8 Email Print
In my twenties I made one bad choice after another in regards to dating. Even though I was a growing Christian, I still made idols out of men and marriage. I stayed in relationships too long when I knew God was telling me to get out, and I wanted to be married so badly that I reached the point of desperation. In order to get what I wanted, I was willing to compromise my faith and myself.
At 32-years-old I got married. Even though I knew fairy tales weren’t true, like most new brides there was this secret wish that maybe I would be the exception and my fairy tale would come true. I anticipated a world of love, joy, and security. I knew there would still be some obstacles, but I thought they would be from normal life stuff, not pain from the past or dire circumstances.
Only a few weeks into marriage, the fairy tale wasn’t unfolding. Instead, it was quite the opposite. Marriage was hard and tiresome and confusing. There were many disagreements and unmet expectations. Not to mention that my new husband’s Cardiomyopathy worsened causing him to need a heart transplant. I became convinced that God was punishing me for the unwise choices I made as a single woman. I was sure this was my “quail moment” like when the Israelites complained about the manna so much that God finally gave them quail three feet deep (Numbers 11). I had spent years complaining about my singleness and yet marriage was too much for me, too.
Even though that was seven years ago, the idea that God punishes me for my sin sometimes still lingers in my mind. I’m not completely past the thought that I’m being punished when bad circumstances come my way, however, God is helping me work through this false belief by revealing to me His nature and sovereignty, and how He uses discipline and weakness to bring about His purposes.
Punishment is Contrary to the Gospel of Jesus
Punishment is payback for sin done the past. In the Old Testament, God did punish the Israelites for their sin because there had to be just retribution and the Savior had not yet come. However, with the death and resurrection of Jesus, punishment became unnecessary. Jesus died on the Cross and paid the penalty for all of our sin – past, present, and future (Hebrews 10:14, 18).
The Gospel of Jesus applies to my sin today. God has no need to punish me because my punishment was put on the life of Jesus. My debt has been paid through His blood.
God Uses Discipline to Draw Me Back to Himself
Where punishment focuses on past sin, discipline focuses on a future of more love for God. God does discipline us. This comes in the form of consequences that refocus our attention on Him. The goal is for us remember the consequence and choose a different attitude or response next time. This is what grows our love for God and moves us to become holy people, fully sanctified.
My dissatisfaction in my marriage was used to discipline me so that I could build an attitude to gratitude that had been missing in my life for many years. As I looked back, I could see how for years I was never satisfied with the blessings God had given me. I only wanted the one blessing He hadn’t given me – marriage. Then I got what I wanted, and it still wasn’t enough. This has taught me to choose gratefulness. It has also taught me that God is the only One who can satisfy me.
Hebrews 12:5-7 says, “And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.’ 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?”
God Knows My Weakness and Uses It for His Glory
This has been the most profound attribute of God’s that He has shown me. The Bible tells us that God knows everything about us (Psalm 139:1-5). So if He knows everything, then He knows my sin nature; he knows my weaknesses. He knows my natural bent towards sin – what sins I am more susceptible to and what sins can get the best of me. He also knows how He can use all of them to bring about His purposes and show His glory in my life and the lives of others.
Sometimes God allows me to sin being fully aware of how He’s going to use the experience. For years I asked God why He didn’t spare me the heartache I experienced in my twenties through poor dating choices. I felt like with me it wouldn’t have taken much to get my attention. I loved God and had a willing heart, I was constantly at church, and I even read my Bible and prayed. One mentor to come into my life and speak truth could have spared me. One dramatic sermon could have woken me up. One Bible verse jumping off the page during my quiet time could have changed the course of my life. But no, God allowed me to go down the path of one wrong choice after another. God basically said, “I’m going to allow this to happen and use it to show my glory.”
I am always responsible for my sin; however, even it comes through the sovereignty of God. God has a bigger plan of redemption than just allowing me to live a quiet, secure, even sinless life. He knows that for now, sin is in this world and it will remain until He returns. So God is constantly configuring sin into His bigger plan.
Out of my tumultuous twenties has come a ministry to mentor young, single women. What I viewed as punishment with hardship in my marriage has given me a perspective in which to teach young women what to expect and how to prepare for their future marriages. As Genesis 50:20 states, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (NIV).
God never punishes us. He disciplines us and uses sin – our own and sin in the world – to fulfill His ultimate plan of redemption. When I think about my hardships in this way, they suddenly have purpose. I realize the person I’ve become because of them, and it’s hard to want my life to have gone any other way.
Brenda HeadshotBrenda Rodgers considers herself a “recovering single” after years as a single woman chasing after marriage instead of chasing after Jesus. Now her passion is to mentor young women to live purposefully and grow in their relationship with God and others. Brenda has been married for five years to a heart transplant hero and is the mom of a toddler girl miracle. She is also the author of the eBook Fall for Him: 25 Challenges from a Recovering Single. You can also read more on Brenda’s blog, http://www.TripleBraidedLife.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.