Feeling like you’re being punished by God is normal for two reasons: 1) life is filled with difficult losses, terrible tragedies, and dry stretches of boredom and loneliness; and 2) you are human, which means you screw up. You make mistakes, hurt others, fail to live up to your own standards, and let people down.
It’s perfectly natural to ask “why is God punishing me?” when you’re grieving, hurt, abandoned or lonely. It’s especially normal to believe God is punishing you if you accidentally or deliberately hurt others — especially if you can’t remember the past without feeling ashamed or guilty. But just because your feelings are normal doesn’t mean they’re right!
Your feelings of being punished by God are real and painful, but feelings do not always indicate truth. You are experiencing difficult losses, painful emotions, terrible situations, depression and loneliness because you’re a normal human being in a broken world.
Your feelings are normal, but not accurate. You feel like God is punishing you but that is just how you feel. God loves you and is watching over you. He is allowing you to experience pain and suffering — but it’s not because God is punishing you. Your pain and suffering is simply a result of life in this world.
What to Remember When You Feel Like God is Punishing You
I’m working on a She Blossoms Through the Bible project. I’m writing an article for every chapter in every book of Scripture, and today is Leviticus 20: Molech Worship and Spiritism. I’m actually surprised the title of this chapter isn’t “God’s Punishment for Your Sins” because that’s what’s really going on! Talk about God’s punishment for serious, despicable, evil crimes against people and animals. Holy bananas.
1. Yes, you screwed up
Oy vey, have you read Leviticus 20? I won’t go into details — I usually quote Scripture in my She Blossoms Through the Bible blog posts, but not today. Instead I’ll focus on my favorite part of God’s punishments: who He is and the reason He punished His chosen people, the children He created, loved, and set apart to be holy and glorified. Leviticus 20:7-8 says “Consecrate yourselves and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. Keep my statutes and do them; I am the Lord who sets you apart.” God gave the Israelites the laws in the book of Leviticus so He could dwell amongst them. God wanted to be part of their daily lives, but He is holy and good. God can’t live with sinful people who are committing terrible crimes and hurting each other…so in the Old Testament God punished people for the sins they committed.
Your mistakes, failures, crimes and harmful actions are part of your normal human nature. Your actions have consequences that bring pain. Your body, mind, and spirit are affected by your good and bad choices. And, sometimes what feels like God’s punishment is simply part of being a normal human being in a body prone to mental and physical illness. “I’m going through a real bad time in my life,” says David on Is God punishing me when things are going bad? “Nothing is going right, I’m always sad and depressed. I do pray and read the Bible every now and then. I was just wondering if God was punishing me for anything I had done lately or my previous life?”
2. No, God is not punishing you
Leviticus 20 lays down the law for the Israelites. Do this, don’t do that. Why? So Moses, the priests and the Israelites would remember what God did for them (Exodus, salvation from slavery and bondage). Equally importantly, so God’s chosen people could get and stay holy so He could dwell with them. In Leviticus 20:22-23 God says, “You are to keep all my statutes and all my ordinances, and do them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live will not vomit you out. You must not follow the statutes of the nations I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and I abhorred them.”
What do you think God is punishing you for? Get out a pen and paper, and make a list of all the bad things you’ve done. Mistakes, failures, flaws, crimes, sins and weaknesses. Then, talk to God — in writing — about each one. Take at least 30 minutes; tell God how you feel about each bad thing you’ve done. Be honest and real. Remember that you can rip this paper to shreds or burn it when you’re done. Then, write Psalm 103:11-14 on your paper: “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his faithful love toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. For he knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust.”
3. You don’t have to feel so bad
“And I promised you: You will inherit their land, since I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey,” says God in Leviticus 20:24. “I am the Lord your God who set you apart from the peoples.” Even before Jesus Christ died to unite us to God, He wanted to be in a strong, good, continual relationship with us! This is huge, that the Lord who created everything wants to have a personal, life-giving, loving relationship with us. No matter what sins, crimes, hurts and harms we’ve committed God loves us and wants to be part of our daily lives. God doesn’t want to punish us for sins, mistakes or weaknesses. He allows us to make choices, suffer the consequences, and/or reap the rewards.
God wants good things for you, even though your life isn’t perfect or painfree. Here’s how one Christian writer answered David’s question (“Is God punishing me when things are going bad?”): “The Bible doesn’t present God in this manner at all. God is not a ruthless judge waiting in heaven for people to do bad things so as to punish them. Life and God’s relationship to life is not that simple. The Bible tells us that God does good things for bad people and allows bad things to happen to good people (Matthew 5:45). Nothing demonstrates this more than Jesus dying on the cross. Jesus is the perfectly good person who had the ultimate evil done to him.”
While it’s normal to think God is punishing you because your life isn’t going great — or because you did bad things — it’s not true. Your feelings do not change who God is. God created you and He loves you deeply. God sent His son Jesus Christ to earth, who died so you wouldn’t have to keep the laws and make the sacrifices the Israelites did in Leviticus and the Old Testament. God also sent the Holy Spirit, who is always working on your behalf.
To strengthen your relationship with God, read If You’re a Christian, Why Aren’t You Happy?