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What We Often Get Wrong About God’s Discipline

God trains, guides, and directs us even when we don’t realize it.

As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? [8] If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all.

[9] Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? [10] For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. [11] No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

Hebrews 12:7-11 NLT

This passage of the Bible describes God as our father.

He trains, guides, and directs us even when we don’t realize it.

We all respond differently to correction and training. Some of us get in line and follow orders, others of us are rebellious and make light of it, and still others of us get down and dejected when someone even mentions a small thing we can work on.  

My dad wasn’t in my life growing up. I didn’t have the training, guidance, or correction you usually associate with a father, so there were some gaps in my development. Learning to let God correct me felt like a whole new world.

When I found out how emotionally involved God is in our lives, it helped me understand him better. I also learned that God disciplines and trains us because of his vision for who we can become. The best thing we can do for our lives is let God train us, be close to us, and motivate us to grow into who we are meant to be.

If we’re going to let God discipline and train us, we have to learn to recognize how and when he does it. Otherwise, we might mistake his discipline for punishment or get discouraged and doubtful during hard times instead of being inspired about how God is helping us grow.

In this devotional, we’ll cover three of the ways that God helps us to grow and how we can respond to him, allowing him to raise, train, and strengthen us.

God fills in the gaps

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. [6] God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

Psalm 68:5-6 NIV

Even when our human parents do their best, they are still human. That means we all experience gaps in the love, discipline, or encouragement we need to grow. God fills in the gaps that our human parents or parental figures couldn’t fill. 

God guides us in many ways to fill these gaps. One way God filled in the gaps in my life was by bringing me into a spiritual family. When I became a Christian, many Christian families brought me into their homes. They invited me over for dinner and holidays, and as I spent time with them I saw how dads could be with their kids. Because of these families, I got to learn firsthand how to be a dad, even without having one myself.  

I believe that the gaps we see in our childhood with the parental figures in our lives help us see our need for God. Instead of resenting our gaps or blaming our parents, we can be grateful that God fills that space.

Over the years, I’ve also learned that even though God treats us as sons and daughters, we do not always return the love and treat him as we would a dad. God cannot fill the gaps in our lives if we do not allow him to, which means listening, talking to him, including him, and respecting him as our dad.

How would you describe the way you treat God? If you want to allow him to fill in the gaps of your life, decide to start treating him as your spiritual dad.

Pause and reflect

  • What gaps in life or parenting did you experience growing up?
  • How has God been working to fill those gaps by teaching and training you?
  • How have you been treating God back as your spiritual dad?

Take action

  • Pray about ways you have seen God  being there for you throughout your life as a dad.

God is emotionally invested in your life

For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, [12] encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 NIV

In this passage, Paul reminds the Christians in Thessalonica about how he treated them as a dad. Reflecting on these three descriptive qualities of a spiritual father can help us understand what God is like as a father.

God is not a detached being in the sky. He is intimately involved in our lives and cares about our day-to-day victories and challenges. He wants us to succeed and to grow and change. 


We all need encouragement, comfort, and urging at different times in our lives. In those moments you don’t believe you can change, God will encourage you in some way. In those times you feel like the pain is too much, he will find a way to comfort you. And in the times you just want to quit or settle, he will urge you to keep going. 

We don’t always get the encouragement, comfort, and urging we need from the world around us, but God is emotionally invested in our lives and will meet these emotional needs.

I remember a very challenging time in college when God showed how emotionally invested he was in me. My grades were slipping, I was in financial trouble, and I felt like my friends didn’t care about me. I was discouraged, angry, and lonely. 

I decided to go to a place on campus where I could be alone to complain and tell God all about it. As I prayed, I remembered that God had been teaching me how fulfilling it is to help other people and not worry about my own life so much.  

Right after that prayer, I went downstairs and started a conversation with another student. It turned out he had been praying to meet people who were really trying to live by the Bible. We ended up becoming good friends and he studied the Bible and became a Christian.

I look back at this and realize God was urging me to focus where he knew I needed help, not where I thought I needed help. He knew what I truly lacked was purpose. As I got my mind focused on helping other people, my grades actually went up and my finances stabilized (as much as you would expect for a broke college student).

My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties, see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! [3] For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things. [4] And then as your endurance grows even stronger it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.

James 1:2-4 TPT

When challenges come into our lives, we can trust that since God is emotionally invested in us, there is a ‘joy’ that is coming. God doesn’t make ‘bad’ or hard things happen in our lives; life happens to each of us. But when we trust that he is in our corner giving us what we need, we know we can handle whatever comes our way (1 Corinthians 10:13) and that good is going to come from it (Romans 8:28).


Today, decide to look for a different perspective on the difficulties in your life.  Choose to trust God’s emotional investment in your life and allow the hardships you face to train you and help you grow. 

Pause and reflect

  • In what areas of your life do you need encouragement, comforting, and urging?
  • What are some ways God has been doing each of these things in your life?

Take action

  • Pray about something in your life that you need encouragement, comfort or urging in.  Ask God to help you.

God helps us understand who we really are

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance…

Romans 8:15-16 MSG

God has vision for us because he knows who we really are. When we are young, we try to figure out who we want to be when we grow up. Then, as we get older, we often try to reinvent ourselves because we regret choices we made. 

But when we are connected with God as a dad, we don’t have to try to be someone we’re not. He can help us understand who we really are and the purpose he has for us.

We can trust God’s training of our lives because he knows us inside and out. He directs us to change and grow, not because he is unhappy with us but because he knows who we really could be. 

Some of us may think too highly of ourselves and others may be too negative. Either way, we all have a purpose from God that combines our strengths, weaknesses, and even our sins to make a difference for those around us.

When I think of the wisdom and scope of his plan, I fall down on my knees and pray to the Father of all the great family of God-some of them already in heaven and some down here on earth.

Ephesians 3:14-15 TLB

God knows we are capable of impacting others for the good on a level we can’t comprehend on our own. When we embrace the wisdom and scope of the purpose he has for us, it will inspire us to change and humble us to pursue a relationship with God like never before.

Pause and reflect

  • Do you really believe that God has a unique purpose for you?
  • What changes do you need to make to reach this purpose?
  • Are you embracing this purpose or resisting it?

Take action

  • Make a list of areas you will need to change to become the person you believe God is guiding you to be. Pray and make decisions to change these areas.

Next steps

If you want to grow and change, God is right there ready to help. Take a look at the resources below and start asking God for guidance to change. 

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