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Why Do God’s People Suffer?

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This may be one of the most asked questions of all times. Inquiring minds want to know, “Why do God’s people suffer?” 

Think about the family that has their child abducted and murdered? Did God take their precious child? What about the victims of serial rapists, or the innocent bystander killed in a drive by shooting? Did God have something to do with their untimely demise? 

Does God indiscriminately choose people to cause them to suffer for some mysterious reason that we will know in the by and by? Does He cause people to suffer for His glory or to teach them or their families a lesson? Does God impose suffering to prepare people for the work of the ministry? In this timely article, we’ll answer those questions and more… 

by Gillis Triplett

“Why Lord, Why?”
It was a scorching hot summer in Atlanta, Georgia. To make matters more unbearable, the police had just informed a mother that both of her small children were dead. In obvious anguish, she cried out, “Why Lord, why did you have to take both of my children at the same time?” She believed with all of her heart that God was the one causing her to suffer. As the investigation unfolded, these facts came to the surface. The single mother was exhausted and decided to take a much needed short nap. As she slept, her two young children, around the ages of 4 and 6, slipped outside and got into her unlocked car. The temperature outside was a sizzling ninety-six degrees Fahrenheit. Inside the car, with the windows closed, it was estimated that the temperature could have easily reached about one hundred and twenty degrees, which is uninhabitable for any human being. 

The kids managed to get in and close the car doors but they could not figure out how to get out. The medical examiner said they died of heatstroke and a lack of oxygen. The mother was inconsolable. She had just lost her two precious gems, and she could not understand why God was making her suffer so. Her pastor responded by saying, “God works in mysterious ways.” He implied that God took both of her children to teach her a lesson. Is that what happened? Was killing her two children God’s way of teaching that mother a lesson? Can we expect the same treatment from our heavenly Father? To answer those questions, we must go to the Written Word of God. The Scriptures reveal a number of reasons why people suffer…  

1. They Don’t Follow God’s Instructions (Read Numbers 20:1-29)
Moses and Aaron had consulted with the Lord about a problem they were having with the congregation. The people quarreled with Moses because they felt that he had led them into the wilderness to die. In spite of all God had done for them in times past and promised them, they simply did not believe His Word. In response to their dilemma, God gave Moses specific instructions. He commanded him to speak to the rock and it would pour out water for the people and their livestock. Instead of speaking to the rock as God had commanded, Moses took the rod and struck the rock, not once but twice! 

The result of his disobedience was that Aaron died prematurely, (See Numbers 20:22-29) and God forbad Moses from entering into the Promised Land, (See Deuteronomy 3:21-28). The average Believer would think nothing of rejecting God’s instructions and opt to use their own plans, not realizing, that they are dooming themselves to unnecessary trials and tribulations. God’s Instructions are revealed to us in the Scriptures. He covers every aspect of life. When you don’t follow His instructions, history has proven that eventually you will pay a high price. 

2. They Make Bad Decisions (Genesis 16:1-6)
Remember the woman whose two kids died in the car? As exhausted as she may have been, in hindsight, she made a bad decision by leaving her children unattended. Unfortunately, some bad decisions will cause you misery and suffering for the rest of your life. Like the woman who makes a bad decision and falls in love with an alcoholic or marries a poster boy for domestic violence. Or the married man who goes on a business trip and decides to have an adulterous affair with a woman he is clearly not planning to see again. But! She gives him a sexually transmitted disease, or she becomes a fatal attraction and tries to ruin his marriage, or even worse, he gets her pregnant.  

3. They Don’t Judge Themselves (I Corinthians 11:31)
The Scripture says in I Corinthians 11:31, “For If we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.” When people refuse to judge themselves, they set themselves up for sure heartache. For example, I remember a Christian woman who said she loved God dearly. But when the Lord dealt with her heart about her appetite, she refused to judge herself by changing her diet. Numerous times, the Lord sent people to speak to her about her fast food & junk food diet, but this woman of God would not judge herself! None of the foods she ate contained any nutrients or fiber. 

Sadly, her baby was born deformed and had other birth defects due to a major calcium deficiency. There was no way that woman could obtain the much needed calcium from consuming French fries, pizzas, hamburgers, Buffalo wings and diet colas. When she saw the contorted flesh that came out of her womb, she responded like most Christians who refuse to judge themselves. She blamed her baby’s deformities on an attack of the devil. The truth is, her sorrow and suffering could have been avoided had she judged herself and changed her diet. 

