February 19, 2018
Suffering and Affliction Print E-mail
Affliction leads to God

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes. – Psalm 119:71

Affliction comes from sin. The wages of sin is death, and suffering is part of the dying process. God is good, and part of His goodness is captured in the law and statutes.

Is there any good in pain and affliction? People turn to God in their pain and in times of catastrophe. They are looking for meaning, and there is only one reliable source.

God’s laws are kind and loving. They describe how to have a healthy and happy life. Obeying the laws brings about blessing. Yet, the world is full of pain and suffering. Good suffering brings us into a better relationship with God, and helps us learn more about His character.

God uses pain for His purposes, and He has a good plan because He cares for you.

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Consequence of Sin

But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. – 1 Corinthians 11:31-32

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Sin is the cause of all pain, suffering and affliction. God warned Adam and Eve that the consequence of sin was death. Eve stated this clearly in her conversation with the deceiver, so she was well aware of it before she rebelled against God. The amazing part of the story is that Adam and Eve did not die that day, although they did begin the dying process.

Every person inherits the sin nature of their father and mother, and from the time they are born the dying process begins. The consequences are unavoidable and undeniable. We experience pain, endure suffering and are attacked with affliction.

The first example of the relationship between sin and affliction is well understood and accepted: the person that sins receives affliction in recompense. We get passed by a dangerous speeder and then nod in justified approval when we see them pulled over by a police officer. They are experiencing the pain of a ticket, which they deserve for sinfully breaking the law. They knew better but rebelled against the law anyway, we surmise.

A similar response happens when we believe a health issue is linked to sinful behavior. We tsk, tsk the glutton and expect them to accept their suffering as a consequence of their choices; we do the same for sloth. Depending on your cultural upbringing, there may be several more sin related ills that come to your mind as you read this.

A second example of the relationship is harder to accept. A person reaps the consequences of sin committed unknowingly. In other words, what you don’t know can hurt you. For instance, a person may suffer from stress related illnesses or immune deficiencies because they do not know how to keep the fourth commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” This is true even if they were unaware of the law.

One of the good things about affliction is that it points directly at the area that is in opposition to God. The Psalmist that says “It is good for me that I was afflicted” has this in mind. Affliction and pain helps me know where my attention should be, and motivates me to learn the truth about that source of pain. God’s law reveals the truth and provides a way out.

A third example is when the consequences of sin are affecting one person because of the choices of another. This happens when one person abuses another, and the victim deals with the pain and suffering though they did not willfully engage in the sin. It is a harsh reality that the unwilling one should be so affected.

A final example is when the sin is committed by another person, and the one affected by it is unaware of the sin, through they experience the consequences. We see this most dramatically in generational curses, where the sins of the fathers are visited on the children to the third and fourth generation. There are other examples, as well.

Don’t Blame God

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one. – James 1:13

In this verse from the book of James we see that God does not tempt anyone. There is a link between temptation and suffering because the tempter uses suffering to lure a person into opposition with God.

This is a nasty trick of the deceiver. He tempts a person to sin and then deceives them into blaming God for the consequences. You hear it in rhetorical questions about why God would let all those people die in an earthquake, tornado, or other disaster. The insurance companies call these events an “act of God” because they don’t know who else to blame.

Be careful not to be “grumbling in the desert.” The Bible records the journey of the Israelites out of Egypt and into the wilderness. God was leading them across the desert to Canaan, and He took care of their needs along the way. When they opposed God’s plan to go into the Promised Land, He sent them back to the desert to wander. Meanwhile they had manna to eat and water to drink every day. But, they grumbled in the desert about the manna. They blamed God, even though it was because of their own sinful choice.

The consequence of sin is pain, suffering and affliction. When we blame God for those consequences it is the same as grumbling in the desert.

God Cares

We know God cares about mankind, because as soon as there was sin He rushed in to make a way for man to be saved. The consequence of sin is death, but God intervened by extending the dying process so every person can make a different choice.

What the world calls an “act of God” should be called an “act of sin” that would be a whole lot worse except that the real “act of God” limits the destruction as He rushes in to save. God is holding back the full effect of the consequences because of His great mercy.

We also know that God cares about our afflictions and suffering by understanding His laws and statutes. This truth, found in the Bible, describes the way to live well. Every “Thou shalt not” is written for our good. By obeying these rules we avoid painful consequences.

The Israelites grumbled about the law, as if it was written to ruin their day. There are many that treat the law the same way today. They think of God as a “fun hater” that amuses Himself by making up complicated rules to a game no man can win. But it is not true. God cares so much, that He tells us what we should and should not do so we can live healthy and happy lives. Knowing we are not able to keep all those laws perfectly, He saves us in the end anyway.

Good Suffering

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word. You are good and do good; teach me Your statutes. – Psalm 119:67-68

The best response to affliction is to ask God to reveal the sin at its root. The cause may be your act of rebellion, or an act in ignorance. A caring God uses the pain for discipline, by which a wise person can be instructed. As the Psalmist says, it is through this instruction that he learns God’s statutes. The pain signals that there is a problem, and then points to the thing that opposes God’s character. It identifies the root so it can be addressed.

There is a difference between discipline and punishment. A time is coming for punishment, when sin and evil will get their final reward, but that time is not now. This is a time for discipline, by which God is still rushing in to save those that are willing.

For it was fitting that He, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the Founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. – Hebrews 2:10

The book of Job tells of the righteous man suffering for sin he did not commit. His friends understood only the first and second level of consequences (my sin either knowingly or unknowingly), and offered poor advice because of their lack of understanding.

This article would be incomplete if it did not also address the fact that Jesus became the Man of Sorrows. He did not sin, but suffered the consequences of sin. In the book of Hebrews it says that He was made perfect through suffering. This is the supreme example of burden bearing, and was done as an act of love. He took the pain to the cross, and by His stripes we are healed.

Good suffering can include burden bearing. If your suffering leads you to God, and you discover that you are righteous in His sight (as Job did), then the affliction is due to the sin of others. As Job prayed for his friends, you will have opportunity to pray for those that have sinned against you. Bearing the burdens of those caught up in sin, and interceding for them, is a demonstration of love. To do so is to be like Christ.

The law from Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces. – Psalm 119:72

Good suffering brings us into closer relationship with God. His character is true and perfect. That is why His laws and statutes are dependable. Using them as a guide for healthy living makes us blessable. It is truly worth more than thousands of gold and silver pieces. Obey His law and let Him take care of the consequences both in this world and the one to come.

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