Is There a Connection Between Sin and Suffering? Part #1
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Title: Is There a Connection Between Sin and Suffering?
Text: Job 2:9-13 (KJV)
9 Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.
10 But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.
11 Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him.
12 And when they lifted up their eyes afar off and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven.
13 So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.
When Calamity struck the house of Job, his friends came at great trouble and inconvenience to counsel him. Job’s friends held to the traditional thoughts of their day, which in many respects are still the thoughts of our day. They believed that God always rewards righteousness. And they believed that God always punishes wickedness. They supposed that righteousness always pays off with peace, prosperity, and popularity; and that it always leads to eternal life.
Job’s friends saw God as a judge. They understood Him somewhat in terms of His being a prosecuting attorney or a policeman. They believed that God’s law was self-operating and self-executing and that if you found yourself in great pain and suffering, it was proof that you were a great sinner.
The writer of the book of Job challenges all of our simple solutions to the complex questions that plague us when we are faced with pain and trouble. The easy answer is usually the incorrect answer.
They believed God to be an executioner. While we recognize that sin ultimately results in suffering, when you study the book of Job, you cannot help but conclude that not all suffering is the direct result of sin.
The first thing that we should understand is that Job was a very good man who did not deserve to suffer as he was suffering.
He suffered the loss of all his worldly property. He suffered the tragic death of his children. He suffered the absence of a sympathetic wife. But in her case, perhaps we need to cut her a little slack, because she may have been suffering from deep depression when she came to him and advised him to commit suicide and escape his pain.
But Job also suffered the misunderstanding of his sincere friends. And he suffered the loss of his health-boils covered his body from head to foot. He suffered indescribable pain.
Is there a connection between sin and suffering? The answer could be yes, and the answer could just as well be no.The second thing to consider about his situation is that Job’s suffering is attributed to Satan (Job 2:7-8). Job is an excellent illustration of this truth. In Job 1:6, we learn that “there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.” He came into the presence of God to accuse Job of having evil intentions.
The word “Satan” in Hebrew means “the adversary.” And he is certainly that, for he does all that he can to hurt us and keep us from coming to Christ. In the Old Testament, Satan wanted to bring out the worst in mankind. And in the New Testament, His character is revealed as the aggressive tempter of man and hated opponent of God. Satan revealed his brazenness in his speech with God and his unreasonableness in the way he attributed evil motives to Job.
Because he is a created being, Satan, unlike God, is not omnipotent, omniscient, or omnipresent. Although his powers are impressive and far-reaching, he acts only with the permission of God, who puts definite limits on him. Satan is always subordinate to God and ultimately will be defeated. But until then he roams the earth like a king’s spy, seeking disloyal subjects. However, a believer does not need to fear Satan.
The actions against Job were attributed to the hand of God who permitted the actions, even though Satan was the one working against Job. The Lord was in the end responsible for what happened to Job. This confirmed that God’s authority extended over Satan and his fallen angels.
There is nothing Satan can do that falls outside of God’s domination. The God of the Bible is clearly the unequaled, matchless Creator who is superior over all His creation. Satan acknowledged God’s sovereignty by his own words. He said, “Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land” (v. 10) He is admitting that he can’t touch Job because God is protecting him.
God gave Satan power over Job for a purpose, but Satan’s power and action were limited by God. Job 1:12 says, “And the Lord said to Satan, Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and he is the one who brought all the pain and suffering into Job’s life. God’s intention in allowing Satan to test Job is to prove our character; whereas Satan’s intention is to prove our lack of character. For that reason, every temptation has the potential for positive as well as negative effects, depending on our response to it. Nevertheless, the Lord promises that believers will not be tempted beyond what they can endure (1 Cor. 10:13).
Job did not know that his pain and suffering had been brought on him by the activity of Satan. Nor did Job’s friends realize that Satan was responsible for Job’s suffering. Both Job and his friends believed that sin always produces suffering. Consequently, his friends concluded that because Job was suffering, he must be a great sinner.
Job knew in the deepest part of his being that he had not sinned in a way that would provoke God to pour out such suffering on him. In the midst of his agony, Job gave voice to some very painful and meaningful questions. He asked: How can a man be just before God? How can I stand before God? Why does God not come to me in my time of pain? Why will God not listen to my pleas? Why does God let things like this happen? Job was plagued with the agony that many experience when undeserved suffering threatens their very existence. If God is all-powerful, why do these things happen? If He is love, why does He permit bad things to happen?The traditional answer during Job’s day was that God does good for the good and bad for the bad. And many people today hold to these ancient ideas.
The other side of the coin is that many of us expect favored treatment by God because of our good qualities and our high self-esteem. Many become indignant with God because of suffering and want to know what they have done to deserve it.
To the problem of why the innocent suffer, the book of Job gives no complete and satisfying answer. So this would be a good time to look at the painful problem of undeserved suffering. From before the days of Job up to the present, men and women have grappled with the painful problem of suffering. We have come to recognize that while sin will produce suffering, not all suffering is due to sin.
Pain and suffering assault us from all directions.
•Natural disasters produce suffering. For example, Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, and droughts cause millions of deaths around the world every year.
•Many suffer because of historical decisions made by the different countries of the world. For example: When Iraq invaded Kuwait, the war that followed cost thousands of lives and great destruction of property.
•Also, ancestral choices bring pain on descendants. There are many biblical examples that we could cite, but the one that comes to my mind first happened when Israel entered the Promised Land. God told them to destroy all the inhabitants of the land, but they defied God and let many live and even made treaties with some. Later their descendants would regret their disobedience because those same people would conquer them and force them to worship their gods.
•How about all the pain and suffering that resulted from the 9/11 terrorist attack; the world will never be the same because of what happened on that day.
The Hindus and Buddhists have built their whole philosophy on the question of the responsibility for pain and suffering. They believe in reincarnation and say that pain is inevitable because of evil deeds and conduct in a previous existence. They encourage kind and compassionate behavior to improve one’s lot in a future existence.