Have you ever found yourself in the belly of the whale? Have you ever run away from God, only to find yourself in a difficult place as a result of that rebellion? Yet God is still gracious to deliver us even when we have brought our problems on ourselves. We see this in Jonah chapter 2, where Jonah thanks God for delivering him from the belly of the whale (or fish or whatever type of creature he was in). Now Jonah was there because, of his own free will, he had defied God’s command. But God was still gracious to him and delivered him. In the same way God may discipline us for our good (Hebrews 12:4-11), but He will be there to bring us through the discipline.
Now we need to be careful here. Not all bad things that happen to us are God’s discipline (John 9:1-4; Luke 13:1-5; Job 1,2). Sometimes it is hard to discern whether certain circumstances are God’s discipline. You need to be careful of jumping to the conclusion that you are suffering because of something you did wrong. But if you are undergoing God’s discipline, what should you do? First of all you should repent (Psalms 51:1-9; Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9). Now the question comes, how do I know if I am being disciplined and need to repent? If I have something clear and particular to repent of and have not, then I need to repent. I should do that whether or not I am under discipline. But if I end up rummaging around trying to find something to repent of, I am on the wrong track. Now there is a point to opening ourselves to God and asking Him show us if there is something we need to repent of (Psalms 139:23). But then we need to leave it in His hands. The point of repentance is to turn from our sin and put it behind us and go on with God (2 Corinthians 7:10; Philippians 3:12-14; Hebrews 12:1,2). And we need to remember God’s forgiveness and grace toward us (Romans 8:33,34; John 3:18; Colossians 2:13,14). Then we need to trust God to bring us through whatever problems we find ourselves in (Proverbs 3:5,6; Isaiah 40:31; Psalms 127:1,2). Knowing that whether or not it is discipline, God will use it to help us grow in Him (Romans 8:28-30; 2 Corinthians 4:17,18; James 1:2-4). But this will only happen if we respond to troubles the right way, turning to God rather then turning from Him.