Suffering: The Cause

Almost fourteen years ago, a terrible tragedy occurred. My wife and I lost our child to a miscarriage. It was the second miscarriage we experienced. It was the second straight pregnancy that ended with a miscarriage. We felt crushed. Friends and family tried to comfort us. Some genuinely did, but others exacerbated the pain. There were many questions and comments made, but the question that sticks out in my mind, the question I can still hear echoing was: “What did you do?”

I remember that question hitting me like a ton of bricks. What did we do?? Was this our fault? Are they saying the pain we are experiencing and even the death of our child was our fault? Was God punishing us? What did we do?

Those questions are often asked during times of suffering. Often the first thought, even of the ones experiencing the suffering, is “why?” and wondering if it is the result of something they did. Does suffering occur because of our actions? Is it our fault? The simple answer is: yes….and no. Not exactly cleared up, but maybe a little more thorough examination will help. Why does suffering occur?

When we answer this question, we begin by stating: suffering is not part of God’s original design. I don’t want to say that it is not his plan, as surely he knew it was coming, but it was not part of creation originally. The Bible tells us that when God had finished creation, he looked at it and saw that it was not only good, but it was very good (Genesis 1:31). Suffering, pain, death – those things were not there. They came when Adam and Eve disobeyed God (Genesis 3:1-4).

Their disobedience, the entrance of sin, brought with it death (Genesis 3:3, 19), separation from God (Genesis 3:9-10), curses (Genesis 3:14-19), enmity (Genesis 3:15), pain (Genesis 3:16), struggles in personal relationships (Genesis 3:16), and hard work (Genesis 3:17-18). Sin brought with it suffering. Suffering exists because of sin. If you find yourself asking “but why does God allow it? Why is it necessary?”, you will want to make sure you tune into the third part of this series, but, for now, it’s important to note that the cause of suffering is sin.

This is important to keep in mind for a couple reasons. First, it reminds us of the goodness of God. When he created everything, suffering was not present. This is vital to recall when we are going through suffering; the goodness of God is our anchor, our hope, our refuge, and our stay. Second, it reminds us of the wickedness, the heinousness of sin. The consequences of an action, can reveal the severity of the action. The consequences of sin is a separation from God that results in death, pain, and suffering.

The Fall corrupted creation (Romans 8:22). Things are not as they are supposed to be. We live in a fallen world. Separation from God exists, therefore, death, pain, and suffering also exist. Suffering exists. That means that the suffering we experience is not always a result of individual decisions (see Mark 3:1-6 and Luke 13:1-4 for examples of those who experienced suffering that was not the result of a their own sin) . Surely, sometimes it is the consequences of our individual personal sins (see Jonah as an example of those who suffer because of their personal sin), but other times, suffering occurs simply because sin has corrupted creation.

Suffering exists because we live in a fallen world – sin has corrupted creation. That can sound discouraging. You don’t even have to do anything “wrong” to experience suffering. That sounds bleak. But, as we think of the cause of suffering, we also are reminded of the cure of suffering. As soon as sin entered the world, God, the One who had been sinned against, announced a cure (Genesis 3:15). Immediately, there was a promise of the seed of the woman (Christ) crushing the head of the serpent (Satan). And, of course, at this time of year, we remember the incarnation. Christ became flesh, and dwelt among us; he suffered for us, died for us, and rose again (Romans 5:6-6:11; 2 Corinthians 5:11-21).

Sin is the cause of suffering. But God is the cause of the relief from suffering!

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