An important point from last week’s blog that bears repeating is that regardless of what the type of suffering is, it is important to understand that God is in charge of it. God is an active participant in our trials and sufferings and is orchestrating what kind of suffering we undergo.
Lamentations 3:37-38 (NLT) — "Can anything happen without the Lord’s permission? Is it not the Most High who helps one and harms another?"
The passage of Scripture above offends people, especially people who are hurting. We do not like to think of God helping one and harming another. A common view of God is that He is love, and He is never angry with sinners. We are taught that every bad thing that happens is caused by Satan, and that God is no place to be found.
We do not like to believe that God actually orchestrates tragedy! God is both a God of love and one who allows, even brings, adversity into our lives. I am not saying God sins; I am saying he uses sin to teach us. God is a sovereign God, and you will struggle with suffering if you do not have a proper understanding of the sovereignty of God.
The trials and sufferings you are undergoing are necessary and profitable. The Word of God says they are. No matter how it feels to us, God says our suffering is purposeful, and that alone is far more important than any personal experience or our feelings about adversity. We will learn more about the profitability the necessity of suffering in a little while but let’s look at the reasons we suffer now.
One of the reasons we suffer is as a result of sin. Sin always carries a price. Don’t we try to teach our children this? I sin because my heart is set on satisfying and worshipping “self.” All sin is a worship disorder, a theological problem actually. As a believer, I sin because I am an idolater.
Suffering lends itself to self-focus. We focus on our situation and on our pain, and before long all we think about is “me.” We can quickly make relieving suffering or pain the goal and focus of our daily lives. Whether we realize it or not, we are committing idolatry. The focus is no longer on glorifying God or His agenda but on “me.”
Suffering itself is not sinful, but what we do in suffering can be sinful. If we are focused on feeling better, feeling happy, freedom from pain or any of a number of other desires we can quickly become idolaters. God sees the thoughts and intentions of the heart – even when we lie to ourselves, which we are very good at doing. Idolatry is sin, and every sin has a consequence — an automatically built in negative result. God is never mocked, and we can never put one over on Him. He sees the thoughts and intentions of the heart, even when we lie to ourselves.
In Psalm 38 we read that David suffered physically, emotionally, and mentally as a result of his sin. He was tormented and ill. He suffered from fear of man both due to guilt and genuine threat of harm. David felt abandoned by God. In later Psalms David speaks about understanding that even when we suffer because of our sin, God is gracious and merciful. This is an understanding we can come to as well if we only reach out to the Father. (Psalm 78:38-39; Psalm 106:43-46)
God’s handling of us when we sin is instructive and intentional. The consequences we bear are intended to help us to grow and change. God intends that we learn from our consequences and also from the example left for us in His Word.
1 Corinthians 10:11 (NASB) — "Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come."
Suffering can be a result of sin. Examine your life today, and consider what you might need to confess to the Lord. Then, go to him in confession and accept his ever-abundant grace.