God does not change, but our perception of Him will over the years. That’s quite normal. In our walk with God we have seen days when He seemed so close He was almost tangible; and we have seen other days when the Lord seemed far removed from us. If we have lost our way we get further and further away from Him. We need to check our direction, adjust our course and return to Him. The ability to turn around and honestly say “I am sorry” triggers a world of good: as a result we grow closer to the Lord and people.
Mistakes will be forgiven when we ask the Lord – we can always count on the Lord’s compassion – however His mercies aren’t cheap and serious mistakes usually have serious consequences. We may be sorry for what we have done, but we will have to deal with the collateral damage too, and there is a good chance that we will feel punished in such situations. If that is the case, then it’s probably true: we are being punished for the pain we have caused. And now is the time to do whatever is necessary to undo the damage we have done. Probably not all damage can be completely undone, but that is beside the point. We do what we can to initiate healing, and this shows that we care.
The purpose of punishment is repentance. And genuine repentance initiates a different course of action going forward because we have had a change of heart. Punishment however gets old if it produces the self-loathing, self-diminishing persona. The foul odor that comes across is like a virus spreading, getting people to beat themselves up. Not a good thing! Others who smell this kind of condemnation from afar make a beeline into the opposite direction.
Similar to the world of photography where shades bring out texture and add the dimension of depth to an image, God’s discipline adds more depth to our relationship with Him and people. Working through our hang-ups is the crucible of any relationship but especially our relationship with God. We reap the most benefits when we are open-minded while He is working with us. Understanding this process as transformation rather than condemnation, we mature.
The Lord disciplines us because He wants us to grow. And spiritual growth has everything to do with learning to love – after all, it’s all about love in the kingdom of God.