Summary: A multi-part message series on understanding God’s will in the context of suffering.
The devastation of recent Hurricanes in the USA and the Indian Ocean Tsunami caused death, grief and suffering beyond belief for hundreds of thousands of people. The world even calls these natural disasters “Acts of God”. The “religious” call them Judgments of God.
Yet, everyone on earth has experienced suffering in one extent or another. Your suffering might be through quiet tears shed in the silence of the night as you reflect on the wounds inflicted by another.
Sadly, when we do suffer, our response is often, "It’s not fair, I don’t deserve this! We tend to quickly blame the Lord for tragedy and calamity in our lives. When we experience tragedy, our first reaction is usually to ask an angry “Why?!”
A loved one is brutalized, a child is abused, a family is wiped out in a terrible accident, a marriage breaks apart, or perhaps a terrible disease has taken hold of someone and angry people cry out at God and ask, "Why did you do this to me?" Or, too afraid to be angry for fear of appearing faithless, they indirectly accuse Him of causing their suffering by saying, "It was God’s will”, or “God allowed it" or God is bringing judgment. You may have had a loved one die, or had tragedy befall you while you were living a rebellious life, and have said to yourself, "God is punishing me."
We also indirectly blame God for our suffering when we say, “He caused it so that we could learn a great lesson.” Even though "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28), it does not make Him responsible.
It is easy to feel betrayed and hard to reconcile what has happened with a God of love. That is especially true if you have been taught that God’s love would protect you from any harm, keep you from every hurt and pain or protect you from every sickness.
Often, children who were brought up in a dysfunctional home and had a terrible relationship with their earthly father will unknowingly view their heavenly Father in much the same way and have a very dysfunctional understanding of Him. If their earthly fathers were distant, judgmental, angry or never satisfied with anything they did, they will view the heavenly Father in the very same way especially when they fall or do not meet self-imposed expectations or goals.
The Cause And Effect Relationship
Because God is sovereign, He can do anything He wants, how He wants and when He wants. Sometimes God allows man to do whatever he pleases, even the most heinous of things. Other times He keeps man from doing what he wants to do and He can also overrule what man does.
When sin entered the world, it put into motion a cause-and-effect relationship in each event in our lives. Things break down and deteriorate as a direct result of sin having entered the world. Sin affects everything around us. Weather patterns cause devastating natural disasters such as hurricanes, flooding and tornadoes. A car’s brakes fail and cause a terrible accident because they had worn out. An airplane crashes because of a faulty part. The washing machine stops working because the bearings froze from years of use. All these things, and those like them, have a direct cause-and-effect relationship indirectly because of sin.
Freedom Of Choice
The day God created mankind He gave them a free will which allows them the freedom to choose between right and wrong, righteousness and sin. He decreed or ordained by order of His omnipotence (or power) to allow mankind the freedom that could cause sin to come into the world. God did not create sin or suffering. Sin, and the suffering it causes, is a direct result of satan’s temptations and Adam and Eve’s subsequent disobedience.
Because God is love, He gave man the freedom to choose whether or not to freely love Him in return. The freedom to love is the basis of relationship. If God had not given mankind freedom to choose, they would all be a bunch of mindless robots living preprogrammed lives. However, it is because of that very freedom God gave them that there is suffering in the world.
God told Adam that because he listened to his wife and ate from the tree from which He commanded him not to eat, the very ground he walked upon would be cursed. All mankind would have to now “eat of it” through “painful toil” the rest of their lives because of his sin. The earth from that day forth would “produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." (Genesis 3:17-19)