This is Part 2 of 5 parts answering the question, “Is it Sin that Causes God to Allow Suffering?” in the larger question, “Why does a loving God allow Suffering?” Parts 3-5 will be posted in the next three days.
The Effects of Suffering Caused by Sin in the World
When Adam and Eve sinned there were irreversible effects on planet earth that will only be changed when the Lord returns. As God told Adam,
17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, `You shall not eat of it: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you… (Gen. 3:17-18 NKJ)
Everything changed when sin entered the human race and brought cursing on the ground. Mark Bailey, President of Dallas Theological Seminary, wrote,
The natural results of sin are seen in diseases, disabilities, disasters, and death that come with living in a fallen world. Suffering may be emotional, such as a troubled spirit, fear, worry, or even the impending threat of death. Physical suffering identified and addressed by Jesus throughout his life included temporary issues, such as hunger, fever, general sickness, and imprisonment. Also he and his disciples confronted people with long – term diseases or disabilities such as impaired hearing, speaking, walking; or illnesses such as leprosy, paralysis, epileptic seizures; or various combinations of physical difficulties and demonic control.1
There may be great suffering from the natural outgrowth of sin, but it may not come directly from person sin. In other words, a person may suffer and there may not be a cause of sin producing the effect of suffering. Unfortunately, a man-centered perspective saw suffering as the direct result of unrighteousness and sin as clearly seen in the book of Job. Larry Waters, professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, wrote,
Traditional wisdom reasoned that since God is in control of the world and because he is just, the only way wise people can maintain faith in him is to see blessings as evidences of goodness and righteousness, and all suffering as evidence of unrighteousness and sin. Belief in God and service to him would then be reduced to a prosperity or pragmatic religious formula or system of works.2
That is why studying suffering from God’s perspective is essential to begin any objectivity in dealing with it. There is a general principle regarding suffering that Stephen Bramer notes,
These seventeen books of the Old Testament prophecy vary in length from sixty-six chapters (Isaiah) to one chapter (Obadiah), but a common thread runs through them: sin leads to suffering, but repentance results and blessing – both nationally and personally. To disobey God is to experience his punishment, but to obey him results in abundant blessing both now and in the future.3
Our hope is found in the Lord Jesus Christ and dependent obedience to His will is a key factor to avoid suffering.
1Bailey, Mark, “A Biblical Theology of Suffering in the Gospels,” Why, O God (Wheaton, Crossway, 2011), p, 162.
2Waters, Larry, “Suffering in the Book of Job,” Why, O God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), p. 113.
3Bramer, Stephen, “Suffering in the Writing Prophets (Isaiah to Malachi)” Why, O God, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), p. 159
Part 3 will be posted tomorrow.