Is This Punishment from God

Is This Punishment from God?

I haven’t lived a perfect life and I wonder if my problems are punishment from God, but maybe I don’t know the whole story and that God is overflowingly full of grace and mercy.

They wanted retribution. Payback.

A desire for revenge coursed through their veins for what had happened to them, but then, in a whisper of a moment, they thought of what they had done. Perhaps the other also wanted retribution, payback for what they had have done. Perhaps they were seeking revenge against them.

They had stolen from them and now they wanted it all back, plus interest.

If you do the crime then you recieve the punishment until the other is satisfied. But when will they be satisfied? What will truly restore the balance scales of justice to equilibrium?

And their pain seems like a bottomless hole that, try as you might and with all the resources you have, is impossible to fill. You realise that the hole, that dark hole of vacuumous space, has been growing from other intrusions on the soul.

Your crime is but one that has sculptured the walls of the heart.

They want you to pay, but you know nothing within your capability will even begin to calm their pain.

God, the judge, sits and weeps at the mess.

We may look at our suffering and consider that this must be payback from God for what we have done.

We see the suffering of others and make judgments that their suffering is retribution for what they have done. They’re getting what they deserve. Please don’t do this.

Is This Punishment from God?

We come and sit with biblical character Job, who has lost all. He is suffering in pain.
He is lost in confusion and needs someone to silently be with him. To hold him and co-lament.
Then his ‘friend’ Eliphaz speaks out of how he sees God.

Call to mind now:
Who, being innocent, ever perished?
And where were upright people ever destroyed?
Even as I have seen, those who plow iniquity
and those who sow trouble reap the same.
By the breath of God they perish,
and by the blast of his anger they are consumed.
There is the roaring of the lion
and the growling of the young lion,
but the teeth of the young lions are broken.
The mighty lion perishes for lack of prey,
and the cubs of the lioness are scattered.
Job 4:7-11

What I hear Eliphaz saying is this.

Job, you must have done something wrong and what you’re experiencing is God’s divine judgment. This is punishment. You’ve done the crime, now it’s payback, retribution. You reap what you sow. There is sin in your life. You’ve obviously done something to deserve this?

Richard Rohr puts it this way.

Job ought to know there’s a strict law of retribution, according to Eliphaz. In our day, we might self-righteously tell Job he needs to go to confession. The harsh, all-too-human conclusion is: “You’re brought to nothing, Job, so you can’t be such a good man.” It’s called blaming the victim.

Natural consequences

I remember visiting an older lady dying of lung cancer. She had smoked cigarettes much of her adult life and now cancer was eating her away.

She asked me to pray for her healing, which I did. But she was also brutally honest that the cancer was there because of choices she had made to smoke cigarettes. It was a natural consequence.

She knew God loved her and forgave her for all the choices she had made over her lifetime that weren’t in line with God’s desires for her.

But Jobs’ pain wasn’t a natural consequence for anything he had done.

He had done nothing to deserve this level of trauma.

We read he was blameless.

This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. Job 1:1

We also read the Eliphaz had to repent and seek Jobs’ forgiveness for what he had said.

After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. Job 42:7

Eliphaz got it wrong and we get it wrong when we blame the victim.

They feel more alone in their dark place than ever before. They conclude even God hates them. There are some, like Eliphaz, that we need to put out of our room.

We are all broken people living in a broken world where broken world decisions and choices are being made, but God can make all things a new, so we trust and hope.

We don’t leave each other alone in the twilight.

The Eliphaz question

Who, being innocent, ever perished?
And where were upright people ever destroyed?

Answer the question yourself.

In your experience, have you seen people falsely accused and punished for crimes they did not commit?

I immediately go to legal cases here in New Zealand.

A recent one where Alan Hall, a man with an intellectual disability, was wrongfully convicted of murder.

If it wasn’t for the tenacity of his family, he would still be in prison. He is now free, but the 5 million dollar compensation package will never fill the lost years.

Alan Hall with his brothers, Greg (left), and Geoff, who have supported him ever since he was accused of murdering Arthur Easton in 1985.

I also go to Jesus, who committed no crime against God or man, yet received the most brutal punishment known to man – crucifixion.

Christ died in my place, receiving the punishment for my crimes. Hallelujah, what a saviour.

I think the message of the whole of the book of Job is that there is a tenacity of faith that brings glory to God. Alan Hall had his brothers, Greg and Geoff. Jesus had his followers weeping at the foot of his cross.

Please don’t blame the victim and please don’t victimise and punish yourself.

Live in grace, forgiveness, hope. Be tenacious in your love for God and others. Sit quietly with those struggling and don’t blame the victim.

Quotes to consider

  • Your image of God creates you—or defeats you. There is an absolute connection between how we see God and how we see ourselves and the universe. Richard Rohr
  • There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made know through Jesus Christ. Blaise Pascal

  • Never gave a second thought, never crossed my mind.
    What’s right and what’s not. I’m not the judgin’ kind.
    I could take the darkness and the storms from the skies.
    But we all got certain trials burnin’ up inside.
    Don’t send me no distant salutations.
    Or silly souvenirs from far away.
    Don’t leave me alone in the twilight.
    Twilight is the loneliest time a day.

    Rick Danko
    Shawn Colvin

  • If no meaning can be given to human suffering, if our wounds are not capable of becoming sacred wounds, the human project is surely doomed to a blaming war of all against all. The future would then be full of scapegoats and victims. Richard Rohr -Job and the Mystery of Suffering

Questions to answer

  1. Has anyone ever falsely accused you of something? What feelings got generated in you?
  2. Why do we blame the victim?
  3. What would it be like to be tenacious in the quiet support of someone struggling in mystery?

Further reading

Six People To Put Out Of Your Mental Health Room

Is Taking A Spiritual Bypass Harming Your Mental Health?

Does God Hate Me? Part one

Barry Pearman

Photo by Soragrit Wongsa on Unsplash

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