Tag Archive: Pain


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/

 

 

DOES SUFFERING DISPROVE GOD?

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Someone very close to me lost his faith in Jesus a number of years ago. He puts it down to a series of unhappy events and setbacks in his life: a good Christian man he knew died suddenly at a young age; his wife and first love left him for another man; his business failed; a close friend was involved in a road accident which left him brain damaged. Now this person angrily refuses to hear any talk about God.

I used to love watching David Attenborough’s television series on nature: as an ardent evolutionist, he unwittingly helped me to reject the notion of evolution.  I saw David being interviewed in a short video, and speaking about why he had decided for himself that there is no God. Instead of laying out the “evidence” for evolution, he related how he had seen someone in India suffering with a worm which had burrowed into her brain and which made her blind. This, said David, was enough to tell him that there is no God.

These views reflect common reasons given for rejecting the existence of God: some complain that a loving God would not have allowed them to suffer personally, and others complain that a loving God would not allow the suffering they see in the world around them.

However, this view has a serious flaw, and it’s this: the God of the Bible never said that we would not suffer. On the contrary, he gave numerous warnings that mankind is to expect suffering of all kinds in this world. Examples:

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life”…”by the sweat of your brow you will eat your food., until you return to the ground…” (God to Adam, Genesis 3:17-19);

“In this world you will have trouble…” (Jesus Christ, John 16:33).

In a series of posts I wrote on suffering I discussed its main causes – the causes we are warned of in the Bible, the same Bible which tells us of the very God who people say has failed in his duties. They are:

The Curse. All of nature is decaying, not onward and upward as in the theory of evolution (Romans 8:20-21);

The consequences of our own intentional sin or poor decisions: actions which affect us personally, such as sexual sin, drug or alcohol abuse, or actions or decisions which lead to accidents;

The consequences of intentional human sin: the actions of others, like hatred, theft, conspiracy, violence;

Deception, coercion, attacks from angels who have sided against God and his followers;

The consequences of rejecting God’s ways, which are designed for our wellbeing and happiness, as individuals or as a society;

Negligence , including failure to love, or give, or care, or share;

Irresponsibility or bad judgment, for example, dangerous driving;

Being tested by God;

Being Disciplined by God;

Being punished by God;

Humbling by God.

THE REAL PROBLEM

So where does the notion that God has failed come from?

The answer is that mankind creates or imagines his own view of what God should be like. Man dethrones God and sets himself up as the conceiver, the creator, and the judge of God, when in fact it’s the other way around. Man ignores the message of God-the Bible- totally, and then has the nerve to reject that Biblical God entirely on the grounds that He has failed miserably in his duties.  Man remakes God in his image. “If there really were a God, we say to ourselves, he would fix all our problems, he would stop all bad things from happening, except perhaps to people like Adolph Hitler, and he would do everything in his power to make sure that I-the great and mighty I-can go about my own business and live a happy, trouble free and fulfilling life.

Not excusing myself-indeed including myself in the ranks of the guilty, I can see that our view is simplistic, narcissistic, selfish, self-righteous and arrogant. It’s the same attitude that got us into this mess in the first place, as summarized in Genesis chapter 3-the attitude that says “God is wrong, he’s holding something back from us, he lied to us, he’s not a loving God at all, he doesn’t want us to enjoy ourselves, he’s failed us”.

THE ALTERNATIVE TO GOD

What amuses me is that many people who think that God obviously cannot exist because he has failed them, are angry with him. How can you be angry with someone who doesn’t exist? If there is no God, there’s no-one to get angry with. There’s no such thing as “evil” (but only an “illusion”, to borrow a popular contemporary term among evolutionists). There is no such thing as “good” or “bad”, “right” or “wrong”, except what we see or decide individually or as a society in our own subjective, relativistic notions of such things. In this case these terms evolve with us: they are not fixed.

If we evolved out of nothing, the “good” in life’s existence is competition, survival, death, extinction. It’s the strong overcoming the weak, the rich overcoming the poor, the achievers overcoming the failures, the healthy overcoming the sick, the slick overcoming the slow. Life is all about the survival of the fittest. Suffering is a natural part of the evolution of life. It’s for our own good: we should applaud it –worship it. Suffering is only “bad” because it feels unpleasant when it happens to us personally. Emotion over suffering is just a useless feeling, a weakness caused by chemical reactions which we should hurry up and evolve away.

However, if there is a God, a God who has created us with a sense of right and wrong, and who has fixed standards, and who has instilled within us concepts of love, happiness and perfection, then we will naturally be reviled by suffering, evil and injustice.

