Does trouble or difficult situations ever cause you to wonder if God is punishing you? The circumstances of our lives are not always easy – job loss, broken down car, failed relationships, health problems, financial difficulties – can all cause us to question, “Why is God punishing me?!”
Many of us have felt this way from time to time. When our lives are coming apart, when we’re enduring tragedy, we wonder why is God doing this to me?
There are times when God does cause his people grief because of their own actions, and there are times when God disciplines us so we can become more like Him. So it is possible that our suffering is the Lord’s way of helping us to grow. But is it also possible that we’re blaming God for the outcome of our own decisions?
The Bible cites many other causes for the suffering in our lives. We shouldn’t automatically assume that God is punishing us. Scripture reveals that sometimes our suffering is not a result of our actions [sin].
We should be careful to not conclude that every instance of personal suffering is the direct consequence of sin. Consider the example of Job. He suffered greatly, losing his wealth, family, and eventually his health as he endured the pain of his losses. His friends urged him to admit that it was divine punishment because of sin, but Job insisted time and again that he had not deserved his sorrow. In the end, the Lord rebuked his friends, revealing that they had not spoken correctly when they blamed God for Job’s “punishment.” In fact, it was Satan who had caused the suffering all along.
We’re not told why God allows Satan to torture Job. But Job neither assumes God is punishing him or becomes bitter in his circumstances. Instead, he worships God! Because Job had already experienced prosperity as a blessing from God, he was prepared to suffer adversity without jumping to conclusions. He recognized the limits of his own understanding and simply believed that God is faithful.
Also, consider the fact that we live in a fallen world. Suffering, in general, is the result of the brokenness of the world (which finds its root cause in human sin). Often, our pain comes from the mere fact that we live in a world that is not what God intended it to be.
When God drove Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden they brought with them the curse of the first sin: a fractured relationship, toilsome work in resistant soil, and pain. All of humanity has descended from that origin. Since that time life has been a mixture of ups-and-downs. Adam and Eve, and every generation since have been “fruitful and multiplied” and experienced some prosperity, but not to the degree God originally intended, and not without adversity. Everyone experiences some form of creation and restoration, cheer and irritation, success and failure, joy and sorrow.
Even if we seek to honor God in our lives, the road may not be easy. We sometimes find ourselves in a “valley.” But Psalm 23 reminds us that God is near in all circumstances. He’s working on our behalf, even when we don’t see it or feel it, and it’s sometimes through the challenges of our lives that God works out his purposes for us. The good news is that God can and will use it for good.
Adversity can bring good to us. Hard times can cause us to draw closer to God. They can soften our hearts and make us more humble, increase our empathy for others who are hurting, and open new ways for us to experience God’s love and comfort. Our pain can lead us more deeply into the heart of God. And isn’t that what He wants from us after all?
There is no pain so deep, that God is not deeper still. – Corrie Ten Boom
Psalm 23 (NIV)
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Adapted from “If I’m Suffering, Is God Punishing Me?”
The High Calling and Theology of Work Project