This is Part 2 of two parts answering the question, “What are the results of man’s ways of dealing with the suffering God allows?” which is part of the larger project answering the question, “Why does a loving God allow suffering?”
Let’s note five results of man’s way of dealing with suffering.
Consequences of Dealing with Suffering Man’s Way
First, there may be a spiritual separation from God.2 When man goes his own way, he suppresses the truth and rejects God. He chooses the additional suffering of separation from the presence of God’s blessing rather than humbly approach Him. After the prophets, the incarnation of Jesus Christ and the completed canon of Scripture have all been revealed, many unbelievers will seek death and eternal suffering rather than face the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ,
15 And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, 16 and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! (Rev. 6:15-16 NKJ)
Secondly, there may be additional physical results and consequences. When man gives into the suffering he is in, he may resort to alcohol or drugs to mask the pain. However, this has often caused greater addictive problems. An example is Rush Limbaugh, who used prescription drugs when he continued to have back and neck pain after an unsuccessful surgery.3 He used them for pain relief, but then became dependent on them. The additional measures some will take can cause complications added onto the present suffering.
Thirdly, there can be mental consequences. In the midst of pain, one’s fear, worry and anxiety about the unknowns of the future can intensify. God’s purpose for us is to learn contentment in whatever condition we are in, and fear and worry only complicate the issues. How many follow Peter’s admonition about this?
18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. 19 For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. (1 Pet. 2:18-20 NKJ)
Fear and worry prevent the peace of God from relaxing the body and reducing the suffering experienced. Concerns in the world make us uptight and it is not natural to relax, but through God’s Spirit it is possible. In fact, Peter exhorted that Christians to rejoice through trials,
12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (1 Pet. 4:12-13 NKJ)
Fourthly, there can be social consequences from man’s way of dealing with suffering. Man’s way often involves blaming others (Gen. 3:12,13) and that sets up forms of hostility between people. Joseph’s brothers were concerned about the social consequences of their sin against Joseph. When Jacob died, they made up a story, so that Joseph would not take revenge against them,
15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him.” 16 So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, “Before your father died he commanded, saying, 17 `Thus you shall say to Joseph: “I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you.”‘ Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. (Gen. 50:15-17 NKJ)
The brothers suffered mentally because of their fear and worry and socially because they were afraid Joseph would seek revenge and were therefore hesitant to approach him on their own. Joseph was the Prime Minister of Egypt at the time and could have removed their heads with a nod, but he was not pursuing man’s way like they were. Joseph had forgiven them, knowing that they had meant evil against him, but God meant their evil actions for good (Gen. 50:20).
A fifth consequence of dealing with suffering man’s way is perpetual suffering. Rather than trying to understand God’s purposes and how He might use trials for His glory, the person who deals with them man’s way continues in misery. Some will call this slipping down the downward spiral, which is what man’s way always does (Rom. 1:21-32; Eph. 4:17-19). God intends all situations, including suffering, to bring Him glory. We look at the suffering as a point in time issue rather than see the big picture of eternity. God has a higher purpose in all things! Jesus discussed this with the disciples,
Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. (John 9:1-3 NKJ)
The man had been blind from birth. How many times did he stumble or run into something because of his handicap? How many times was he picked on by others? How many times was he rejected and ostracized by others, because they thought he had sinned in some way? Was that fair that he had to go through that suffering? Was God just?
Jesus revealed that the man was not born blind because of his own sin or the sin of his parents, but so that “the works of God should be revealed in him.” If the works of God are revealed, then there is great glory and joy in His presence and work!
- What practical ways do you see are man’s ways of dealing with suffering?
- When man tries his own ways, rather than relying upon God, why does he suffer more?
- What are several reasons do you suppose mankind doesn’t turn to God in suffering? What are the additional consequences?
- Looking at the list of consequences, which do you see are the most difficult to deal with? Which are more subtle that are not very easily felt?
- How would you disciple a person who is struggling with suffering and often chooses man’s way of dealing with it?1Bill Nye debated Ken Ham from Answers in Genesis, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6kgvhG3AkI
2These principles were derived from the Biblical model of man’s failure described in Broger, John. Self-Confrontation: An In-depth Discipleship Manual (Palm Desert: Biblical Counseling Foundation, 1991), pp. 66-67.