God disciplines with a cough

By Julia Fernandes

July 26, 2011


Hebrews 12:6 –  "The Lord disciplines those he loves."


This incident occurred in the month of February this year. It was the usual morning rush. I was sitting in the train, eyes drowsy, hoping to catch a few winks. Amidst all the noise and din of the train and passenger’s talks, a woman began coughing incessantly almost non-stop. I woke up with the noise of the cough and I looked up at the woman who was coughing. Apparently, she was having a bad attack of cough and she just could not stop coughing.


For a fleeting second, I cast a disdain look at the woman and found myself irked with her continuous cough. I arrogantly thought to myself, “Why is this woman coughing so much? Can she not stop it?” Somehow, I could not see her pain. All I could see was a woman coughing that was disturbing my nap.


After around one or two weeks I caught a nasty bout of cold. At this point let me state that whenever I catch a cold, it is the usual body ache and sniffles. But I never ever get a cough. Never. So, this time when I felt sick, I got laid down with a mysterious cough. My doctor could not diagnose the cough, since I never had a history of cough. It would start usually in the evenings with me coughing continuously.


One evening the cough was so bad that it started at around 7 in the evening and abated only at around one in the morning! All my reports were clear. The doctor reckoned that it was some allergy cough, though it was hard to determine the cause of the allergy. It was highly embarrassing when the cough attack would start in a public place, especially in a train, drawing the attention of all my co-passengers towards me.


Each time I had a cough attack I remembered that woman who was coughing whom I had scorned. Then I realized God read my thought and did not like my indifference to the pain of that woman. Nothing escapes God, not even a passing thought. The cough was His way of disciplining me. I learnt my lesson -- the cough way.


I don’t remember the number of times I said sorry to God. He loved me so much that He did not like me committing even the smallest of small sin. I did not hurt that woman nor was I rude to her in any way. But, I sinned against her in thought. Even though it was for a minute, in the eyes of God, it mattered a lot. By stretching the duration of my mysterious cough to two months, God not only sensitized me to the pain of that woman but also to the pain of everybody I encounter coughing.


Today, when I see anybody coughing in the train, with fear, I recollect what I went through. I immediately close my eyes and whisper a prayer for that person. The experience of my cough attack enables me to look with compassion at people.


Had God allowed the cough to persist for a week or so the lesson would not have been so deeply entrenched in my heart and mind. Through two months of cough, God made sure that I will never ever repeat my act of indifference and that I will always have the highest sensitivity to the suffering of people around me.


God has zero tolerance for sin as I learnt. He is all holy and sin even in the mildest form cannot stand in front of God. God loves us so much that He does not hesitate to discipline us so that we can be as Holy as He is.


For two months I had to suffer. With each subsequent attack of cold the intensity of the cough infection subsided until I was completely cured. Just two weeks back I was down with viral fever. With dread I thought to myself, will the cough come back again. No, it didn’t. 


That mysterious cough will always serve as a reminder as to how God hates even the mildest trace of sin and how He does not hesitate to discipline all those whom He loves dearly.

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