Tag Archive: Pain


You stub your toe on a table leg. You passionately address the table, and perhaps even the gods who you may not believe in, with certain derogatory words and accusations which your mother would never have approved of…

You wonder why the gods allowed your throbbing toe to make contact with such a solid object at all. Couldn’t they have moved the table aside one second before contact?

Why does the Biblical God allow us to suffer? Isn’t he a God of love? Why, if He’s omnipresent and omnipotent, isn’t he one step ahead of us, preventing all the terrible things which happen in our world every day? There are a number of answers to this, which none of us like. We can’t know them all, but we can know some of them…

First of all, God created a physical universe for physical beings to live in, and a physical universe must have natural laws to govern it. Why would God create a physical universe, and then negate its natural laws? If you drop a concrete slab, you can be sure that gravity will rapidly draw it with some considerable force and momentum towards your toe, already bruised and throbbing after its connection with the table leg.

We don’t know whether Adam and Eve, before the Fall, were susceptible to concrete slabs dropping on their toes. We do know, however, that once they began to rebel, they were susceptible to anything including death:

“For in the day that you eat thereof, you shall surely die.”

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Something happened when Adam disobeyed God, and he began to die, just as God had warned him he would. It took him a long time to die, but die he did, as a direct consequence of his disobedience. His disobedience, and later our own, led to our downfall also. It doesn’t take us so long to die as it took him, because he was still a fresh and extremely healthy creation. We Christians-those of us who believe the Bible-talk about the Fall of man and of nature, at which time humans and all of creation became subject to adverse events and circumstances. When Cain struck down Abel, God didn’t stop him…God let Cain do it. Why did he? Why didn’t God say, “Hey Abel! Look out-your brother has a knife!” Why didn’t he make whatever weapon Cain used turn to dust before it could do the dirty deed?

Since the Fall God has intentionally allowed us to face consequences: consequences of our own actions and of others’ actions; consequences of natural laws such as gravity, and consequences of the fall of nature, so that our bodies degrade and become ill. There can only be one alternative to perfect health forever, and that’s illness, decline and death. God refuses to allow fallen man-in rebellion and disobedience-to live forever, or to live without natural consequences.

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Free will is an amazing gift to us from God, as a vital part of His creation. God wants man to have his own mind and spirit, and to choose to love Him and each other, rather than creating him with robotic compliance. However, free will comes at a price. It’s the driving force behind all the hatred, unrest, unhappiness and evil we see playing out in our world. If God had turned Cain’s weapon to dust before it killed Abel, Cain would no longer have free will. If God froze our tongue moments before we made our feelings clear to someone, in the process hurting them, we would no longer have free will.

In suffering we learn and grow. If there were no consequences to our actions and our words, we would not learn to control them. We would not mature. We would remain like children in our character.

Perhaps the hardest lesson for us all to learn is that it’s God’s will that we suffer, in this world. He-not the devil- instituted the Curse. The Curse is one of those natural laws that God created. It affects all of creation. He’s able to negate those laws when he sees fit (in what we call a “miracle”) but for the most part, it’s His will that we endure suffering. How we respond to that suffering and those challenges is of great interest to God. It’s how God, and everyone else, finds out what we’re really made of. Even Jesus Christ was sent into the wilderness, by the Holy Spirit of God, to be tempted. In the Bible the words “tempt” and “test” are interchangeable.

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To that end, God even allows that rebellious spirit-Satan-to test us. You only need to read the story of Job to see that. Satan is able to afflict us physically and to sorely test us mentally and spiritually-if he receives permission from God to do so. While Satan probably doesn’t afflict all of us directly (he has his own minions) his hateful exploits have devastating affects on our world. But the most important message of Job’s story is that God-and Satan-were vitally interested in how Job would react to his suffering. What was he really like inside? What were his real motives for acting as he did, and for claiming to care about his creator? Did he really love God? Would he maintain his humility before God? Had he really only been following the Lord because life had been rich and trouble-free, or was it because he saw the Lord as his Master, for better or for worse? In marriage our love for our spouse is put to the test and seen for what it really is when we have problems and disagreements, not when all is going well.

God knows that human nature is contrary to His, and that even if He made sure that everything went smoothly for us, we would not feel the need to seek Him. In fact, in many or most cases we humans will only seek God, and humble ourselves to him, when we are suffering or struggling in some way. Somehow, God knows that we grow spiritually under adverse conditions.

