Punishment and Suffering PART 3b: Does God Allow Sufferings?

Suffering1

For those who haven’t read the first half of this part, you can read it here.

III. PAIN AND SUFFERING FOR GOD’S PEOPLE

A) PERSONS IN THE BIBLE WHO EXPERIENCED SUFFERING

B) CHRISTIAN’S ATTITUDE TOWARD PAIN

C) WHY DOES GOD ALLOW SUCH PAIN?

  • To Punish Sins –  Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’” David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.” Then Nathan went to his house. And the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick. David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them. On the seventh day the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spoke to him, and he did not listen to us. How then can we say to him the child is dead? He may do himself some harm (2 Samuel 12:9-18).” The Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention. 11 Therefore the Lord brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who captured Manasseh with hooks and bound him with chains of bronze and brought him to Babylon (2 Chronicles 33:10-11).
  • To test us – And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not (Deuteronomy 8:2). Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. And the Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. 5 But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life (Job 2:1-6).”  Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction (Isaiah 48:10).
  • To teach us His will – It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me (Psalms 118:71,75).
  • To teach us patience – Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance (Romans 5:3). For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (James 1:3).
  • To humble us – “And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3). When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:13-14).
  • To discipline us in love – In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but 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 12:4-11).
  • To drive us to repentance – The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years. And the hand of Midian overpowered Israel, and because of Midian the people of Israel made for themselves the dens that are in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds. For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. They would encamp against them and devour the produce of the land, as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel and no sheep or ox or donkey. For they would come up with their livestock and their tents; they would come like locusts in number—both they and their camels could not be counted—so that they laid waste the land as they came in. 6 And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord (Judges 6:1-6). Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress…Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress (Psalm 107:4-6,10-13). I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me (Hosea 5:15).
  • To get us to rely on His grace – So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
  • To Purify us – Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me,” declares the Lord of hosts. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones. In the whole land, declares the Lord, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive. And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God (Zechariah 13:7-9).’” “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:  ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight (Matthew 3:2-3).’” Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit (John 15:2).
  • To Promote His Glory – As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned,this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him (John 9:1-3).
  • To further the Good News – But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word (Acts 8:3-4). At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth (2 Timothy 4:16-17).

D) HOW DOES GOD RELATE TO PAIN?

  • He is in control – Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 8 And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord (Job 1:6-12). For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).
  • He Cause Good to Triumph – This is the path of those who have foolish confidence; yet after them people approve of their boasts. Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd, and the upright shall rule over them in the morning. Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell. But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me (Psalm 49:13-15).  But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms (Psalms 73:16-20). And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
  •  He is a refuge for believers – Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge (Psalm 16:1). God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall (Isaiah 25:4).
  • He Shares Our Pain – For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted (Isaiah 53:2-4). In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old (Isaiah 63:9).
  • He Walks With us Through Pain – Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:4). The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress…The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress (Psalm 46:7,11). When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you (Isaiah 43:2).
  • He Comforts Us – Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted (Isaiah 49:13). Cry out again, Thus says the Lord of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem (Zechariah 1:17).” Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).” Who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too (2 Corinthians 1:4-5).
  • He will terminate pain at Christ’s return – Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, whenthe Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels(2 Thessalonians 1:4-7).Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:1-4).”

E) HOW SHOULD BELIEVERS RELATE TO THOSE IN PAIN?

  • We Should Pray for Them – o Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church (Acts 12:5). I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints (Romans 15:30-31). He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many (2 Corinthians 1:10-11). Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:13-16).
  • We Should Comfort Them – Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great (Job 2:11-13).  If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself (1 Corinthians 1:6-8).
  • We Should Share their Burdens – Did not I weep for him whose day was hard? Was not my soul grieved for the needy (Job 30:25)? Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Hebrews 13:3).
  • We Should Encourage Them –  Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.(1 Thessalonians 5:11).
  • We Should give them help – Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh (Isaiah 58:7)? Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise (Luke 10:30-37).” Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble (Philippians 4:14). But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him,how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:17-18).

IV. CONCLUSION FOR THIS CHAPTER

Yes, God allows sufferings; both in His followers and the wicked, but this time, we should already draw a line between punishment and sufferings.  In Punishment, we suffer, but in Suffering, not all of it are brought about by Punishment. Bringing both together on the same picture can sometimes lead into confusions and misunderstanding. Because although true Christians admit that God corrects us on our mistakes, but in the eyes of non-believers, it will be hard for them to accept.

But when we talk about our Christian walk, we should also consider that since we are already in the hands of Christ who owns our lives, He has all the rights to correct us in all our wrong doings, but at the same time, it will also test or examine if our faith in God is authentic. Let’s just all remember that in times of hardships, many people mentioned in the Bible also suffered over it. We are not alone in this journey that has many afflictions with it. We just keep on holding on whatever may happen along the way.

Now, I am going to reserve some of my thoughts about this chapter for the next chapters where we are going to talk about Christian’s response towards our own afflictions and the suffering of others (although I have already mentioned some of it in this chapter). 🙂 Stay tuned for more!

God bless you, readers!

All glory and honor belongs to God alone.

RELATED ARTICLES

Punishment and Suffering: PART 1a: Does God Punish People?

Punishment and Suffering: PART 1b: Does God Punish People?

Punishment and Suffering: PART 2a: All ABout Sin

Punishment and Suffering: PART 2b: All ABout Sin

Punishment and Suffering: PART 3a: Does God Allow Sufferings?

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