#mystory continued…When things don’t go our way, we wrestle with God. Be honest. You know you do. Questions begin ping-ponging off of us towards God’s direction. “Why is this happening to me? What have I done to deserve this?“At the onset, I could not point my finger to any blatant, willful sin. I was looking for answers, much like the friends of Job.
Three friends with hideous names of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar come to sit with Job during his misery. After Job had watched his family be destroyed by a storm, his servants killed, his oxen and sheep stolen, and his wife turn on God. His body was completely covered with sores from head to toe. Job is at an all-time low–physically, mentally and spiritually and then these three friends show up to say, “Is not your wickedness great? Are not your sins endless?” (Job 22:5) In effect, they were accusing Job of getting what he deserved.
Jesus categorically denies that all of our suffering is the result of personal sin. “Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, ‘Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?’ Jesus said, ‘You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. This is no cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do” (John 9:1-3, The Message).
These are important verses because, so often when we face difficulties, our first reaction is, “What have done to deserve this?“
And yes, indeed suffering can be a result of our own doing. If I sow my body with drugs or abuse alcohol, there can be consequences to my health, relationships, and emotional well-being. Likewise, if I mistreat or repeatedly yell at my children, they may grow to be angry at me as a result of my sin. “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7).
But it is also clear, that a good deal of suffering can be the result of someone else’s sin. Here we can think of a few obvious examples, like the drunken driver who takes an innocent life, or the millions who suffer around the world because of human greed, economic injustice, war or racism.
Natural disasters, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, famines can also result in much suffering (can I hear an Amen?). Couldn’t God prevent such disasters if He wanted? For the answer to “Why do we suffer?” we must go back to the very beginning. Hello Adam and Eve. They messed everything up. They disobeyed God and took a bite from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They turned their back on God. Genesis 3:17, “And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;”
I know it is a heavy thought, but the original creation was warped into a world of “weeds and thorns.” Paul gives an evocative description of the consequences of sin to the natural world: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. (Romans 8:20-22)
Evil and suffering are alien intrusions into God’s good world. When Jesus returns to set everything right again (and yes, He will…hold on to the truth…He will), creation itself will be renewed and restored as well. The problem of suffering, therefore, is a result of free will. And guess what…we are just like Adam and Eve. We are all on the same team.