There's no such thing as punishment.

Friends, I can't possibly describe to you the difficulty of this week. For well over a year, I've anxiously anticipated a conversation that would be painful, yet honoring to God. For a year, the thought of this conversation left me with intense anxiety, sleepless nights, and paralyzing confusion.

Over the past year, I've experienced a lot of joy, but also a lot of pain. I've intensely wrestled with the idea of punishment; specifically in regards to our God. I struggled because although my friends and mentors assured me that God's wrath was poured out on the Cross of Jesus; and therefore, left no punishment for me, I couldn't understand why every moment of pain felt like punishment.

Monday night, hours after the long-anticipated conversation ended, I restlessly tossed and turned in my bed. In my half-asleep state, I felt God reveal to me that His heart is not punishment, but drawing me closer to Him.

I scribbled down my undeveloped thought and finally fell asleep. The past few days, I've avoided any type of conversation with God. The fear of punishment left me scared and uncertain. So this morning, I finally sat, armed with coffee and my new kitten, and cracked open my journal. I saw my sleepy thought from nights ago and decided to push through my fears and ask God what He meant by, "My heart is not punishment."

Here's what he spoke to me:

"Sweet girl, I love you. Each and every situation in your life results in you knowing Me deeper and more intimately. Even when you disobey and face the consequences of your sin, I'm there, knowing the consequence will ultimately bring you closer to Me and My Presence. When you're filled with joy and everything around you seems to fall into place, it's not because you've done something worthy of reward, but rather because I am gracious and loving and I know that in this season, celebrating will draw you closer to Me. When hard seasons threaten to swallow you, it's not My wrath or punishment, but I know, in My Sovereignty, that you will know Me more through the hard season. You are loved and I want you to experience My love and love Me in return. There is no fear in love (1 John 4:18). There is no need to fear Me, Whitney. I'm not punishing you, I'm bringing you into a deeper relationship with Me."

After years of not understanding discipline and punishment, I see more of God's heart. So today, if you're in the middle of a difficult season or even a season of happiness, it's not because of your works or anything you've done. It's because God is good and loving and wants you to know Him more.

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And because she's the cutest and most spiritual cat ever; meet Indi, my new kitten.