Parental disciplinary tactics have changed somewhat through the years. Spanking or paddling was most popular when I was a child. Speaking to that is the comedic account of corporal punishment employed by one father that elicited fear and respect from all six of his children. That is contrasted sharply by the method employed by an adult grandson who addressed his own children in the midst of mayhem saying, “You’re really going to get it now! TIME OUT!!” Of course, the worst part of “time out” is when the parent also takes away the child’s phone or computer, i.e., screens.
There are a number of familiar Bible verses that back up the idea of punishment with a sting. One of the most quoted: “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” (Proverbs 13:24) This method is actually tried and true. But I was surprised to find that the Bible also references “time out” without using those exact words. When God disciplined His children, the Israelites, because they rebelled against His miracles in leading them out of Egyptian slavery and they complained about the giants living in The Promised Land, it cost them 40 years of “time out” in the desert. Many years later when the Israelites forsook God to worship idols and sacrifice their children to demons, it happened again. This time it was 70 years of exile in Babylon. Time always increases for repeat offenses.
God still employs this method today, but we have to know Him as a loving Father to recognize it. Very often when we feel stuck in a job we don’t like, or feel mired in a situation we want desperately to change, and there is zero movement, God is holding us in a “time out” place so that we can learn a valuable lesson. While it feels like punishment, it is really aimed at correction. As with the Israelites, God’s motivation is His love and concern to get us on His trajectory for success. Because Jesus took our sin, His grace now permits us to participate in lengthening or shortening the amount of time we spend in the undesirable place. The shortcut hint is to stop everything, seek His truth for what we need to change, and do the work.
However, all too often, we get distracted by our “screens” of music, entertainment, national and world news, or the lives of other people. God doesn’t take our screens away, but rather tests our desire to focus on Him, watching to see if we will police ourselves. Although God is usually not forcing adherence to a timetable, choosing to spend time sitting in the mudpuddle of the problem for any reason delays whatever opportunities we would have enjoyed. The fact is that once we learn the lesson for the “time out” and repent and turn, the “time out” is over. God has more productive and enjoyable things for us to undertake.
The same way we parents add to our children’s time in “time out” for whining and complaining, we can expect God to add to ours for grumbling about our situation. We are further ahead to swallow hard and praise God that “the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastens everyone He accepts as His son.” (Hebrews 12:6) It actually helps to acknowledge that “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.” (v. 11) Just do it.