Is God Responsible for our Suffering ? (an essay by Judena Klebs)


Is God Responsible for our Suffering ? (an essay by Judena Klebs)

For as long as I can remember, I have heard people pass on traditional
beliefs that God is the one who either “causes” or “allows” our
suffering.I have heard it in various churches and in society as a
whole. It is so common that people don’t seem to question it very
often. Is this what the Bible really teaches ?
I have suffered in various ways throughout my life. Many times I was
judged by others that God had caused my suffering because of some
fault of my own. Other times, it was worded that God had allowed my
suffering because I needed to change in some way. Many times I have
become frustrated with people’s conclusions.
One day I made a list of many of the things I had heard and was still
hearing from people whenever I had a problem. There were twelve
statements that came to mind. Perhaps there are other statements that
people make to blame God for our suffering but these twelve seem to
cover a lot of ground. I decided to respond to each of these
statements with comments and with scripture to hopefully counter some
of Satan’s lies coming to us through traditional beliefs.

Reasons people say that God “causes” or “allows” our suffering :

1) To make us a better person

2) To teach us something

3) To test us

4) To make us able to help others

5) To make us patient

6) To make us stronger

7) To prepare us for Heaven

8) To punish us for something

9) To keep us from pride

10) To make us like Christ

11) To teach us to be content

12) To help us get rid of sin

My Response to Each Reason :

1) To make us a better person

If suffering will make us better people, why do some suffer more than
others? Do some people need more improvement than others? Even if they
suffer as babies or young children? If they suffer, does that mean
they are inferior people to those who suffer less?
Acts 10:34 tells us that God does not show favoritism between people.
Actually, what does a person define as a “better” person? What kind of
improvements in a person really count? Who is to judge the quality of
people? If I hit you over the head with a baseball bat, would I make
you a better person?

2) To teach us something

How does suffering educate us? We find out how painful our lives are,
that we are unhappy, and that life is difficult. If that is what we
are supposed to learn, how does that benefit any one in any way?
1 Timothy 3:16,17 say that the scripture is useful for teaching, for
reproof, and for training in righteousness to equip us for every good
work.
If the scripture teaches us what we need to know, wouldn’t suffering
only distract us from learning from the scripture? How can we
concentrate on the instruction we receive from our Bible study while
we are in pain?

3) To test us

The only tests God gave people in the Bible were commands to test
obedience. He did not send suffering except in judgment.
Except in cases where intercession turned the situation around, the
judgment was final. Since it was a final judgment, it could neither
teach nor test a person.
In James 1:13,14, God claims that He is not one who tempts anyone. The
words “test” and “tempt” are used interchangeably in this passage.
They come from the same Greek word, ” pi-ras-mos’ “. The kind of
testing that people say comes from God through suffering would be a
temptation to turn away from God rather than to Him. He cannot be
responsible to cause suffering in order to “test” people.

4) To make us able to help others.

If God causes or allows suffering to make us able to help others, why
did He cause or allow the other person to need help with the
particular problem they had in the first place? If no one was
suffering, no one would be needed to understand what the original
suffering person was going through.
It is true that once the suffering has occurred, it can be used for
the good of helping others. However, it is illogical to say that God
would cause or allow suffering so that people could be relieved of
suffering by being “helped”. Does He want them to suffer or be helped?
Which is it? Is His kingdom divided against itself?
In Matthew 12 : 24-26, the Pharisees accused Jesus of having a divided
kingdom by casting out a demon by Satan’s power. Jesus responded by
saying that every kingdom divided against itself is destroyed. How can
we accuse God of such foolishness?

5) To make us patient

Are we more patient when we suffer? I think not.
Many scriptures talk about patience but the word is often translated
as “perseverance” or “endurance”. These words describe a continual
obedience to God in spite of our suffering. Does this mean that the
suffering comes from God for this purpose?
James 1:3 in the King James Version of the Bible says that the testing
of our faith worketh patience. It does make us have to “work” our
patience. But only if we choose to endure.
It is actually harder to be patient when we are suffering because it
is only natural to fight to relieve our suffering. Why take measures
to ease our suffering by going to doctors or taking medicine when we
are sick, for example, if we lose the virtue of patience that way?
This goes back to the idea of suffering making us a better person. If
it does, we are bad when we feel better. Patience is a fruit of the
spirit, not the fruit of suffering ( Galatians 5 : 22 ).

6) To make us stronger

It is not the suffering that makes us stronger, but the endurance
through suffering that makes us stronger. God can use our faithfulness
through our suffering if we choose to endure. We can get through the
suffering to the other side of it, if we do not become bitter toward
God. This can be obtained by the realization that God is not the one
causing the suffering.
If we become stronger because of our endurance, God can use that to
bring good out of a bad situation. James 1 : 3,4 say that the testing
of our faith produces endurance. It does not say that God is the one
testing us. In James 1 : 2, it also says that keeping our joy in the
midst of our trials helps us to get through them and to develop
endurance.
The Bible does talk a lot about suffering but if you study the context
of it, it usually refers to the suffering of persecution. We are not
always delivered from persecution. People are free to persecute us. It
is one of the ways  we reach others for God’s kingdom. God also
promises to give us strength to go through it. ( See my notes about
“Paul’s thorn in the flesh” in point nine. )

7) To prepare us for Heaven

This is one of the strangest reasons given for suffering that I have
ever heard. As far as I know, there is no suffering in Heaven so how
could suffering here prepare us for it? Revelation 21:4 says that
God’s future Kingdom contains no mourning, crying, or pain.
What prepares us for Heaven is not our suffering but the salvation
from our sins that Jesus provided for us through His death on the
cross. Suffering is not God’s plan but it is the plan of Satan to try
to destroy us.

