I received an email from Cindy recently, and I wonder if you’ve ever had the same question. She asked:
“Do you think that God takes things from us, such as a loved one or a pet, as a punishment for something we have done wrong?”
One of the most challenging questions we face as Christians is why God allows suffering and bad things to happen. It's a question that has stirred debate among theologians, scholars, and believers for centuries. One common assumption is that suffering is a result of personal wrongdoing. But is this necessarily true? I want to answer Cindy’s question by establishing a theological framework on suffering and loss.
The Example of Job
The book of Job provides a powerful counterpoint to the idea that your personal sin is the cause of your suffering. Job was described as a man who was "blameless and upright, who feared God and turned away from evil" (Job 1:1, ESV).
Despite Job's righteousness, God allowed him to undergo intense suffering, including the loss of his wealth, children, and health.
Job's friends insisted he must have sinned to deserve such punishment. But God rebuked them for this perspective (Job 42:7). Job's story is a stark reminder that righteousness doesn't exempt us from suffering and that suffering is not always a direct consequence of your personal sin.
The Reality of a Fallen World
We live in a fallen world, where sin has distorted God's original creation. This reality leads to suffering, evil and decay as the natural consequence of the fall.
It is certainly true that man’s original sin caused the death, trials and suffering that we now experience. It’s also true that your sin can cause pain and suffering to you and others. But getting to the heart of Cindy’s question: the death of a pet or a loved one is the common experience of all people because we live in a fallen world.
I encourage you to make a distinction between the consequences of your actions and the general suffering that is common to humanity. Consequences are typically obvious. Dishonesty can result in losing a job. Anger can result in fractured relationships. These are direct consequences of your actions. In cases like these, you should repent and pursue restoration when possible.
However, the aftermath of a natural disaster, an unwelcome medical diagnosis, or the death of a loved one (assuming you did not cause the death) is the result of living in this fallen world. When faced with trials and loss that you did not cause, my advice is to not search for a sin that caused it, but to draw closer to God, trusting in His steadfast love and faithfulness.
Satisfied in Christ,