How Can I Be Joyful When God Disciplines Me? Inspiration from The High Calling

How Can I Be Joyful When God Disciplines Me?

Joyful are those you discipline, LORD,
those you teach with your instructions.

When I hear the word “discipline,” a part of me winces. I don’t have a problem with the sound of the word, but rather its connotation. “Discipline” reminds me of unhappy times in my childhood, times when I was punished for doing something wrong. My parents were not unreasonably harsh with me, but, as you can imagine, I hated being disciplined.

As a parent, I have had to discipline my children. I don’t like this any better, to tell you the truth. Though, as a father, I realized that my kids needed to be disciplined for their own good, I still hated being the one who made them feel bad. Even and especially when I’m the one doling out discipline, I still dislike it.

So when I come upon Psalm 94:12, my visceral response is negative: “Joyful are those you discipline, Lord, those you teach with your instructions.” How can I be joyful when God disciplines me? Why should I be?

The word translated here as “discipline” (yasar in Hebrew), can mean “chastise” or “punish.” In verse 10, for example, it is used in the phrase “He punishes the nations,” which refers to God’s judgment. Yet the dominant sense of yasar is one of instruction. We see this in the parallelism of verse 12, where God’s discipline is lined up with God’s instruction. According to this psalm, there are times when God acts to punish his people, not out of vindictiveness, but out of a desire to instruct. God’s primary mode of discipline or instruction is teaching through his revelation.

To be sure, there are times when God’s instruction points out my sin. I have experienced the chastisement of God many times when I have read his Word with an open heart. Moreover, the Spirit of God convicts me of my sin more times than I would like to remember. Yet, when I remember that God’s discipline is for my own good, and that it is an expression of his parental care for me, then I can rejoice (well, at least, sort of). As it says in Deuteronomy 8:5: “Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.”

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you understand the motivation and goal of God’s discipline? Have you experienced God’s discipline in your life? When? How? What was the result? What helps you to receive the instruction that God wants to give you through his revelation?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, you know the notion of your discipline is an uncomfortable one for me. I don’t like being disciplined. Most of all, I hate feeling ashamed when I have failed. Perhaps the worst part of such discipline is having to confront my own shortcomings and bad choices.

Yet, as a parent, I now have greater understanding of how your discipline can be an act of love, tough love, at times, but genuine love. Thank you, Lord, for caring enough about me to discipline me. Thank you for instructing me through your Word, so that I might avoid more painful discipline yet to come. Help me, I pray, to receive your instruction with an open, willing, humble heart. Amen.


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This devotional comes from The High Calling: Everyday Conversations about Work, Life, and God ( You can read my Daily Reflections there, or sign up to have them sent to your email inbox each day. This website contains lots of encouragement for people who are trying to live out their faith in the workplace. The High Calling is associated with Laity Lodge, where I work.

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  • Sherwood8028

    I find it to be interesting when I hear the religious folk talk of the discipline as they have it defined for them by the theologians.  It more often sounds like the times when I had to “discipline” my children for “going pottly” in all the wrong places.

    It was called – at the time, “unacceptable behavior”.

    Then, I met the Lord Jesus, heart to heart.  I would like to say “face to face”, but that day is not too far off.   That will be wonderful, but as I recall the past thirty six plus years of my life since first truly understanding what it meant to have Him as my older brother and friend, I recall all of the times when it was difficult for me to understand some of His teachings.  My problem was, I was interpreting them through the words of people who claimed to know more about the Bible than I did.   Then, at long last, I tried doing it, His way, and it was as if I could sense His smile and nod of encouragement.

    I longed for those moments, I still do, I trust I will sense it after writing these words.

    For many the sense of God is that He is far off, in the distance, perhaps shouting down from a mountain top, perhaps even passing by, just out of our reach.  I recall those days.

    But today is another brand new day, one of the 365 in my 82nd year, and there it is, that infectious smile and those words looming just behind His lips, well done.

    And so it is and so it can be.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for this comment.

  • mmm, this may not come out right. I hope it does.
    I once worked under a talented, exacting Art Director many years ago. I was green, wanted to prove myself and offer my best work. Everyday, my “best” routinely kept getting turned down, with very specifics on exactly what was lacking in his judgment. Mostly, it was individually hand-inked straight lines connected by curved ones which had to be perfectly consistent, seamless and absolutely flawless. Later, it was other things. It was hard. It was frustrating. He made me cry, often. It would have been easy to think the guy was a real jerk, but he wasn’t; his own submitted work reflected only the perfectly executed. Eventually, I knew what would fly and what wouldn’t and stopped handing in subpar work. I am a “disciplined” artist today because of him; and grateful for that–even though we eventually separated–because mostly, I never felt “good enough”. I own my part of that.

    Rarely, does God surprise me with an awareness of some new “sin” in my life. It’s the same ‘ol, same ‘ol, straight lines I heard from the beginning. I accept and attempt His “work” everyday. Even when Jesus turns down my best, (even when my work looks better than anyone else around) and He makes me cry, I know His “perfectionism” is not meant to offend me personally. I persevere, I am motivated. He’s making me a “real” artist.

  • Sherwood8028

    The beautiful part, I have found, it is not just “on the Job” that He makes His presence know, but in every aspect of our lives.

  • Anonymous

    Great example. Thanks, Lori!

  • Anonymous

    Yes, indeed. Thanks for your comment.