Our universe is temporary, and this physical, limited world we live in is a proving ground for all of us. In time, we will be judged for our responses and actions. The most relevant fact that we need to respond positively to is that God has provided his own Son as a sacrifice, so that we can know Him. If we accept God’s gift of his Son, we can escape the limitations of our mortal, temporary bodies in the future, when he will restore all of nature to a state of perfection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What do you do when you’re down and troubled? Do you cuddle the dog? Do you put the TV on? Do you pop a pill or light a joint?

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We’ve probably all had someone tell us when we’re down that there are people worse off than us. That’s supposed to cheer us up. But as a 20th century British comedian, Peter Cook, observed, that just makes us feel bad about the other people as well.

One thing that’s helped me in recent times of feeling down is facing up to the fact that I’m feeling down. And with it I’ve also found comfort in the fact, after all, that others are suffering. I’m not saying that it’s a good thing to suffer, and I’m not saying that we should wallow in our trouble, or that we should not cuddle the dog or do something to “shake out of it”. But there’s a very real sense in which knowing that humanity is born into trouble and suffering, and that just being alive exposes us all to the consequences of being in a fallen world of nature and people…is half of the cure. It’s normal. It’s not an aberration to be down and troubled: it’s natural. It’s part of who we are. It’s life. It’s reality. It’s what humans do.

The other half of the cure (the subject of the third part of my “dark side” series, still to come) is stated clearly in this New Testament quote from Jesus Christ:

I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33 NIV).

By facing up to the reality of our human plight, we can also find the answer to it, in Jesus Christ.

Who won the cup final in 1957? All correct answers will receive a…well…they won’t receive anything (except perhaps a big smile).

Welcome to all you fine people out there who are brave enough to consider the causes of suffering rather than trying to ignore them. Part six of my up-dated series on suffering (first published in 2011) concerns the subject of testing…

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Like it or not, we’re all tested at different times in our lives-perhaps throughout our lives-believers and non-believers. Our faith, our character and our motives are tested by the circumstances we face in life, by temptation to sin and to do wrong, and (this one is difficult for many believers to accept) by God himself. Our enemy the devil also tests us, inasmuch as God allows him to.

Original Greek and Hebrew words in the Bible translated ‘test’, ‘trial’ and ‘tempt’ can be used interchangeably: they have related meanings. They’re often only selected by the motive of the source.

Mankind has been tested from the beginning of creation. I’ve already discussed in part four how Adam and Eve failed the simplest test they could have had- that of resisting the temptation to eat the one forbidden fruit compared to the many that they were allowed to enjoy freely. Remember that God intentionally placed that tree of forbidden fruit in the garden where they lived. He could have left it out, if he wanted: see part two of the series.

Later in scripture we see the struggles of the Israelites, as they wandered in the desert after failing to enter the promised land by faith. Over and over we’re told that they were being tested:

“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert, to humble you and to test you, in order to know what was in your heart” (Deuteronomy 8:2).

When God provided Manna, he said, “In this way I will test them and see if they will follow my instructions” (Exodus 16:4).

Once they were finally in the promised land, God used other nations “…to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it…” (Judges 2: 22).

David was aware of testing. He said “I know, my God, that you test the heart…” (1 Chronicles 29:17) and he even invited the Lord to test him:

Test me. O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind (Psalm 26:2).

Testing was not just an Old Testament phenomenon. James said:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him (James 1:2, 3,12).

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Even Jesus Christ himself was led by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1).

It’s during the hard times that God, and others, and perhaps we ourselves, see what’s really inside us, and the true condition of our hearts. I’m not trying to say that every hardship we face is sent by God, or that he’s going around like some malevolent, hateful ogre. We need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit so that we can hope to discern the reason for our problems, and then we need to have the correct, godly attitude towards our situation, as Job did.

Sometimes God doesn’t have to do anything to test us: our real character is shown in the way we respond to everyday trials which come to us by the laws of nature and the nature of man. Whether our trials are expressly sent from God or not, He allows them to happen, and all trials can reveal our true character!

Some people make the mistake of blaming the devil for all their problems. Everything pleasant is from God, and everything unpleasant is from Satan, they think. Even when they sin they blame the devil. This is the “devil made me do it” mentality, and it’s not scriptural. The devil can’t make true believers do anything, and very often our problems are our own fault. That’s not to say that our enemy doesn’t ever test us: he does. Sometimes he’s the one to put that proverbial spanner/wrench in the works of our life. Satan tested Job with severe suffering. However, it’s important to remember that he had to get God’s permission to do it (Job 1: 6-12).

