Why Suffering?

God punishes sin; we interpret this as suffering rather than instruction.

Judges 3:5-7, 6:1-13, Who abandoned who?
Amos 5:1-27, Talk’s cheap.
Jeremiah 7:1-28, They did not listen.
Jeremiah 14:1-22, Actions speak louder than words.
Jeremiah 32:26-44, I have taught them, but they have not listened.

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Judges 3:5-7, 6:1-13, Who abandoned who? (12/8/14)

I hope it was clear two weeks ago that if you are suffering because of your own sin, you should repent, make what earthly amends you can, and then grit your teeth and endure the earthly consequences. I hope it was clear last week that if you are suffering because of someone else’s sin, it’s not your fault or God’s fault. You didn’t do anything, or fail to do anything, to deserve suffering because of their sin. It happens, but it’s not your fault. Or God’s fault.

Having said all that, I’m sure that my children sometimes thought I was spanking them just to cause them suffering. No. I was spanking them to teach them, for example, that running away from me into the street was dangerous and painful. God gives us the same kind of spanking: instruction that running away from him is dangerous and painful. “He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 12:10-11).”

Look carefully at Gideon’s question in vs. 13: “If the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? ... But now the LORD has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” Now go back to vss. 6-7: “And their daughters they took to themselves for wives, and their own daughters they gave to their sons, and they served their gods. And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth.” So who was forsaking whom? The people of Israel were running away from God into a dangerous situation, and he used the Midianites to give them a spanking.

Amos 5:1-27, Talk’s cheap. (12/9/14)

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “He talks a good fight.” All too often we talk righteous behavior, but we do sin. God is not fooled. God says that if we aren’t doing justice and righteousness, he isn’t going to listen to what we say when we come to the worship service (except, of course, when we say, “We sinned; forgive us”). God sometimes has to punish us in order to get our attention when we aren’t listening. Note that this is a variation on suffering as a result of our own sin; instead of the inevitable earthly consequences, we’re now seeing inevitable heavenly consequences.

Jeremiah 7:1-28, They did not listen. (12/10/14)

What God said to the people of the northern kingdom, Israel, through the prophet Amos, they ignored; they went into exile for their sins. Later, God repeated himself at greater length through the prophet Jeremiah, speaking to the southern kingdom, Judah. God is a little more explicit this time: if you break all my commandments and worship other gods, it won’t matter what you say or do when you come to My Temple! Listen up! Unfortunately, the people still didn’t listen, and the southern kingdom also got sent into exile. This whole passage is about the results of not listening. If we don’t listen to God, we are apt to be corrected; to our shame we are apt to interpret the result as suffering.

Jeremiah 14:1-22, Actions speak louder than words. (12/11/14)

Jeremiah is the gloomiest of all the prophets, and they were not a cheerful bunch. God only sends prophets to nations that are going down the wrong path. (People going down the right path sometimes get an angel.) To be fair to Jeremiah, he prophesied in a gloomy time – the tail end of the kingdom of Judah and the Exile. To be fair to God, the people had been warned time after time against worshipping other gods, injustice to the poor, and other sins. Even now, they listen to false prophets and lying visions. God has had enough, and he punishes his people to teach them that God alone is powerful, and their false gods are impotent to save them.

Jeremiah 32:26-44, I have taught them, but they have not listened. (12/12/14)

Explain to me again why God punishes my sin? God says, “I have taught them persistently, they have not listened to receive instruction.” Oh, right – not only do I sin, but I ignore God’s attempts to correct me. Then I am punished in order to get my attention. This is ultimately for my own good, because along with the punishment designed to bring me to repentance, God makes several promises: So maybe the next time I’m suffering as a result of my sins, I’ll use that as a reminder to repent.

More on Why Suffering?
Suffering does not originate with God.
Most suffering is caused by sin and evil.
Some suffering results from my own sin or someone else's sin.
God punishes sin to instruct us.
Some suffering results from being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
God is with us, and God and our Christian family share the burden of our suffering.

Copyright 2014, 2015 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved. This page has been prepared for the web site by RPB.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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