This is the second part answering the question, “What Kinds of Suffering do We Suffer in What God Allows?” (See the first part posted on Jan. 16, 2014) It is a part of a series of questions following the overall question, “How can a loving God allow suffering?” Portions of each week will address answering that overall question.
The third category is emotional suffering. This can result from fear of the unknown, living in a relationship where a lack of trust was established, or even a physically induced condition like a woman’s monthly cycle. Emotional suffering can build over mounting debt, failure to forgive, or resentment building over jealousy that a friend received credit for a job that you did. This is difficult to measure, like mental suffering, because it is not seen, except for the consequences. Feelings can be used in a positive and negative way.
On the one hand, God gave us emotions to enjoy His presence in praise and adoration. David, when he was in a desert wilderness, remembered times of great rejoicing in the assembly, “When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.” (Ps. 42:4 NKJ) God also used David’s emotions to help him come to the reality of his sin. David wrote, “I am feeble and severely broken; I groan because of the turmoil of my heart.” (Ps. 38:8 NKJ) Feelings are used by God in a good way in the conviction process. They may be the means by which the Holy Spirit alerts a believer to his downward slip into a spiral of misery.
Sometimes emotions, out of control, reveal the fool, “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.” (Pro. 29:11 NKJ) Additionally, a person can be past emotional suffering, because of the hardness of his heart and callousness of his soul as Paul described the downward spiral. He noted, “…who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” (Eph. 4:19 NKJ) Certainly, God gave us emotions to serve as a warning light on a driver’s automobile panel. When a person is sensitive to God, He will use them to alert him to danger or trouble. Yet, a steady diet of sin cancels one of the divine reasons for emotions.
The fourth category is social suffering. This can be related to any number of relationship issues, especially related to injustices, imprisonments, isolations and loneliness. It results from conflict between people and has existed ever since Adam tried to blame Eve for his sin. Social suffering continued in Adam and Eve’s children, when Cain rose up and killed Abel. Ever since Cain, social suffering has been seen between people through wars, crimes, jealousies and comparisons. A thousand years later, in Noah’s time, the wickedness of man was so pervasive, God destroyed the created world and human race, except for eight souls, in order to begin with purity in the human race. But that did not last long, because the Tower of Babel revealed man’s antagonism of God’s sovereignty.
God chose Abraham to be the first Jew and yet, there was social suffering within the first family. Abraham put Sarah in harm’s way when he lied about her (Gen. 12: 13). Isaac did the same thing with his wife, Rebekah (Gen. 26:7), which revealed his mental suffering from fear. A previous example of social suffering related to Isaac’s grandson Joseph and his brothers. Joseph had received a revelation from God of his future prominence and his brothers rejected that revelation. Joseph may not have been wise regarding how to communicate that revelation, but the result was social suffering in the family as the brothers argued then (Gen. 37:18-27), when they argued together while seeking food in Egypt (Gen. 42:21-22) and after Jacob died, feared revenge from Joseph (Gen. 50:15-18).
There was tremendous social suffering between the Jews enslaved in Egypt and the taskmasters (Ex. 1:11). God deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, created horrendous social suffering between the Jews and Egyptians, until God completely removed Israel from Egypt and left the Egyptian army drowned in the Red Sea (Ex. 14:27-28).
David suffered with his son Absalom (2 Sam. 15:14). He fled Jerusalem for the wilderness as Absalom stirred up a revolution against David. David also described how his own sin created problems socially,
11 My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague, And my relatives stand afar off. 12 Those also who seek my life lay snares for me; Those who seek my hurt speak of destruction, And plan deception all the day long. (Ps. 38:11-12 NKJ)
Why can we not all just get along? James answers this question with a very simple reason, which explains why there is social suffering,
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet1 you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 Adulterers and1 adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (Jam. 4:1-4 NKJ)
God’s purpose is that we be one with one another (John 17:20-23), but sins in social suffering cause antagonisms between people and create tremendous conflict, isolation and loneliness.
The final segment will be continued tomorrow….