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Job was severely tested when Satan decided he should be, and though Job was a righteous man God allowed Satan to inflict all kinds of horrors on him. Satan had claimed that Job only had faith because things were going well for him (Job 1: 9-11).

Jesus said to Peter, “Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31). Jesus didn’t say that he refused Satan’s request, but that he was defending Peter’s faith.

We’re all being “shaken” and sifted like wheat. The good grain is kept, the weeds disposed of. In the future all of humanity is going to face a time of severe trial, known commonly as ‘the time of Tribulation’. Jesus said that this “trial is going to come upon the whole world, to test those who live on the earth” (Revelation 3:10), We can see in other scripture passages that this ‘hour of trial’ is not sent by Satan (although he certainly plays a leading role) but by God himself, because He has said:

“Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens” (Hebrews 12:26).

Why does a new car devolve into a rusted, broken wreck? Why do the weeds keep coming back in the garden? Why do we get sick? Why does life sometimes seem like an unwinnable battle…

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(Picture by Marlith)

I’m tackling the problem of suffering from a Biblical point of view, because I really believe that the Bible gives solid answers, unlike many-or all-of the world’s alternative religions and philosophies.

Perhaps the most hopeless philosophy is that of naturalistic evolution. While some atheists put a brave face on their future by saying that they’re part of the onward and upward evolution of life, they can’t escape their own beliefs. Yes, they can feel good about themselves and their mortality by making the world a better place to live in for everyone else, but according to evolution suffering and death are necessary components of evolution. As individuals we struggle, suffer and die, with no hope of anything afterwards. We are, in this philosophy, no more important or valuable than a tape worm, and we prove to be no more than parasites on the earth.

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Atheists and evolutionists in general tend to dismiss the Biblical God by saying that he isn’t doing his job, which is to stop all suffering and to give everyone a good time. Well excuse me, but who told them that that was God’s “job” description or God’s obligation? And if he doesn’t do it by their prescription (or ours) isn’t that up to him? How are we going to force his hand anyway? Who decides what God “should” do, and how he should run the world that he created and sustains? Where does it say in the Bible that God promised to stop all suffering and give everyone a good time, except at the end of the Revelation? Just because God doesn’t do things our way, it doesn’t mean he isn’t there at all.

The source of most of human suffering is laid out for us clearly in the early chapters of Genesis. I wrote in part two about the free will that God gave to man, to choose between right and wrong, as well as the ability to decide on many things. Genesis tells us that God gave man a simple test of that free will, because without an opportunity to make the wrong choice and disobey, there could be no free-will.

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God gave Adam and Eve a perfect place to live in, with the companionship of a beautiful healthy mate, and his own presence. He also gave them all kinds of delicious and exotic natural foods to eat freely. However, God made one tree that they were not permitted to eat fruit from, and warned them clearly that if they ate from that one tree they would die. They failed the test.

God would not let imperfect man live for ever in a perfect world, so he profoundly changed the order of things. He told Eve that she would bear children in pain (Genesis 3:16). He removed Adam’s access to the tree of life, which would have given him and us health and life without end (Genesis 3:22, 23). He told Adam that he would henceforth have to work hard for a living, until the day he died, and made it clear that the world would no longer be just a playground of pleasure, but was cursed along with his own life. It would actually provide some resistance to him (verses 17 to 19).

Yes, death was and is the result of Adam’s disobedience. Paul stated the situation clearly, when he said “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…” (Romans 5:12).

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It’s not just humans who suffered from Adam’s decision. Paul explained that “the creation was subjected to frustration” (Romans 8:20), and that “the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (verse 22).  Whereas God created a perfect world with the potential for perpetual fulfillment and happiness, now all of nature is running down and decaying, and is not on an onward and upward journey of evolution.

This may seem to us like very stiff punishment for “one little mistake”. However, decisions do have consequences, and God can do what he wants to do. More than that, God’s action was a road-block to human nature which already tended towards rebellion against the creator. It wasn’t long before the dark side of humanity was at work again, when Cain, Adams’s son, murdered his brother (chapter 4).

And the rest is history, because like it or not we all inherited the same sin nature that Adam had. It’s not just that we have that same willingness to ignore God’s clear guidance which was written into our conscience and later in Scripture, but we’ve inherited that nature just as surely as we inherit genetic material from our ancestors. It’s as if we’re born with a disease, which God calls “sin’.

