This is Part 2 of a 5 part series answering the question, “What are man’s way of dealing with the suffering that God allows?” in the larger project answering the question, “How can a loving God allow suffering?” Parts 3-5 will be posted over the next three days.
Dealing with Suffering by Rebellion against God
Because of the Fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden, man has been rebellious against God. He reacts, shakes his fist at Him and pursues with all of his might ways that he thinks will assist him in dealing with suffering.
There are at least three ways man promotes his ways contrary to God’s ways in life, especially when coping with suffering. The first form of rebellion is his self-love.2 When a baby is born, his thoughts are centered only on what is best for him; he does not care about loving or serving others. That is why he cries when he is hungry, cold, or has a dirty diaper. He does not care what time it is or what mom or dad have gone through that day. He is absorbed with himself (only through godly discipleship will a child learn to become other-centered).
As he grows, unless he has been trained well, he will continue to be a “lover of self.” Paul wrote, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves.” (2 Tim. 3:1-2 NKJ) The latter days will reveal that characteristic of “self-love” and he will allow it to cause a hardened indifference toward the pain and suffering of others. This hardening process is encouraged in the digitally available mass media entertainment laden with violence toward others. Those who have perpetrated violence (Columbine, Aurora, etc.), have been known to have filled their minds with this violence. Hence, the way people treat others is greatly influenced by the environment surrounding them, because they care mostly about themselves. Similarly, those who are full of self-love level focus on their own suffering and center conversations around themselves rather than others.
The second form of rebellion is through self-assertiveness. Apart from God, man follows the logic, “You have to look out for number 1!” or “If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will!” Because of his rebelliousness, man digs his heels in, stiffens his neck and sets his face toward his personal desires rather than seeking to please God. Solomon wrote about this trap,
3 I searched in my heart how to gratify my flesh with wine, while guiding my heart with wisdom, and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the sons of men to do under heaven all the days of their lives. 4 I made my works great, I built myself houses, and planted myself vineyards. 5 I made myself gardens and orchards, and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made myself water pools from which to water the growing trees of the grove. 7 I acquired male and female servants, and had servants born in my house. Yes, I had greater possessions of herds and flocks than all who were in Jerusalem before me. 8 I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the special treasures of kings and of the provinces. I acquired male and female singers, the delights of the sons of men, and musical instruments1 of all kinds. (Ecc. 2:3-8 NKJ)
Solomon’s conclusion was that it was all vanity! He could gain the world, get his own way, or secure wealth and power, but it resulted in futility. Everything he pursued resulted in discontentment and lack of fulfillment. In a similar way, people may pursue the world’s possessions, power and prestige to hide or mask suffering. That pursuit always leaves them empty.
The third form of rebellion is through self-exaltation. This was the same choice Satan made himself when he fell from his favored status prior to the creation of the human race (Ezek. 28:13-15; Is. 14:12-14). By exalting self, man blames others for his problems and sufferings. He complains about what others are doing or not doing. And it makes everyone miserable! He seeks revenge, whether through personal vindictiveness or passive-aggressive avoidance. By putting others down, he seeks to raise himself up. And by blaming others, his self-inflicted pain and suffering is given an excuse and there is a mental relief and explanation for it. This is a harmful way of exercising power or control over others, but it gives the person temporary psychological relief. However, the long term consequences are emptiness from strained or broken relationships.
Parts 3-5 will be posted over the next three days.