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While suffering occurs in the lives of all people on earth, not all suffering is the result of one’s sin. There are various reasons for suffering, however, for the believer it is often for the glory of God (John 11:4). These divine interventions are a greater blessing than the momentary trials one may endure. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Man reaps what he sows
Suffering is the result, however, of the entry of sin into the world. Prior to sin, their was no suffering. In terms of personal suffering, this can be the natural result of transgression. The Bible teaches, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). It is a natural law that things duplicate after their kind (Genesis 1:12). A man who sows figs cannot expect a grape crop. In the same manner, a man that sows evil will also reap evil.
God does not work a supernatural act to protect people from suffering the penalties of their breaking His laws. If people were safeguarded from the terrible results of their sin, they would become greatly encouraged in their wickedness. The truth is that sin brings suffering and death. God warns His children so that they will not suffer. He lovingly urges church leaders, “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear” (1 Timothy 5:20) and not suffer.
The devil is the tempter
Not all suffering is the direct consequence of personal sin by the sufferer. It was taught in the old days that every affliction was a punishment of a wrong act either by the sufferer or his parents (John 9:2). People judged the degree of a person’s guilt by the degree of their suffering.
Sadly, many believers are under the same misconception. In spite of the lessons that are taught in the Bible, especially the story of Job. In spite of the many lessons taught by Christ Himself during His earthly ministry (Luke 13:16; Acts 10:38; 1 Corinthians 5:5), these believers view God as the One who inflicts people with sickness and misfortune. However, the Bible teaches that God doesn’t sent afflictions, but rather it is the work of Satan.
It is the devil who is the originator of sin and all its results. He led men to look upon sickness and death as coming from God. Due to this fallacy, people viewed the heavenly Father as unloving and a harsh executor of justice.
The apostle James explained this truth when he wrote, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:13-15). While the evil angels may tempt man to sin, their temptations would have no effect were there not a desire in people to yield to it.
Suffering is overruled by God for divine purposes
Thus, suffering is imposed by Satan but is overruled by God for purposes of mercy. The reason God does not always protect His people from suffering is that if He did, the devil would bring the same accusation against God as he did in the story of Job. This accusation was that God was unjust in putting a wall of protection around His follower (Job 1:10). Therefore, the Lord God must allow the devil the chance to trouble the saints, so that all accusations of injustice will ultimately be shown to be untrue.
The afflicted ones may thus find relief in the thought that though a “messenger of Satan” may afflict them (2 Corinthians 12:7), God is overruling for merciful purposes. He will make the trials and afflictions of this life to work for the good on their behalf (Romans 8:28). If the Lord permits suffering to come upon His people, it is not to crush them but to refine and elevate them (verse 17). For the trials of life help the believers focus their attention on heavenly realities.
This has been the experience of God’s children through the ages, and at the end of their lives they have been able to know and proclaim that God worked all things for their good (Psalms 119:67, 71; Hebrews 12:11). At the end of his life, Joseph was able to declare to his brothers, “Ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good” (Genesis 50:20).
In His service,
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