This is Part 1 of 5 parts in the question, “Is it Sin that Causes God to Allow Suffering?” in the larger question, “Why does a loving God allow Suffering?” Parts 2-5 will be posted in the following days.
Some people blame all suffering on sin – either our own sin, someone else’s sin against us, or because Adam’s original sin resulted in a fallen world. Is that belief founded in God’s Truth? Would there have been suffering in the Garden of Eden?
The answer? Suffering is related to sin, but it is also related to violations of natural law. Let’s be more specific, so we can be clear on identifying its sources. Part of the anguish of suffering is ignorance of how it started, what it is, how long it will last, what the effects will be or how it will affect other areas of life. The lack of knowing can be gut-wrenching!
I think most of us would like to be able to identify the source of suffering, because then we think we could and might like to fix the problem and be relieved of some of the pain and anguish. However, God does not easily give us that clarity. Some might say that there is suffering from natural law that has nothing to do with sin.
Suffering from Natural Law
Is there suffering because of Natural Law? There are natural laws which have nothing to do with sin, but were established by God as part of the organization and structure of the universe. For example, there is the law of gravity. If Adam had walked off a ten story building, he would have died (fortunately, there were no tall buildings for him to be unaware of this). Consequently, it’s unlikely that even the law of gravity had a negative effect prior to sin in the world. Now, because of sin there are.
There is also the law of cause and effect. In the Garden of Eden, in most cases, this would not have been an issue, because for example, Adam was not would not have suffered by being lazy and not planting. There was plenty of fruit available. Adam would have had plenty of food in the Garden of Eden perfect conditions.
However, if Adam was walking and stubbed his toe on a tree root, he would have felt pain. It was not sin that caused the pain, but the reality of cause and effect.
But now, as a result of sin in the world, the law of cause and effect can be disastrous. In Biblical times, many roof tops were flat. Scripture taught that those owning homes with flat tops were to put a fence (parapet) around the roof to prevent falls (Deut. 22:8). Today, if someone is lazy (cause), he won’t be able to feed himself (the effect, Pro. 19:24). If a person is inconsiderate, lacks attention to detail or is self-centered (cause), then there will be broken or offended relationships (the effect, Pro. 18:19). Another example? Feed your body a steady of “junk” food and you’ll suffer from lack of energy, immune deficiencies and a lack of ability to fight off a host of diseases, especially if chemicals and pollution are ingested.
Scripture teaches the law of sowing and reaping as well. Choose to not plant, and there will be no harvest (Pro. 20:4). Paul also used this analogy several times to illustrate that both the amount and type of “seed” sown determines the “harvest” (2 Cor. 9:6). But you also have the corollary, “Whatever a man sows, that is what he will reap.” (Gal. 6:7-8) These are natural laws, but because we live in a fallen world, even natural laws result in suffering when not followed. Some have said that all suffering is the result of violating natural law and that neither God, Satan, or man’s free will has any part in it. The Bible teaches otherwise!
Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.