THE ANSWER

Our world is deep in trouble. Human nature is “desperately wicked” by God’s standards, and totally at variance with Him. All of nature is under a curse because of that human nature. But there’s an answer, a remedy. While God is not planning to run around patching this world up piece by piece, while mankind continues in open rebellion against him and his ways, he has given the promise of a new world, and has provided a way for us all to go there. This is God’s answer to suffering:

“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes on him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Those of us who claim to have faith need to steel ourselves.  Many Christians over the centuries have kept or even exponentially grown their faith through suffering  We need to prepare for what could come in our lifetime. If we are serious about our faith, we should build it up, and learn to lean on our God, no matter what. We need to so familiarize ourselves with what He has really said that we are not like rocky ground which received the seed, but which did not last when trouble arose (Matthew 13:20-21).

If there’s a God, why do we suffer? Sometimes the answer is impossible to find. However, the Bible gives us a clear picture of the causes of most of our problems…

My subject for this part of the series is probably going to be even less popular than the last one. However, if we really want to know where suffering comes from, we have to face facts, and not our own opinion of what we think God should be like.

I know it’s politically correct to think that if there is a God, he smiles and winks at everything except fundamentalism, but like it or not, God judges sin, God punishes sin, and God disciplines some who sin. This explains a lot of what we go through in life. It’s not as though we have not been warned: there is abundant warning in the Bible of not only the consequences of our actions, but punishment for them.

We don’t necessarily get ‘zapped’ the moment we do something wrong, and I must stress that I believe there is forgiveness for anyone who is really of a mind to change their ways. God is patient with us, and wants us to come to the point where we change, but he does not give a limitless license to do wrong. The Bible teaches “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows…” (Galatians 6:7).

We can clearly see punishment for sin first in the Old Testament. We think of bad luck, or the devil as the one who delivers negative or destructive events into our lives, but the Old Testament shows that God himself can afflict people with war (Exodus 22:22-24: Leviticus 26:6); terror (Leviticus 26:16), calamity (Jeremiah 14:16); disaster ( 1 Kings 9: 8-9); disease (Deuteronomy 28:22); and plague (Amos 4:10).

Consequences of our choices and the way we live can even be seen in the “ten commandments”, where we are told “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20 12). The obvious implication is that failing to honor our parents may be the cause of a short life, and therefore also the possibility of suffering on the way to that death.

We are given a very intimate and personal view of the consequences of sin when we look at the life of David, who sinned by committing adultery and having an innocent man killed. In his suffering, David prayed, “Remove your scourge from me; I am overcome by the blow of your hand. You rebuke and discipline men for their sins…” (Psalm 39: 10-11). David suffered physically in punishment for his sin, which can be seen in detail in several Psalms. He was willing to own up to his wrongdoing, and to repent of it, and we need to do the same, without delay.

For those of you who are inclined to believe the New Testament but not the Old, and in that way dismiss the notion of consequences for our actions, be warned that Jesus is quoted many times as referring to the Old Testament as though he believed it to be true. As an example, look at his words to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken…And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27).

There really was punishment for sin in Old Testament times. However, such consequences did not end with the beginning of the New Testament.

First of all, the writer of Hebrews warned that we will not escape punishment if we reject God’s offer of salvation from our sin (Hebrews 2: 2-3). This is speaking of the “everlasting destruction” of those who have refused to know God (2 Thessalonians 1: 8-10), and the “eternal punishment” which Jesus himself spoke of many times (example Matthew 25: 46).

More immediately, suffering the consequences of sin is possible in this life. Jesus, having healed an invalid, told him “See, you are well again. Stop sinning, or something worse may happen to you” (John5: 14).

A determined unwillingness to repent of sin can either incur direct judgment, or cause the removal of God’s protective hand. When Christ wept over Jerusalem, he said to the city “The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and hem you in on every side…They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you” (Luke 19:41-44).

We make the mistake of thinking that it’s only “bad” sin that leads to punishment, such as murder or being a politician, but that’s not how God sees it. Luke wrote, “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered in this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower of Siloam fell on them- do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13 1- 5).

The book of Revelation, and other lengthy passages of scripture, are full of warnings of God’s coming judgment upon the earth, but they also warn of consequences for this life when we are in opposition to the Almighty, as in the case of King Herod. He received praise from men instead of passing it on to the Lord, and “an angel of the Lord struck him down” (Acts12: 21- 23). It is a huge mistake to think of God as some doting old man who wants us to get away with anything “as long as we are sincere” and “don’t hurt anyone”. He has his own very high standards, and will judge us by them.

