We all face suffering in our lives.
Many times we wonder who is behind the trials of our lives.
When the disciples encountered a man who had been born blind from birth, they asked Jesus – “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” (John 9:2)
The disciples assumed that illness must be a punishment for sin, thus they asked Jesus the above question. Jesus’ reply surprised them – “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents, but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Jesus challenged the disciples’ belief that suffering comes from sin by saying that there was a divine purpose behind the blindness, that it was to bring glory to God when Jesus healed the blind man of his illness.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul writes that
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
The thing that caused Paul to suffer came upon him from a good purpose, the suffering was to keep him humble, to keep him from becoming proud – and so it could be said that God was behind the thorn that kept Paul meek.
So sometimes God is behind our suffering. But another cause of suffering lies at our doorstep, sometimes we suffer because of our sin. The classic example is seen in the Fall of Man. Before the Fall, Adam and Eve lived in Eden in paradisiacal happiness. When they sinned against God by eating the fruit that He told them not to, they brought death into the world and all sorts of terrible things – illness, pain, famine, earthquakes, wars – these disasters were not part of God’s original plan but were sufferings that came about due to the presence of sin.
There is a third cause of suffering, which is Satan. In the story of Job. Satan notes that Job is righteous and is blessed by God. He challenges God to take away Job’s blessings and to strike him with great suffering to test Job’s faithfulness to God. In the story of Job it is clear that Job is a righteous man who was attacked by Satan.
This can be seen in Job 2:4-7:
“Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”
So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.
Peter also writes about how some sufferings come from Satan:
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (1 Peter 5:8-9)
We are told to be alert to Satan’s plans and not to let our faith be shaken by the sufferings we face because of him.
So in conclusion, there are three main sources of suffering – God, sin and Satan. If we can identify the source, it can help us in our approach of dealing with the suffering. If the source of suffering is God, we can welcome it with joy and peace. If the source of suffering is sin, then we have to repent and seek God’s forgiveness. If the suffering is from Satan, then we should stand firm in our faith and resist the devil.