LIE: God Is Punishing You

Kyle WinklerBy Kyle Winkler10 Minutes

Excerpt taken from Shut Up, Devil: Silencing the 10 Lies Behind Every Battle You Face by Kyle Winkler


“Can I ask you something, Kyle?” David timidly questioned as I greeted people in the lobby after a Sunday morning service.

“Definitely. What’s going on?” I responded. After a deep breath, David began to share something that had haunted him for nearly twenty years.

“When I was only fifteen, my mom suddenly passed away from cancer,” he confessed through tearful eyes. “None of us expected it. One moment she was filled with all the joy of life, and the next she was doubled over in pain and on her way to the hospital. Three months later, she was  gone.”

As my heart was breaking for the loss of his mother at such a pivotal age, David shared more of his story to me.

“I also lost my father that day,” he said.

A bit taken back, I clarified, “You mean, both your mother and your father died on the same day?”

“No, no,” he explained. “When my mom breathed her final breath, my dad was almost instantly plunged into despair. For years, he was left hardly able to care for himself, much less my younger siblings and me.”

David went on to disclose that shortly after his mother’s death, a generous and compassionate couple in his church community saw the downward spiral of his family, and they brought him into their own. While their care met his physical needs, his next question revealed the root of a spiritual torment he had suffered from until the day we talked.

“Was my mom’s death my fault?” he blurted out as if the question had been pent up inside him for years.

Before I launched into my answer, I needed to better understand why he feared he was the cause of his mother’s death and his family’s subsequent grief.

“Why do you feel that way?”

He proceeded to confide that in the season of his mother’s sickness, he battled a rebellious spirit. Though he knew God and he loved Jesus, he had questions that he did not always pose in the most respectful ways to his Sunday-school teachers. “Furthermore,” David admitted, “my hormones were raging, and I’m not proud of the things I did in that area of my life.”

Rebellion and lust are hardly atypical of a fifteen-year-old boy, but when you are a teenager looking for reasons as to why your world has been turned upside down, the first place you look is inward. Many ask, “What have I done?” For David, however, it was not only his own internal voice making those accusations. He caught wind that church folks were blaming his mom’s lack of healing on his lack of faith. Eventually, some even told him that his family’s peril was the result of God’s punishment because of his sins.

“Was it?” David begged to know. “Were all these bad things that happened to my family the products of God’s punishment?” He asked me this as a question, but I could tell by what he later divulged that it was more of a foregone conclusion to him.

Over the years, David had accepted the belief that his sins had brought God’s wrath. And though he continued to attend church out of habit, he battled insecurity with God and an on-and-off relationship with Him. But something I had said in the message that morning had prompted him to look up from the game he had been playing on his phone and wonder, “Have I been believing a lie?”

Is God Really Good?

Teenagers are not the only ones who believe that something unfortunate was brought upon them because they upset God. I receive emails frequently from adults of every age who fear that some sudden financial or health crisis is the consequence of God’s anger at their failures.

An angry God who is looking for ways to afflict us does not represent Him, but it is the story that the devil has concocted to erode our relationship with Him. If he can do that, he can steal our only source of real power, joy, peace and meaning. The Bible is certain about the character of God: He is good. From beginning to end, Scripture boasts of it. The books of the Old Testament repeatedly praise: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good” (Psalm 107:1; 118:1; 136:1; 1 Chronicles 16:34). In the New Testament, Jesus affirmed it (see Mark 10:18). The apostle John did, too, adding, “there is no darkness in him” (1 John 1:5).

Good is the fundamental aspect of who God is. It is the quality from which everything else about Him flows. God loves, heals and provides because He is good. Furthermore, as the apostle Paul revealed, His goodness is what draws us to Him (see Romans 2:4). This is reflected in our human relationships, whereby we naturally draw close to those who treat us well and take interest in our lives. That is not a selfish thing; it is something hardwired into us by our Creator to serve as a means of protection. Nobody wants to be near someone who abuses or misuses them. In the same way, nobody wants to be in relationship with a god they perceive only causes them pain and suffering, takes no interest in their lives or is waiting to punish them. And the devil knows it.

“Is God really good?” is the question the devil has been prompting people to ask from the very beginning. When he probed Adam and Eve with, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1), what he was really asking is, “Can you trust that God has your best interest at heart? Is He holding something back from you?” In other words, “Is God really good?”

Any talk of suffering brings to mind the story of Job. We have the benefit of knowing what was happening behind the scenes. At the time, however, Job did not know that the sudden loss of his health, children, belongings and dignity were the schemes of the enemy. Rather, he was led to believe that God had done these things. Satan then baited him to curse God’s character (see Job 2:9).

Nothing has changed in thousands of years of human history. Still today, the devil uses misfortunes on both unbelievers and believers to take himself out of the limelight and make God look like the author of all the problems. From pain or suffering, such as sickness, he intends for you to ask, “Why did God give this to me?” From trials or disaster, like the tragic loss of a home, job or loved one, he stirs the question, “Why did God do this to me?” Pointing to a personal weakness, struggle or disability, the enemy wants you to protest, “God, why did You create me this way?”

Unfortunately, the concept of an angry God is so engrained into most of us that we never stop to think, Perhaps what I experienced never originated from God in the first place. Maybe what I am going through isn’t God’s will, God’s hand or God’s plan at all. Instead, we respond as David did to his mom’s death, and we look inside ourselves for a reason that we are being punished by God. But are we?

Excerpt from Shut Up, Devil: Silencing the 10 Lies Behind Every Battle You Face by Kyle Winkler provided by Chosen Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Copyright 2022. Used by permission.