4. They Refuse Correction (Hebrews 12:5-11)
Some people suffer because they absolutely refuse to be corrected! I recall a disturbing incident in which the Lord sent me to a well-known pastor with a word of correction. As instructed, I attempted to deliver this warning from the Lord, but this pastor brushed me off. He invited me to his office and when I arrived, he stuck his head out of the door, greeted me and before I could say what the Lord had said, he closed the door and walked away. All I could do was shake the dust off my feet. Six months later, his wife filed for divorce because he had an adulterous affair with a woman in the church. The church he pastored went defunct because of his improper financial dealings and his health failed to the point where he had to be hospitalized. 

Once he was released from the hospital, he wasted no time. This man went right back into the ministry, leading his potential new members to believe that the trials and sufferings he went through were an attack of the enemy designed to stop the anointing of God upon his life. Like most people who refuse correction and are beyond rebuke, he failed to mention that he went through that pain and suffering because he adamantly refused God’s correction. These type of people refuse to accept this fact - the way of the transgressor is hard, (See Proverbs 13:15). 

5. Their Past Sins Come Back To Haunt Them (Proverbs 28:13)
I have watched people get married, who, prior to marriage were sexually active. At some point he or she contracted a sexually transmitted disease and did not know it. These newlyweds, because of their past sexual sins, suffered through a string of painful miscarriages. I’ve been with some of these couples as they cried out, “Why Lord, why?” After a thorough medical examination, it was determined that an untreated sexually transmitted disease was the source of their miscarriages.  

I have witnessed couples suffer through the pain of infertility only to find out that the root cause of their childlessness was that the wife had a hysterectomy or an abortion prior to getting married but refused to disclose that vital information to her fiancé. Her sin came back to haunt them. There are so many ways that a person’s past sins, secret sins and unconfessed sins can come back to haunt them. One of the most dangerous things a person can attempt to do in life is try to ignore, disregard, or hide sin in their life. This ill-advised scheme usually brings harm, not only to the person harboring or hiding the sin, but also to those close to them.  

An example of harboring sin is when a person tells a lie or holds bitterness, malice, unforgiveness or vengeance in their heart. Such secret sins will have a devastating impact once they come to the surface. In Joshua 7, after the children of Israel suffered a gut-wrenching defeat at the hands of their enemies, Joshua cried out to the Lord to find out why. The Lord told him the reason they lost the battle was because someone in their camp was harboring secret sins, (See Joshua 7:10-15). Are you suffering because of a secret sin? 

6. They Are Hearers of The Word But Not Doers (James 1:22-25)
When these individuals attend church, they seem to listen intently to the Word. Oftentimes, you’ll hear them say, “Amen preacher!” Some of them even shout and dance, but they are not doers of God’s Word! They brilliantly serve God with their lips but their hearts are far from him, (See Matthew 15:7-8). These are the type of people who go to church and sing the praises of God while engaging in sexual promiscuity, cohabiting, drunkenness, racial hatred, lying, theft and debauchery. On the surface, these people appear to be on fire for God but when the pressure comes, their superficial relationship quickly causes them to suffer greatly. 

7. They Don’t Resist The Devil (James 4:7)
There will be times when you must stand up and resist the devil. Failure on your part to do so will guarantee that pain and suffering is going to find its way to your address. In Numbers chapters 13 and 14, the children of Israel intentionally did not resist the enemy. Because of their lapse in judgment, they wandered in the wilderness unnecessarily for forty long tedious years. When the time calls for you to resist evil, and you fail or refuse to do so, you can definitely expect to suffer. 

8. They Are Easily Enticed To Commit Sin (Proverbs 1:19-33)
Some individuals, because they are not fully committed to following the Lord, have a low threshold when it comes to being enticed to sin. All it takes is a little prodding or urging and they will cross the line. I know many men and women who derailed God’s glorious plan for their life because they were easily enticed to either violate the Word of God or break man made laws. Samson is a prime example. Because he was easily enticed by ungodly women, he succeeded at thwarting God’s plan for his life, (See Judges 14:1-7, Judges 16:1-31).  

9. They Lack Discipline and Self Control (II Peter 1:5-10)
I was listening to a young man give his testimony of how he overcame drugs. I rejoiced in the fact that he was free, but he misled a lot people by steering them to believe that it was God who allowed him to go through his drug induced heydays to prepare him for the work of the ministry. I have heard that false testimony spew from the lips of many over zealous and scripturally unlearned men and women. The truth is, everyday, someone gets hooked on drugs, pornography, alcohol and sexual perversion. God allows it, not because he is preparing them for the work of the ministry, and not because He is testing them.  

