|Volume 17 Number 12 December 2015||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Cause & Effect Consequences of Sin
The Book of Job is the ideal occasion to study the topic of “Pain and Suffering.” The patriarch Job’s extreme suffering occupies 42 chapters of biblical text. He and we, too, want to know the answer to the questions: (1) “Why do good people often suffer despite their righteousness?” (2) “Why do bad people often prosper despite their sins?” The short answer is, “Satan is behind pain and suffering.” Satan certainly was responsible for the pain and suffering experienced by poor Job, and at least indirectly, Satan is equally responsible for pain and suffering today as well.
Pain and suffering came into the world as the cause and effect of sin entering the world. Satan, in the guise of a talking snake, persuaded mother Eve to violate God’s instructions in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Revelation 12:9). Subsequently, Adam also sinned. As consequences of sin, mankind was expelled from the Garden, women experience labor pains, death was initiated and the earth was modified from what it had been in creation. God cursed the ground with “thorns and thistles,” which necessitated hard work and sweat to produce crops.
As the centuries passed, humankind continued to sin greatly. Finally, man’s sins reached the breaking point, whereupon God could no longer tolerate it. Except for Noah and his family—eight souls in all (1 Peter 3:20), God destroyed all other humans with a universal flood (Genesis 6). The means by which God implemented the great deluge forever changed the surface of our planet and its climate. Hence, because of widespread sin, God altered or replaced the laws of nature that existed previously with what we experience today. Sin, then, is behind disease, disability, death and natural disasters. Satan lies behind the sins of men as he ever encourages mankind to depart from divine instructions—just like he did with Eve in the Garden of Eden.
The friends of Job were mistaken when they attributed the great sufferings of Job to some retribution of God toward him for secret sins. Likewise today, people are mistaken when they assert that God directly punishes righteous souls with severe adversity because of sins in their lives. Whatever it is that buffets one in this life is the consequence of someone’s sin, but it is not necessarily the sin of the one suffering. Generally, disease, infirmities and catastrophes indiscriminately affect the righteous and the unrighteous alike as the consequences (not guilt) of sins committed by sinners who lived 4,000 to 6,000 years ago. In addition, some suffering today results from more contemporary sins, but not always because of sins by the ones suffering (e.g., drunkenness resulting in highway fatalities, assaults, murder, rape, etc.).
As it was with Job, the important consideration is how one reacts to the suffering that may batter him or his loved ones. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
Atheists claim that pain and suffering, along with the existence of evil, prove that there is no God. Essentially, they equate pain and suffering with evil. The argument goes something like this. If God desires to prevent evil and cannot, then He is not all-powerful—He is not God. However, if God could prevent evil but does not prevent it, then He lacks compassion and is not good—again, He is not God. This faulty reasoning neglects to consider (1) the cause and effect consequences of sin, (2) that pain and suffering refines one’s character if we allow it to do so, (3) that pain and suffering helps one to keep his vision trained on the heavenly city. Another fundamental fallacy of the atheist point of view has to do with the concept of “evil.”
…when a person raises the question of “evil,” he is inadvertently appealing to some universal system of justice, which evil allegedly violates. But, if there is no God, hence no universal system of “righteousness,” how could there be any such thing as “evil”? Does not the word “evil” suggest the violation of some standard? Let atheism, therefore, define for us that standard by which certain things are judged to be “evil.” Actually, no atheist can, consistent with his own philosophy, even introduce the problem of evil. (Jackson, Book of Job 115)
Every undamaged, thinking mind makes choices—many of which are inconsequential (e.g., color of socks to wear), while some choices result in pleasant or unpleasant consequences (e.g., prepare for a career, step in front of an oncoming bus). The ability to make choices involves freewill, with which God endowed humankind. “…[W]here freedom of choice is permitted, there is certainly the possibility that finite creatures will make wrong choices,” which may “entail some adverse consequences” (Jackson, Book of Job 115). Brother Jackson denotes several wrong choices arising from several sources: “Personal Wrong Choices,” “Personal Wrong Choices of Others” and “Personal Wrong Choices of Former Generations” (Book of Job 116). Jackson decisively put the blame of choices made exactly where they belong when he penned at the same place: “You see, when God lovingly grants man free willpower, He must necessarily limit His own activity! Remember, unless there is the option to make evil choices, there is no real freedom of will!”
Mankind falls victim to natural calamities, but behind them lies the sin of ancient men and the consequences of sin. “Had it not been for man’s evil, the Flood would never have come; the features of the earth would not have been so altered; and man would not be suffering the consequences thereof today!” (Book of Job 118). The earth we know today is not the planet on which either the first pair walked or even what the antediluvian populations experienced. The protective, worldwide, protective canopy providing essentially a terrarium no longer exists. Instead of an equally distributed and regulated climate, the poles are frozen and the equator is tropical. The land has mountains that affect the winds. It rains now, whereas there does not seem to have been rain before the flood. The interaction of the various elements of this made-over, after-sin world produces hurricanes, tornadoes and other more favorable weather patterns, too.
Benefits of Pain and Natural Laws
We appreciate gravity when we realize that it prevents us from being hurled off our spinning globe into outer space. Yet, we do not appreciate gravity when we fall, when a building collapses or when an airplane falls from the sky. Nevertheless, the laws of nature protect us unless we violate them. Pain, never pleasant, alerts us that our bodies need attention; we know to stop doing something hurtful or possibly to seek medical attention. Difficulties and pleasantries of life engender a longing within us to reach out toward the eventual rest that remains for faithful children of God (Hebrews 4:9). We concur with brother Wayne Jackson that “suffering per se is not contrary to the goodness of God” (Book of Job 120). After all, God sent Jesus Christ into the world to be our suffering Savior on Calvary’s cross.
Jackson, Wayne. The Book of Job. Abilene: Quality Publications, 1983.