Most of us in the West have been raised on sort of a reward/punishment system. In a nominally functional home if we were “good” we were rewarded and felt good, if we misbehaved we were punished and felt bad.
Consequently, as adults we tend to carry those paradigms around with us. This can be a problem in the spiritual life if we project these patterns on God’s care for us. When things go wrong, or painful things happen in the normal course of life, for example, the death of a loved one, a brutal financial crisis out of which it takes us years climb, a bitter divorce, etc. We think if bad things happen to us we must have done something wrong. We may tend to cry, “What have I done to deserve this?”
We are not perfect, but very likely, we’ve done nothing to deserve it. These things happen in a fallen world. This is especially poignant when an innocent person is the victim of violence. People sin. And sin results, ultimately, in death. When someone sins innocent people suffer. The sinner suffers too, but that is the subject for another article.
A terrorist blows up a building killing hundreds or even thousands of innocent people including children, plunging the survivors and their families into a lifetime of trauma and grief. They did nothing to deserve this. One person or a group of people made a decision to commit the sin of murder and the result is dead and suffering survivors and families. Victims.
Sometimes we have a tendency to think that if we make the decision to follow Christ and grow in the spiritual life our lives will smooth out. And this will happen to a degree if we abandon a life of chaotic sin. As we grow in repentance and transformation there will be healing from the damage we’ve done to ourselves. But sometimes others damage us. We are sinned against. Being a Christian does not provide immunity from suffering. Following Christ necessarily leads to the Cross. . . . . . .
Suffering and the Will of God
© 2005 by John Mallon