and is meant to correct the recipient so he or she can learn from it and grow. Punishment does not involve love, it is a result of an action that must be exacted for the balance of justice to be maintained. We must be careful to distinguish the two when talking about our relationship with God.
When dealing with the consequences of our sin, a simple “sorry” won’t cut it. Sinfulness results in separation from God. Desolation and isolation become your friends because you have no solace. You don’t know how long these feelings will last. You don’t know where to go from here. You’re stuck. You wish you could undo what you have done. You consider the alternatives you had and begin contemplating the “coulda, woulda, shouldas” and wonder, “where did everything go wrong?” But even though you are in this place, you can’t just pull yourself out of it. You need to be redeemed, but not before you learn from the experience.
It’s easy for us, especially in the depths of a circumstance like this, to get mad at God. Why would He let this happen? What kind of “loving” God would let me fall on my face? Why doesn’t He restore me now? The truth is that He allows it to happen so we do learn. We can’t appreciate the presence of light without experiencing the darkness. We can’t understand the gravity of the consequences of our actions without knowing what they are. Generally a child who isn’t disciplined gets whatever they want we classify as “spoiled”. Spoiled doesn’t indicate a favorable condition, does it? Nobody wantsto be classified as spoiled. Maybe we would use it in the sense of describing how “well” someone treats us (which is actually counter to the point). Some would even go to the extent of saying one is “spoiled rotten”. Even if we use it in a flippant way or with a positive spin…spoiled is spoiled. God doesn’t want to raise spoiled children. He wants obedient children who reflect His love, mercy, and glory.
In Hebrews 12 we are reminded of God’s love through discipline:
4 You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; 5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM. 6 FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.” 7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
So then while we may lament the consequences of our sin, let us not ignore the love that is revealed in discipline. Let us learn from our mistakes and grow from them, so that we may experience the peaceful fruit of righteousness.