We’re not left without hope, because right from the beginning God had a plan-as I said before, “Plan B”- to rescue mankind from sin. Paul wrote:

…if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17).

We all now have the opportunity to make a very positive choice with our free will: a choice which will ultimately rid us of all suffering and give us eternal life. Jesus said:

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die (John 11:25, 26).

Paul wrote:

Since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man (1 Corinthians 15: 21).

The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus… (Romans 6:23).

In this provision of forgiveness and eternal life is seen God’s concern and love for us, even while we suffer for now in this fallen, broken world.

 

 

 

 

Perhaps I should re-name this series “How to be Hugely Successful and Have a Fun-Filled Life”, or “How to Impress All Your New Boyfriends”: I think my view count would soar. Apologies to those who’ve responded to the “How to Be Hugely Successful” tag. But then, avoiding trouble can lead to success, can it not?

It seems we all want our problems to go away, but we don’t want to know where they come from or how to stop them…

Bury-your-Head-in-the-sandI wrote last time that in order for God to give mankind free will as he did, he also had to give us the ongoing opportunity to make wrong choices. How we choose to act or speak in any situation leads to consequences-good or bad, and if we want to identify the cause of a huge amount of suffering in our world, all we have to do is look at our neighbors, or look in the mirror. Yes, human nature is a major cause of suffering.

 

Many times over I’ve heard people blame God for bad situations in their lives which were actually caused by other people. I must confess I’ve done it myself until I came to my senses. We’d like to think that a loving God would intervene and immediately deal with “those” people who cause us problems. But as I explained last time, God is in no mind to “drive” bodies and minds, neither is he inclined to come to our rescue when we’ve ignored and trashed him continuously. Like it or not “those” people have free-will, just as we do, and unfortunately humans sometimes hurt each other with that free will.

12769843-two-skeletons-who-are-fighting-as-they-decayHere I’ll introduce a very unfashionable and politically incorrect word into the mix: ‘sin’. ‘Sin’ is a Biblical word for any actions, thoughts or attitudes which are in opposition to God’s perfect ways and his prescription for our mutual happiness. All wrongdoing is “sin”, and the Bible says we’ve all sinned. It’s in our nature-whether we like it or not-to do things which are going to bring harm to ourselves or to others, directly or indirectly.

WE HARM OURSELVES

We humans invite or accept trouble into our own lives in a multitude of ways. For example, if we eat unhealthy food and fail to be active for years, we can suffer chronic health problems. We get too-easily involved in bad relationships with people who soon mistreat us and bring out the worst in us. We overwork and cause problems in our families, or we live in laziness leading to poverty and wasted time. We fail to forgive ourselves and others. We fall for deceptive and false philosophies. We fail to think truthfully about ourselves and develop a multitude of mental hang-ups which spill out into the world we inhabit.

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WE HURT EACH OTHER

When people fail in such ways as I’ve described above others can also be adversely affected. War is the result of the crooked will of man falling into greed or anger or some warped ideology, and then acting against his brother. It’s not an accident, it’s not a disease, and it’s not caused by God: it’s violence inflicted by man upon man. We’re all aware of war, murders, riots, robberies, embezzlement, oppression, rape, kidnapping, sex trafficking and terrorism. Most of us aren’t in the habit of perpetrating such things on others, but according to the Bible, we who aren’t guilty of murder or robbery shouldn’t feel smug or self-righteous, because we can all at times be guilty of things which may be destructive in varying degrees. In fact, the Bible states that:

“All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10, 23 NIV).

In relation to God’s perfection, and from his point of view, we’re all “those” people. If we had to tip the imaginary scales of judgment which measure good-deeds against bad-deeds in order to gain a perfect God’s acceptance, we’d all be in some serious trouble…

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Hatred, snobbery, judgmental attitudes, infidelity, arrogance, manipulation, sarcasm, indifference, selfishness, deceit, vengeance, greed, envy: they all cause pain and suffering, and they all come from fallen human nature: our human nature. We even cause suffering by failing to do things. For example, we can fail to love or to show appreciation or mercy.

Cheerful stuff, eh? Well actually there is some good news. The Bible is a “how to” manual: it tells us how to avoid a lot of pain and trouble caused by human nature, how to be good to our fellow man, and how to please God. It also tells us that Jesus Christ came to provide forgiveness for us, and to deliver us from our sinful nature. Please see my  post “What is the gospel of Jesus Christ?”:

https://nickyfisher.com/2013/08/13/what-is-the-gospel-of-jesus-christ-2/

 

 

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