Life Changes

Is It Punishment or Divine Gift?

Punishment or Divine Gift?
Image by Mary Gorobchenko

Narrated by Marie T. Russell

Video version

When tragedy, death of a loved one, or extreme disappointment strikes, do you ever wonder if our Divine Creator is punishing you? A lot of people feel this way and close their heart to the divine love that is always pouring to us.

Losing a Loved One

I have a dear friend, named Jim, who had a golden retriever, Max, for sixteen years. Jim loved Max like he was a son and he took excellent care of him. Max went everywhere with his owner, even expensive hotel rooms. Max went to the best vets and was monitored often for any problems. The life expectancy for a golden retriever is from 10-13 years old, so Max had lived way beyond that. One day, Max had trouble standing up and was immediately taken to the veterinary emergency hospital. Within a few hours, he died.

Our friend was devastated and, after a few days of crying, he reported to me that he could no longer believe in a loving creator. Why would a loving God take from this world a pet that was bringing so much love and beauty to his life? Jim felt that he was being punished. I urged him to be grateful for all the wonderful years that he had with Max and to begin to look for a gift in the experience.

In time, Jim realized that Max had had an extraordinary life and that, if he had lived even two weeks more, Jim would have been in Europe working and would not have been able to be with him for his final hours on earth. As it was, Jim was able to hold him every second, and tell him over and over again how much he loved him, and to thank him for all the joy he brought.

Losing Everything

We know people who lost their home and community to the Paradise Fire in northern California in 2018. In just one short day an entire small town completely burned. This was heartbreaking for all of us who watched, and even more so for the people who were there and lost so much.

These people told us at the time that they felt completely abandoned by God and that they could never trust again. They felt they also were being punished. We urged them to try to be grateful for one thing each day and over time to look for the gift in this tragedy.

It took two years of them feeling lost and abandoned to finally feel the gift of the fire. Yes, they lost so much and the trauma of that day will live with them forever, but they have found a new life together in another place and they are at peace. The gift is that they learned it is possible to start over and that peace can be found again even under such tragic circumstances.

Trust in the Gift to Come

In 1986 I was pregnant with our third child, a girl whom we named Anjel. When I was six months pregnant, my midwife told me it was important for me to go to the hospital for an ultrasound. She was concerned but did not tell me why.

While driving to the hospital with Barry and our two little girls, I got out my little box of cards from Findhorn. On each card was printed one word of encouragement. The card I picked said, "Gratitude."  I knew that, whatever happened, I needed to be grateful.

At the hospital in a very clumsy and hurtful way, I was told by the examining doctor that our baby had died. I felt devastated!!!!  Never had the pain of loss touched me so deeply. My parents, who were visiting us from Buffalo, came to the hospital to take our girls home with them while Barry and I went to another doctor to discuss my options for the removal of the baby.

In the brief time of seeing my mother as we brought the girls out to their car, my mother gave me a hug and said she understood. She had had twin boys that died at six months old. She told me to keep trusting and to know that a gift would be coming as a result of this loss. She told me that there would be times when I would have difficulty knowing that a gift was coming, but that I should continue to give thanks that one day I would understand why this happened.

The Rainbow after the Storm

There were times when I too felt like I was being punished by God. Why would a loving God give me a baby only to have it die inside of me six months later? Whenever I saw a pregnant woman, I would cry as it felt so unfair that they should be able to have their baby and mine was taken away.

Gradually, I came to peace with my life with Barry and our two little girls. But my heart was definitely closed to having any more children. I wondered what the gift was that my mother was talking about. Then two years later we received a total surprise when we found out that I was pregnant with our son. It seemed like a miracle.

And so, our son John-Nuri came to us as the gift from the very painful loss of Anjel. His presence has brought so much love and joy to all four of us. He was not planned, but our loving creator had the plan all along.

We are never punished by our creator; the love flows towards us all of the time. It is we who block it from coming. The gift and the plan have always been there. We just couldn't see it. The gift for my mother when she lost her twin boys was that two years later, I was born. She would have never had me if those twins had lived. My mother and I were indeed a lasting gift to each other.

* Subtitles by InnerSelf
Copyright 2021 by Joyce and Barry Vissell.

Book by this Author(s)

Heartfullness: 52 Ways to Open to More Love
by Joyce and Barry Vissell.

book cover: Heartfullness: 52 Ways to Open to More Love by Joyce and Barry Vissell.Heartfulness means so much more than sentimentality or schmaltz. The heart chakra in yoga is the spiritual center of the body, with three chakras above and three below. It is the balance point between lower body and higher body, or between body and spirit. To dwell in your heart is therefore to be in balance, to integrate the lower three chakras with the higher three.

This book contains 52 writings and stories that all illustrate the many facets of heartfulness. That’s one per week. Our goal is to lead you into your heart. Our goal is to give you a feeling experience of the heart in its many dimensions. We could say each piece will make you feel good. And this may be true. But each will also challenge you to grow in spiritual awareness, for there is often a certain risk that must be taken before the heart can open. Sometimes we need to leave our comfort zone to really live from the heart.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book.  Also available as a Kindle edition

About the Author(s)

photo of: Joyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964, are counselors, near Santa Cruz CAJoyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964, are counselors, near Santa Cruz CA, who are passionate about conscious relationship and personal-spiritual growth. They are the authors of 9 books and a new free audio album of sacred songs and chants. Call 831-684-2130 for further information on counseling sessions by phone, on-line, or in person, their books, recordings or their schedule of talks and workshops.

Join Barry and Joyce Vissell in their first in-person event in 16 months: Summer Couples Retreat, June 24-27, 2021.

Visit their website at for their free monthly e-heartletter, their updated schedule, and inspiring past articles on many topics about relationship and living from the heart.

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