Parents will not agree on the form of punishment that is appropriate for their kids but they all agree that some form of punishment is important. Punishment is a sign of love because it is meant to correct bad behavior. God, who is our heavenly father, also punishes us when we are in error to help us realize our mistakes and take corrective measures. He does this to demonstrate his love and care. In the words of scripture,
For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child. Hebrews. 12:6
There are a number of signs of God’s punishment. These include unanswered prayer, sickness, guilt, and suffering. The presence of these signs doesn’t always mean that you are under punishment because they could indicate other things as well. However, when under punishment, you can expect one or more of these signs.
Unanswered prayer is one of the signs that you are in sin. There are many scriptures that illustrate this point. For instance, in the Book of Isaiah, the prophet makes it clear that God’s hand is always ready to save and his ear is always quick to hear – except when we are in sin.
Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you So that He will not hear. Isaiah 59:1-2
As the scripture illustrates, sin will create a barrier between man and God and until you stop sinning and mend your ways, it may affect your prayer life. The Psalmist understood this when he said that God wouldn’t hear his prayer if he considered iniquity in his heart (Psalm 66:18-20). Thankfully, God invites all to confess their sins and as John says, God will forgive every remorseful person (1 John 1:9).
Sickness is another sign of God’s punishment. Not all sickness means God is punishing you but some do. A classical example is given in Genesis 20 when Abimelech took Abraham’s wife because Abraham had lied that she was his sister. As a result, every womb in Abimelech’s household was closed and God appeared to him telling him to restore Abraham’s wife or meet his untimely death.
Another illustration of this point can be found in the Book of John ( when Jesus and his disciples met a blind man that was blind from birth. The disciples asked him an interesting question;
And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” John 9:2
Even though Jesus made it clear that neither his parents nor the man sinned, it reveals the fact that the Israelites understood the relationship between sickness and God’s punishment. This also explains why the healing of the body and forgiveness of sin almost always happened in the same breath (e.g. Psalms 103:1-2, John 5:14, Jeremiah 17:14).
Persecution is an important part of the Christian walk. In the same way, Jesus was persecuted for no reason, his followers will be too. The Psalmist reckoned that the righteous will always have many tribulations but God will still deliver them from all of them. However, there are sometimes when suffering is not persecution from the enemy but punishment from the loving father.
An example of suffering as punishment can be seen in 1 Chronicles 21 when Satan incited David’s heart to enumerate Israel. Until now, David had trusted in God but his trust was now shifting in the number of armed men he had in his army. God was not amused by this move and so he released judgment over the nation. David was quick to notice and sought forgiveness from God. However, God pronounced 3 punishments and allowed David to pick one of them.
If you are going through a season of suffering, it is important to prayerfully consider if it is just the persecution that every believer has to go through or if it is a punishment as a result of something foolish you did. If it is, make haste to mend your ways before God because he is a merciful God who never turns any remorseful heart away. In the words of scripture,
All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. James 6:37
Guilt is another surefire sign that you are undergoing God’s punishment. It is hard to have a fruitful relationship with God when your heart is weighed down under guilt. Guilt can come from the devil as a tactic for damaging your relationship with God. This is the guilt Paul addressed in Romans 8:1 when he opined that anyone who is in Christ should not be guilty. However, there is another kind of guilt that is intrinsic and it stems from knowing you have messed up.
Guilt is actually a good thing. Because it means you do not have a seared conscience and you are therefore redeemable. It means you are remorseful and can still approach God with a repentant heart. This was the secret of David – every time he messed up, he would be overcome with guilt and rush to God in prayer. This is why God described him as a man after His heart (Acts 13:22).
To sum it up, God punishes his children as a sign of love. As the scripture records, God chastises those he loves and punishes those he considers his children. His punishment is not only meant to correct mistakes but also to act as a deterrent. God’s punishment can be revealed through signs like guilt, suffering, sickness, unanswered prayer., etc. Just like any other loving father, He would rather that his children do not suffer but sometimes, punishment is a necessary evil in raising children.