He allows it because we are all free will moral agents, (See Deuteronomy 30:15-20). If a person chooses to rob a bank, commit adultery or fornication, God will allow them to do so. If they choose to drink and drive, smoke marijuana or ingest crack cocaine, God will allow them to do so. He cannot make anyone obey His Word! If He could, we would all be robots and there would be no possibility of anyone committing sin. Part of obeying His Word is disciplining yourself and practicing self-control, (See I Corinthians 9:24-27). Those who fail to do so usually have visible wounds and physical scars that reveal their lack of discipline and self-control. 

10. They Put Their Trust in The Arm of The Flesh (Zechariah 4:6)
I once worked for a major corporation during the dot com boom. I’ll never forget the mass number of people who put their complete trust in that company. Some of them were so sold out, they were willing to forgo God, family and friends just to claw their way up the corporate ladder. It seemed like a no lose deal. The company provided us with an excellent salary, stock options and a generous 401k plan. They gave us laptop computers, cellular phones, expense accounts and frequently fed us some of the most exquisite cuisines your taste buds could ever imagine. Our stock had split numerous times, and Wall Street called us the darlings of the dot com era.  

Had the plan went as planned, we would have all been millionaires, but it didn’t! When our highflying stock plummeted from upwards of one hundred dollars a share, down to three cents a share, we were kicked off the NYSE. Not only were many personal fortunes wiped out, but scores of people who had put their trust in that corporation, watched in horror as their lives, dreams and hopes were shattered! It was so traumatic, that when the announcement was made that our offices were closing, the company brought in a therapist to try and help the people get over their psychological trauma of trusting in man.  

When you put your trust in the arm of the flesh as opposed to putting your trust in the Lord, you are setting the stage for a meltdown. When they announced that the company was shutting down our offices, I didn’t flinch an inch, not because I am super spiritual, but because my trust is in the Lord, (See Proverbs 3:5-6). When you put your trust in Him, you won’t suffer through a spiritual or mental meltdown! 

11. They Take a Stand For Righteousness Sake (I Peter 3:14-17)
In November of 2003, Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court was removed from his office for defying a federal judge's order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state Supreme Court building. In Pakistan, Nigeria, Bombay, and all over the world, Believers are being persecuted for being followers of Jesus the Christ. In I Peter 3, Peter said there would be times when we would suffer for righteousness sake. He goes on to say in verses 14 and 15, “…be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready to always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you…” There’s only one way to avoid this type of suffering. You must deny Christ, (See Matthew 10:33 and II Timothy 2:12-13). 

12. They Suffer At The Hands of Evil People (Psalm 64:1-6)
There are certain men and women who not only live to do evil, they energetically entice others to commit heinous acts against humanity, (See Proverbs 1:10-19). These men and women are responsible for a good portion of the pain and suffering we read and hear about on a daily basis. On September 11, 2003, in Statesboro, Georgia, Ardena Marie Carter disappeared. She was six months pregnant. Her body and that of her unborn child were found three months later. Sadly, they had been murdered.  

If you were like me, you may have watched in horror as the national and local media outlets kept replaying the eerie surveillance video of the teenager, Carlie Brucia being abducted from a car wash in Sarasota, Florida, on February 1, 2004. She too was later found murdered. Why were their lives snuffed out before their time? 

Because we live in a world filled with evil people! In John 8:44, Jesus set the record straight. He said the father of these men and women is the devil! They are not submitted to God and they are subject to rob, shoot, carjack or kill another human being without any remorse. They will persist on getting you and your family addicted to drugs and alcohol. They will proudly distribute child pornography and commit domestic violence, molestation, date rape, paternity fraud, theft and kidnappings without hesitation.  

God has nothing to do with the crimes they commit anymore than the devil has something to do with the people who prayed for your salvation. Remember, these people are not submitted to God. That is why you must learn how to walk in divine protection, (See Psalm 91 and Proverbs 30:5).  

13. They Didn’t Obey The Voice of The Holy Spirit (Hebrews 3:7-19)
I know multitudes of men and women who were warned by the voice of the Holy Spirit not to marry a particular person, but they went ahead and married them anyway. Mere words cannot adequately express the pain and suffering they endured after they said, “I do!” I watched them suffer through domestic violence, paternity fraud, and bitter child custody battles. I saw them go through heated divorces that looked more like mortal combat than two people who experienced irreconcilable differences. There are times when the voice of God will warn you or lead you in a certain direction. When He does, obey Him! Not obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit is an expedient way to cause Anguish Avenue to become your new mailing address. 

