What's the purpose of God's discipline?

In the moment, discipline stinks. I'm just putting it out there. But you know what one thing I've learned with every year older that I get? When my mom warns me against doing something, she is always right. Always! Sometimes her always-right-ness drives me crazy, but it also leads me to trust her when she tries to warn me before I make a terrible mistake. And if I were to just listen to her the first time, she wouldn't have to discipline me later.

In families, at school, or in the workplace, discipline happens when somebody does something they are not supposed to do—they break the set rules, get caught, and they get disciplined to correct the bad behavior. Whether it's staying out past curfew, lying, or just doing something that you know is not approved, we all choose poorly sometimes. In order to make sure we don't make bad decisions again, these actions may be followed up by discipline.

At home, maybe you get grounded. At school, maybe you get detention. At work, maybe you get written up. None of those things are fun; they aren't meant to be. They're meant to be unpleasant so you'll remember not to do the thing again. But hear me when I say this: discipline is not punishment. Yes, it may feel like punishment, but when you realize that it's for your own good, you may even work up gratitude for getting disciplined.

Wait—thankful for getting disciplined? Sounds crazy, right? Hold on. We'll get to that...

Punishment vs. Discipline

Granted, school or work may deliver outright punishment. I'm not going to deny that. But in the home, godly parents will discipline their kids rather than punish them (Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4). The difference between punishment and discipline lies in the end goal.

Punishment seeks to make life miserable for the recipient—period. Punishment is about hurting and pain and inflicting cold-hearted retribution for wrongdoing.

Discipline seeks to enact change within a person. Discipline is about rehabilitation, a heart changed for the better, and ultimately fostering an improved life in the future.

When parents discipline out of love, they do it because they want to raise children who are good people. When they have a goal of changing one's behavior for the better, they're following God's model of discipline for His own sons and daughters.

How should I respond to God's discipline?

Have you ever felt like life is just tumbling down on you? Like things just aren't lining up or going how you want? There may be several reasons for it, but please keep in mind that not every bad thing that happens to you is because you did something wrong. Let me repeat: not every misfortune is due to personal sin. Sometimes it's because of someone else's negligence. Sometimes life events just get tough. But sometimes we DO mess up, then God disciplines us because He ultimately seeks to protect us and bring us back to Him.

When you find yourself suffering through terrible times, examine your life, your actions, and the actions of those around you. Ask God to reveal His will to you, ask for wisdom about what you can take away from the situation, and ask what you should do next (James 1:5). How might God want you to become more like Him? How is He going to use this trial to bring your closer to Him and forge you into His image? What can you change, in His strength, to become more Christlike? How can you worship Him more fully and share Him more honestly?

Regardless of whether or not your current pain is due to your own mistakes or others' or just life's circumstances, you have an opportunity to learn from your experiences. Don't get wrapped up in guilt over making mistakes. If you know you have offended God, confess it to Him, and He will forgive you (1 John 1:9). Then turn your attention to discovering how you will move forward with what you have learned.

"'My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastens everyone He accepts as His son.' Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.

"Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." —Hebrews 12:5-11

Why should I be thankful for God's discipline?

Let's try not to get too mad at God's discipline, but actually be thankful that God loves us enough to keep working on us—even when we mess up magnificently. All discipline from God serves a good purpose in our lives.

Discipline is a form of training from God, so that He may rid us of everything that doesn't reflect His glory. He disciplines to teach lessons about the best choices to make in life (James 1:2-4).

Discipline is a heart-cleansing act. God disciplines because He wants us to be holy and righteous like His son, Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:15-16).

Discipline is a sign of God's love for us. We are God's precious sons and daughters. As our Heavenly Father, He cares about us and how we interact with the world (Hebrews 12:5-11).

God is good, and His decisions are good (Romans 8:28). God is a fan of YOU (Romans 8:31). He wants what's best for your life, for Him, and for His Kingdom (Jeremiah 29:11). Sometimes, as flawed human beings, we stray far from what we should be doing, but we have a loving God who is willing to gently tug at our hearts (though sometimes it's more of a firm yank!), calling us back to Him and inviting us to let Him have every piece of us.

Try not to resent God, spout complaints, or become bitter because of God's discipline in your life (Proverbs 3:11-12). Rather than having a self-focused perspective, remember that God is sovereign and in control. You may not see the good that will come from what is happening right now, but His ways aren't our ways. They're better.


Discipline may feel like cold-hearted punishment, but God's discipline is rooted in love and an end goal of making us holy, righteous, and ultimately help us live better, more fulfilling lives (Hebrews 12:5-11). Instead of being angry that we're being disciplined, we should aim to be grateful for the discipline that will train and cleanse our hearts and minds (Proverbs 3:11-12). If you know you've offended God, confess it to Him, and He'll forgive you (1 John 1:9). Then turn your attention to discovering how you will move forward. Ask God to reveal His will to you, ask for wisdom about what you can take away from the situation, and ask what you should do with what you've learned (James 1:5).

Writer: Stephanie T.

Stephanie is a 21-year old with a passion to see believers grow and become passionate in their relationship with the Lord. She is a lover of sweat tea, sunshine, and the freedom that comes from Christ. In her free time, she can be found singing, playing guitar, writing or jamming out to Hawk Nelson, Phil Wickham, and worship music. Her dreams are to become a worship leader and a published author, while living a life full of fun and joy that comes from the Lord.

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