When I was a child, I got lots of spankings … I have no doubt that the discipline was sometimes warranted … but I have my suspicions that my parents maybe overdid it … they were very strict and overbearing. However, some parents are too lenient and lax. “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.” Proverbs 13:24
Our Heavenly Father loves us and therefore He disciplines us. The writer of Hebrews, in Hebrews 12, says, “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves, He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” I encourage you to read all of chapter 12, but leave you with verse 11: “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
It is hard to tell the difference between discipline and trials … I’m not even going to try to formulate an answer. But Jesus did promise that we would have trials, so that we might grow in Christ-likeness. In John 16, Jesus tells His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” If I were a Bible scholar, I might be able to tell you how to distinguish “tribulations” from “trials”, but, in my humble estimation, they are pretty much the same thing.
James, the half brother of Jesus, says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” “Perfect and complete” does not mean that we will be sinless this side of heaven (see 1 John 1:6-10). But it does mean that we will be suited to do the good works that God has prepared beforehand (see Ephesians 2:8-10).
The Apostle Peter, in 1 Peter 4, says, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” Discipline, trials, tribulation … even persecution, but Jesus is with us!