God can discipline, but He also can lead people into a difficult situation. We see this happening with Moses and the Israelites (Exodus 14). God had just delivered them from Egyptian bondage. But the Egyptians were pursuing them to recapture them. And God led them to a place where they were trapped between the Egyptians and the Red Sea. They were following where God led them, and it looked like an impossible trap. We see a similar event in the life of Christ (Matthew 8:18-27). Jesus gave the disciples orders to cross over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. And while Jesus was sleeping, a storm came up strong enough to cause veteran fisherman to fear for their lives. What should we make of this?
There is a tendency to believe that if someone is undergoing difficult circumstances it must be because they have done something wrong. There is a real Biblical basis for believing that God does use circumstances to correct people (Hebrews 12:4-11; 1 Corinthians 11:29-32; 1 Kings 8:31-53). But there are also clear passages of Scripture that repudiate the idea that this is a universal explanation of all suffering (Job 1,2; John 9:1-3; Isaiah 53). We are given the idea that those who follow God should expect trouble (John 16:33; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; James 1:2-4) and even persecution (2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 4:12,13; Matthew 5:11,12). Why does God allow this? I do not claim to have easy answers or ones that explain every case in detail. But the basic idea is that God’s goal is not to make us happy but to teach us to trust Him, even in difficult circumstances (Proverbs 3:5,6; Psalms 37:3-6; Hebrews 11:13-16). The result is that the struggles we go through help us to grow in Christ and become the people He wants us to be (Romans 8:28-30; 5:3-5; 1 Peter 1:6-9).
Now the Israelites who followed Moses experienced clear deliverance when God split the Red Sea. The disciples of Jesus also experienced such a deliverance when Jesus calmed the sea. But Abraham died never possessing the land he was promised or seeing his descendants become a great nation. Elijah was taken up into heaven when Ahab and Jezebel were still reigning and Israel was still worshiping Baal. Jeremiah died with Judah having gone into captivity and the last remnant in the land going down into Egypt. So what we need to remember is that God is able to deliver us from whatever situation we find ourselves in (Luke 1:37; Matthew 19:26; Jeremiah 32:17). But God acts according to His will, and why He does particular things may be beyond our understanding (Romans 11:33-36; Isaiah 55:8,9; Ephesians 1:11). However, we need to trust Him even if things do not go the way we think they ought to (Isaiah 40:31; Psalms 127:1,2; Hebrews 11:6).