Causes of Suffering

By Royce Frederick

Should I blame God for my suffering? God sometimes disciplines us to correct us, like a human father corrects his children whom he loves (Heb. 12:5-11; see Ps. 119:67, 71; Rom. 5:3-4; Js. 1:2-4). But we cannot always know that God caused our suffering. In fact, we often know there were other causes:

VIOLATING THE LAWS OF NATURE can cause suffering. If I step off a high place, I will fall. If I put my hand into a fire, it will be burned. Whether by choice or ignorance, the injury will be the same.

ACCIDENTS IN OUR PHYSICAL WORLD can cause suffering. Solomon wrote, “...time and chance happen to them all” (Eccl. 9:11). Accidents happen in the lives of all people. We are sometimes able to reduce our risks by being more careful. But we cannot see and know all things at all times.

THE CHOICES WE MAKE sometimes increase our suffering or our risk. Life is full of risks and difficult choices. We sometimes make a choice which has greater risks or burdens, because that choice also offers greater benefits. We sometimes choose faster travel, instead of safer travel. There are not many floods in a desert. Yet many people choose to live in other places where there is more risk of flooding, because those places are also more fertile. People often endure hardships or endanger their life to help a loved one or others. All through life, we must continually weigh the costs, dangers, and potential benefits of our actions. (See Lk. 14:25-33; Matt. 13:44-46; Mk. 10:28-30; 1 Tim. 4:8.) We should not blame anyone else for the difficulties which result from the choices we make. When we have choices, we should choose our actions carefully: “...the prudent considers well his steps” (Prov. 14:15; see 22:3).

CHOICES OF OTHER PEOPLE sometimes hurt us. I am not alone in this world. The choices of other people will affect my life, and my choices will affect them. Since the people around me are not perfect, some of their choices will trouble my life, even when those people do not intend to hurt me.

SINS OF OTHER PEOPLE often cause us to suffer. When one person yields to greed, lust, envy, jealousy, selfishness, laziness, fornication, drunkenness, hatred, or other sins, it usually causes others to suffer. Stealing and greed by a few people make prices higher for everyone. Crimes increase the burden of taxes upon good citizens. One person’s moment of sinful pleasure can cause a lifetime of misery for others. The world is full of evidence that “ sinner destroys much good” (Eccl. 9:18).

OUR OWN SINS cause us to suffer. God has given us the freedom to do good or evil. When we choose to sin, we bring suffering into our life as a natural result of sin: “...whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Gal. 6:7). We are constantly “sowing” or planting good deeds and good thoughts, or worthless and bad ones. These thoughts and deeds produce good or bad “fruit” (Prov. 11:19). Very often, the harm or blessings of our actions return to us through other people. Also, the attitudes of our heart can affect our health for good or ill (Prov. 17:22; see Matt. 6:34; 2 Tim. 1:7; Heb. 12:12; Phil. 4:4-7, 13). Some of the effects of our sins upon our life are immediate; other results may come into our life much later.

Sin often causes damage which cannot be repaired. For example, if we kill a man, we cannot bring him back to life. If we repent and obey God, He will completely forgive us (Acts 2:38; 17:30; 1 Jn. 1:7-9). We can later enjoy heaven, where we will have no pain nor sorrow (Rev. 21:4). But we need to realize that some of the harmful results of some sins cannot be reversed.

When we plant the word of God in our heart, it helps prevent us from doing sinful things which would hurt us (Ps. 119:11; Hos. 4:6; Jn. 8:31-32). By choosing to read and heed God’s word, we can make our pathway less difficult and more joyful: “...make straight paths for your feet...” (Heb. 12:13). By studying and following the word of God, we receive blessings in our life now and later (Rom. 12:2; 1 Tim. 4:8).

SATAN causes suffering. Satan (or the “devil”) was a sinner and a murderer from the beginning (Jn. 8:44; 1 Jn. 3:8). He is a deceiver and the father of lies (Jn. 8:44; Rev. 12:9; 2 Thess. 2:9). He is the enemy of all goodness and righteousness (Acts 13:10; Matt. 13:39). He is the ruler of darkness and evil (Eph. 6:12; Acts 26:18). Satan is the one who brought sin and death into this world by leading Adam into sin (Gen. 3:1-7; Rev. 12:9; Rom. 5:12). Satan seeks to accuse us, persecute us, trap us, and devour us (Job 1-2; Rev. 12:10; 1 Tim. 3:7; 2 Tim. 2:26; 1 Pet. 5:8). Everything Satan does is for the purpose of hurting and destroying us.

Unlike Satan, God does not enjoy seeing anyone die (Ezek. 18:32). In fact, God does not even enjoy seeing wicked people die (Ezek. 33:11). He desires that all people be saved (2 Pet. 3:9).

To know all the causes for every problem in life, we would need to be as wise as God Himself (Job 38-42). But we are not God. It is enough to know God loves us, and everything He does is for our good! (Gen. 1-2; 50:20; Deut. 6:24; 10:13; Jer. 32:38-39; Jn. 3:16; Acts 10:38; 14:17; Rom. 8:28; Heb. 12:10-11; Js. 1:17, 1 Jn. 4:8).