8) To punish us for something

Jesus has already paid for our sins. We receive Him as our substitute
and no longer need to be punished if we have accepted His free gift.
The Bible does talk about discipline but this is not the same as
punishment. Hebrews 12:5-13 talks about God’s discipline as correction
and instruction. It cannot be the same as punishment which is a
penalty for wrong and has no redeeming purpose. The Hebrews passage
above talks about ultimately producing healing for us.

9) To keep us from pride

People who believe that suffering is meant to keep us from pride are
usually referring to “Paul’s thorn in the flesh” spoken of in 2
Corinthians 12:7-10. This “thorn in the flesh” is said to be sent by a
messenger of Satan to keep Paul from being exalted. The context seems
to be referring to persecution which Paul suffered. To say that God
sent this thorn to keep Paul from being exalted does not consider 1
Peter 5:6,7 which says that God does exalt us in due time if we humble
ourselves. If God was trying to humble Paul through persecution, it
would not say that the “thorn” came from Satan.
God does not send us suffering to keep us from pride. He expects us to
humble ourselves. But then He promises to give us strength when we are
persecuted.

10) To make us like Christ

Philippians 2 : 4-11 tell us to follow Christ example by having the
same attitude toward others as He had when He humbled Himself by
letting go of His equality with God to come to earth and to become a
sacrifice for us. He did not exalt Himself so God, the Father exalted
Him. We are to be like Christ in the way He treated us.
Christ did suffer but He suffered in our place so that we would not be
judged. The only suffering that we are called to do is to suffer
persecution when necessary.
What makes us like Christ? When we live the way He lived on earth and
the way He lives now as He intercedes for us in Heaven. We are like
Him when we pray. We are like Him when we obey God. And we will be
like Him when He returns and we “see Him just as He is.” ( 1 John 3:2).
Suffering, in itself, does not make us like Christ. We may live for
Him or die for the sake of His gospel, but suffering itself does not
come from God.

11) To teach us to be content

This is similar to Point 5 ” To make us patient”. However, it also
suggests that we accept all our problems as coming from God. In
Philippians 4:11-13, Paul states that He has learned to be content in
every circumstance. He does not say that all his circumstances come
from God. He says that God strengthens him to do what He wants him to
do no matter what he faces. Suffering does not make him content but
God’s strength does.

12) To help us get rid of sin

If there is sin in our lives, we are told in 1 John 1:9 that if we
confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and
to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. That is the way to get rid of
sin. Inflicting suffering on ourselves in penance or expecting God to
inflict suffering on us does not do it. Christ already paid the price
for our sin. We go to Him to get rid of it.

“What about Job?” many people may ask. “Didn’t God allow Satan to test Job?”
If you know the story, Satan tested Job in order to tempt him to curse
God. Since Satan has been the “god of this world” ( 2 Corinthians 4:4
and John 12:31 ), he had power on this earth to do evil. God
recognized that Satan had some power to hurt Job. In the sense that
God gave free will to people and to angels, God did allow Satan’s
control to a point. But He limited Satan’s control. He told Satan that
He would not allow him to take Job’s life. That is because God had a
plan to make up to Job the suffering Satan had caused by giving Job
twice as much as he had before.
In John 12:31 it says Satan has been cast out as god of this world.
But because Christians are unaware of the authority given to us by
Christ, many allow things to happen while thinking that it comes from
God. God was the one who ultimately healed Job. In the end, it was Job
who had to pray for his friends because they had falsely accused God
of punishing Job for some sin in his life.

Many people blame God for “causing” or “allowing” our suffering when
it is really they or others causing or allowing it. Because we have
free wills, we can choose to either obey God or to disobey Him by what
we do. Ultimately, the “bad” comes from Satan, but we and others make
choices that either cause or alleviate suffering. It can be an excuse
for our own decisions and actions to say that God caused or allowed
these things. This is a way to justify them and make them look right
to ourselves and to the rest of the world. Stop blaming God and face
up to your own responsibilities!
These false concepts of God have been taught to the world throughout
history. Maybe we should take a second look at our interpretation of
the Bible and not keep passing on to others what we have heard all of
our lives. Sometimes traditional beliefs can do a lot of damage and
encourage us to judge others who are suffering.

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Author: chandlerklebs

I have unusual thoughts on almost every subject. I am as Pro-Life as I can possibly be. I am strongly opposed to violence of any type. That includes rape, war, and (obviously) abortion. Everything I think, speak, and write must be filtered by the effect it could have on the lives of others. If I am in any way promoting violence accidentally, please let me know.

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