This is Part 3 of 5 parts answering the question, “Is it Sin that Causes God to Allow Suffering?” of the larger question, “Why does a loving God allow suffering?” Parts 4-5 will be posted over the next two days.
Suffering Caused by Personal Sin
We often reap suffering because of foolish decisions. Examples are scattered throughout Proverbs. For instance, the lazy become hungry (13:4), those who choose evil friends suffer difficult consequences (1:10-19) and those who enjoy adultery are led to a deep pit of misery (2:16-20). Proverbs teaches that fools suffer harm (15:27), and poor financial stewards are found wanting, without God’s blessing (8:17-21).
I have seen far too many examples of consequential suffering (the results of sinful decisions). A Christian woman was dating a non-Christian, became pregnant by him and was unsure of what to do. A man lived above his means, because he allowed spending money on others to stroke his ego. Now his wife knows she will be left with very little in the even to his death. Another man has lived on credit cards and now has the threat of home foreclosure hanging over his head. Yet another man failed to eat a healthy diet and now carries an extra 100 pounds of weight, suffers from bad knees and a problematic back and is often sick with no one to blame but himself. The vivid reality of consequential sin is that many people do not repent of their wrong lifestyle until they have done great damage to their own well-being and their families, causing them to be in consistent crisis.
Suffering from the Sins of Others
We seem to accept suffering more easily when it is caused by our own foolish and sinful decisions, but the sins of others are more difficult to deal with! It may result when someone else violates a natural law, like driving while intoxicated. Or it may be a consequence of dealing with physical and emotional pain inflicted by an abusive parent. This suffering often seems greater, because we feel as though we were innocent and should not have had to endure it.
Suffering might also come from cursing that results from association with a community. For example, I might suffer because I live in a nation in which the majority of the people have become too dependent on the government. If there are not enough people working to fund the materiel resources for the military, or too few willing to serve in it, this in turn leaves my country vulnerable to invasion. Israel faced something similar in their history. They had spiritually walked away from God and forgotten the source of their blessings. Stephen Bramer, professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, wrote,
The writing prophets make two points clear: God warned of the consequences of exile, and he wanted his people to repent in order to avoid those consequences. In fact he promised to bring them back “if they confess their iniquity… If then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity” (Lev. 26:40–41). 4
There were many godly people in Israel, but the remnant had become so small and the wickedness became so great, God said, “Enough. You will go into exile.” (2 Chron. 36:16-20).
There is an additional form of suffering that comes from the enemy himself.
4Bremer, Stephen, “Suffering in Writing Prophets (Isaiah to Malachi)” Why, O God¸(Wheaton, Crossway, 2011), p. 147.
Part 4 will be posted tomorrow.