Does God Punish Believers?
For the last couple years my wife, Dianne, and I have been struggling with infertility. We have desperately prayed to God for a child and yet He has not given us one yet. There have been some months where we get our hopes up and are just completely devastated when the pregnancy test reads negative. I have had moments where I think Dianne is playing a trick on me and that I'll just drive home one day and she will yell out “SURPRISE” with a positive pregnancy test in her hand. But that hasn’t happened…
WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?
Some days I feel like less of man and that something is wrong with me. And some other days I’ve wondered if God is punishing me.When I think these thoughts I need to be reminded of the gospel...
The thought that God is punishing me is a very dangerous and satanic thought. And yet I know there are some out there who think that is the case. We have had people who are close to us say that the reason we aren’t getting pregnant is because of some sort of disobedience that we don’t see. Some have said to us, “we have the answer if you would like to know.” What? To be honest, I wish that were true because it means that if we did something then we would be able to have children. But this is not the case. God’s Word tells us otherwise.
THE OLD COVENANT
In the Old Testament, there were blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. So if you obeyed the voice of the Lord then He would bless you. In fact, in Deuteronomy 28:4 it says that the Lord would bless the womb and in verse 18 it says that your womb would be cursed if you disobeyed. Well, if we were still under the covenant of the Old Testament, we would be doomed. Why would we be doomed? Because we do not abide by all the things written in God’s law. We do not obey the voice of the Lord. Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:20 says, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” We cannot live up to God’s standards on our own and the purpose of the law is to show us just that! So according to this, those who told Dianne and me that God is withholding a child from us because of something we have done or haven’t done makes sense. We are cursed….. WRONG!
THE NEW COVENANT
Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” In Christ, we live under a new covenant, a covenant of faith, a covenant of grace and mercy. Those who are in Christ are no longer under the curse since Christ bore that curse. We are not cursed but blessed.
GOD USES SUFFERING FOR DISCIPLINE NOT TO CURSE
In light of this, God does not punish those who are in Him through things such as infertility. He no longer curses the womb. Romans 8 tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ! No condemnation! However, there is still the sting of sin in the world. There still is pain. And God uses suffering to discipline us. Hebrews 12:7-11 says, “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Discipline is different than a curse. Through discipline God proves that we are his sons, He shows His love toward us, He does it for our good that we may share in His holiness, and it leads to the fruit of righteousness. The discipline of God is a gospel comfort. It is not a bad thing.
Is God the one not allowing us to have children at this moment? Of course, He is sovereign and in control of everything and everyone.
Is it because we are disobedient and He is punishing us for it? Absolutely not! In fact, it is just the opposite. He is using our infertility to draw us closer to Him, to show His love, and that we would grow in holiness. He is training us to walk with Him in this broken world through our suffering. We see this in James 1:2-3, the trials in our lives help produce steadfastness in order that we may be mature in Christ.
This was the case with Hannah in 1 Samuel 1-2. There was no indication in the Scriptures why Hannah was barren other than simply that it was God’s providence. Hannah was one of Elkanah’s wives. His other wife Peninnah had children and would make fun of Hannah for not being able to have children. This caused Hannah to weep and to fast from eating food. Hannah prayed and vowed a vow to God that she would give her son to the Lord. After this, she left the temple trusting God and the Lord gave her a son. This does not mean that always when we pray God will answer exactly the way that we want, but in this story, we see that sadness is okay and that God uses these afflictions to lead us on the path of holiness. Hannah’s sadness led her to pray and to trust in God despite her circumstances.
Russell Moore writes in his book, Adopted For Life, “This doesn’t mean that your praying for children means you’ll be granted children, but it does mean that if you’re praying for God’s will to be done and you find yourself continually seeking to pray for children, perhaps God is readying you for children. This means your number-one priority as you wait for God’s answer is to pursue holiness. Embed yourself in the life of your church; worship, love, utilize your spiritual gifts; be a spiritual mother or father to someone in need.” Our number one priority in this season is to pursue holiness. Not to dwell on the fact that we don’t have children and fall into self-pity (which is easy for me to do), but to draw near to God. To pray for Him to show us our sin, to repent of that sin, to remind ourselves of God’s promises, to be reminded of the gospel, to be surrounded by gospel community who we can trust and learn from, to serve, and to love all the children around us.
In John 9:1-3, the disciples ask Jesus a question that they probably thought was valid in light of Deuteronomy 28. They ask Him, “Who sinned this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” And Jesus responded that it had nothing to do with the man’s sin or parents sin, but he was born blind in order that the works of God might be displayed in him. The ESV Study Bible’s commentary says, “God in his mysterious and wise providence sometimes allows his children to go through hardship and suffering so that they can experience God’s mercy and power in delivering them.” We go through trials and hardships sometimes so that we can experience God’s mercy and power in Him delivering us. Oh! I pray that God would do this through our infertility!
I need to constantly be reminded of the gospel, of what Christ has done for my sin and disobedience to God’s Law. To be comforted that I no longer am condemned, but am blessed. To be reminded that God won’t punish me because He punished Jesus instead. Any affliction I face in this life was ordained by Him out of love to show me my sin and mold me into a mature believer in Christ.
If are in Christ and are going through the same infertility struggle as we are or are just going through a difficult season and are tempted to think that God is punishing you. He is not punishing you, but He is proving that you are one of His and is helping you towards maturity in Christ. My encouragement to you is to look to Christ and pursue holiness.