God providentially controls our suffering. But why He sends suffering is not always obvious to us. How do we handle such situations?
As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. I Samuel 7:10
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Luke 13:1-3
While cause and effect relationships exist in our experience, it is not always possible to draw perfectly correct conclusions about those relationships because God intervenes in ways we sometimes do not understand. Suffering doesn’t always come as punishment for some failure. In fact, it can come when we feel we are walking closely to the Lord.
The Israelites suffered for years under oppression by the Philistines. Finally, they cried out to the Lord for deliverance. Samuel called them together for prayer and repentance. Immediately, the Philistines were suspicious of this gathering and mounted an attack which intimidated the Israelites. It must have seemed to them like the national prayer meeting was a really bad idea that was actually making things worse.
But then God intervened sending tremendous thunder so deafening that the army of Philistea was thrown into confusion and defeat. The men of Israel chased them and struck them down.
In Jesus’ day there were two incidents which resulted in speculation about causes and effects. Some Galileans were killed by Herod while attempting to offer sacrifices to God. A tower fell on some people at Siloam causing their deaths. Were those people merely reaping the consequences of their sins? Jesus denied that those victims were any worse sinners than their neighbors. He warned His hearers to repent or they would also perish.
Think about it
There can be an apparent disconnect, at least in the short term, between a person’s spiritual life and their outward circumstances. Sometimes evil people prosper while godly people may face enormous suffering (Psalm 73). Turning to the Lord is not a quick fix for all our difficulties. It may bring on greater difficulties. Ultimately, the Lord promises that His people will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6). Are you suffering despite your obedience to God? Plod on in faith. May God give you grace as you await your eternal home.