14. They Are Under a Generational Curse (Deuteronomy 5:6-9)
Some people suffer because they are under a generational curse and don’t know it. For example, I listened intently as a father told his son-in-law that sometimes a man has to hit his wife to make her obey his commands. This man not only admitted to hitting his wife when he deemed it necessary, but he insisted that his son-in-law take the same posture with his new bride. He was a deacon who claimed that he followed God wholeheartedly and yet he was willfully transferring a generational curse of domestic violence to his daughter through his son-in-law. There are so many ways that a father can pass a generational curse to his children. 

I knew one father who was addicted to pornography. The spirit of fornication was so strong on him that he would wake up in the middle of the night, slip out of the bed while his wife slept, and sneak into a bedroom shared by his two teen daughters. They had a computer with Internet access and he would sit at their computer for hours at a time surfing pornographic websites. At some point, he would inadvertently awaken his daughters and they would gaze at their dad and at the images on their computer screen. Their father did not know that he was passing a generational curse of lasciviousness onto his daughters, a curse that could inspire them to live a life of sexual promiscuity, immorality and rebellion. 

15. They Commit Spiritual Sins of Omission (James 4:17)
Committing a sin of omission is a quick way to experience unnecessary pain and suffering. Examine these commands, in Luke 18:1-8, we are commanded to always pray. In Ephesians 6:10, we are commanded to be strong in the Lord. In Romans 6:12, we are commanded not to allow sin to reign in our mortal bodies. In Joshua 1:8, we are commanded to meditate on the Written Word of God. In II Timothy 2:15, we are commanded to study to show ourselves approved unto God. When a person fails to pray, fails to study the Word of God or fails to develop their faith, they have committed the fatal sin of omission, (See Hebrews 2:3) 

Committing this sin is another sure way to experience unnecessary pain and suffering. In Exodus 8:8-10, Pharaoh was faced with a major dilemma. His entire country was plagued. When Moses asked him when could they pray about the matter, Pharaoh’s response was tomorrow! A lot of the pain and suffering people go through is because they commit the sin of omission. Although they would never admit it, they failed to develop their faith or they failed to pray. When faced with a serious challenge, in many cases, it is usually too late to try and correct spiritual sins of omission. Prayer does change things. But if you wait until after the damage has been done, you have probably waited too late and you will most likely have to suffer for it!  

Where Do You Go From Here?
Do as the Scriptures command us in II Corinthians 13:5, and examine yourself. Do you need to make adjustments in your life in any of the above areas? If so, make them! In John 10:10, Jesus said that He came that we might have life… not pain and suffering! Make a note of this: God is never the root cause of anyone’s suffering, past, present or future! Much of the suffering people go through has to do with their sins of omission, refusal to obey God’s Word, lack of discipline and their spiritual apathy. Unfortunately, the average Christian is not willing to confess and forsake their sins and transgressions or admit their faults. Sadly, they have taken on the same spirit as Adam in the Garden of Eden. Adam shrugged off his responsibility to obey God’s Word and blamed his glaring transgression on his stunned wife. 

Many Christians have adopted that same spirit by either falsely blaming God or by effortlessly incriminating others for their failure or refusal to obey God’s Word. These Christians are like the smokers who chose to smoke, got cancer and then sued the tobacco companies. They read the cancer warnings on every pack of cigarettes, they adamantly voted against the laws that supported smoking bans and they growled at non-smokers when asked to put out their cigarettes. Now that they are inflicted with cancer, they refuse to accept the fact that their debilitating suffering is a direct result of: (a) their bad decision to smoke in the first place, and (b) their on going refusal to break their destructive habit by disciplining their flesh.  

This spirit of irresponsibility has crept into the Church and has had a devastating impact on our ability to raise up disciplined men and women of integrity. This message is God’s clarion call for you to be a man or woman of God who not only accepts responsibility for your actions but who lives a disciplined life, one beyond reproach. Will God’s people suffer? Yes they will, but their suffering is never God’s fault nor is it God’s plan or purpose for their life. By fulfilling our duties such as engaging in earnest prayer, studying the Word of God and being sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit, we can avoid unnecessary and avoidable suffering. But remember, if you find your self suffering for righteousness sake, then rejoice for great is your reward in heaven!

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