SIN CAN BE A JUDGMENT

Us humans sometimes think we’re having a good time in our sin, and that since God hasn’t sent judgment yet, He’s not going to, right? Wrong!  Amazingly, sin itself can sometimes be a judgment or punishment from the Lord, or perhaps we could call it a ‘down-payment” of judgment. This is spelled out clearly for us by Paul. Examining the state of those who had turned totally against God and to their own wickedness and empty philosophies, he explains that “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another” (Romans1:24). The result of a stubborn heart bent on living against God’s ways is that He gives us over completely to the consequences of our actions. We think we are gaining freedom: in fact we are losing freedom, health, dignity, and worst of all- any relationship with our Creator that we may have had.

Paul continues, showing that God then gives people “over to their shameful lusts” (verse 26). He “gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done” (verse 28).

Many people are thinking in these days that sexual freedom and the total rejection of God for atheism is a sign of freedom In fact it is just the opposite: they are losing any link with their Creator-the one who loves them and sustains them: the only one who can give them eternal life, and they are receiving a down-payment of judgment, that is, God is giving them over to a way of life in this world which is destructive to the individual, to the family, and to society, and which is well on the road to destruction.

DISCIPLINE OF THE BELIEVER

I want to stress that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Those who receive God’s forgiveness of sin by turning from their ways and receiving His son will escape condemnation and “eternal judgment” However, we are not given a license to sin, and we are still open to discipline or punishment if we live in sin. Some Christians think that God will not punish his children, but it’s clear from the New Testament that he will and does punish us when it’s necessary, and when we have failed to respond to His patience and kindness.

Christ himself said “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline” (Revelation3: 19). This fact is echoed by the writer of Hebrews, quoting from a Proverb which states that the Lord disciplines those he loves, “and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son” (Hebrews 12: 5,6). The Greek verb translated “punishes” here means “to whip”. This is not speaking of a little word in the ear, but something much stronger which will or should gain our attention and bring us to repentance, if we are wise enough, in touch with the Spirit of God and His Word, and if we are willing to humble ourselves. (The subject of my next post in the series will include “humbling”).

The author of Hebrews goes on to explain that “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness” (verse 10). He says “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful” (verse 11). He also encourages us to “Endure hardship as discipline” (verse 7). We can safely say that according to Scripture, God not only allows hardship into our lives, but sometimes introduces it. What might be the nature of that hardship? Perhaps you can fill in your own blanks, but be careful not to ascribe all suffering to God’s discipline, and remember that God loves you – he is not cruel or uncaring. Refer to previous subjects in my “Suffering” series.

DOES GOD PUNISH US PHYSICALLY?

If it’s hard for you to “accept that a loving God would allow suffering”, let’s look at another example from the Bible (if you can’t believe what the Bible says, you’re on your own: you will have to make up your own explanations for suffering, just as Mr. Darwin did, and just as many others have).

Paul confronted the Corinthians on several issues which were giving the church there a bad name. He said “In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good’ (1 Corinthians 11:17). One of those issues was their attitude towards the Lord’s Supper, which was far from dignified. Read the passage for details. The relevant fact to us here is that because of their abuse of the supper, Paul said, “many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep” -died- (verse 30). Paul went on to clarify that “When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined, so that we will not be condemned with the world” (verse 32). Here again is Biblical evidence that the Lord is willing and able to afflict us physically, when we get to the point that it’s the only way for him to bring us to repentance, or if he feels that we need to be punished. I know that many Christians reject the idea of God punishing us, but it is Biblical, and I’ve felt that punishment in my own life. I believe that God punishes in order to discipline.

There is a rather extreme example given in the book of Acts, in which a couple associated with the church – professing Christians – lie about their giving. Both drop dead on the spot, their lives taken by the Lord. (Read Acts 5:1-11).

For many, this will be perhaps the most difficult part of my series to accept. The notion that there is really a ‘devil’ is nothing less than ridiculous to even a big percentage of those who claim to be followers of Christ. I can only say that if you are among those who wish to allegorize the scriptures away, you have no authority to base your beliefs on, except the wavering, wobbling opinions of mankind. I would encourage you to consider the possibility that if there really is a God, he is quite capable of preserving his message as it is recorded in the Bible, and he is quite capable of saying what he means, and meaning what he says.

If you have been following my series on the origins and causes of suffering in our world, you will know that I am not one of those who believes that all suffering comes from the devil. I would say that most of our sufferings and problems are due to human nature- often our own. If this were not true, the God of the Bible would not be planning to judge humanity: he would simply have to deal with Satan, and the problems of suffering and evil would be gone.

However, that being said, the Bible is clear that Satan does cause huge amounts of devastation in the lives of people around the world. He brings out the worst that is already in human nature, and entices people into violence, immorality which causes family breakups, diseases and ultimately loneliness and bitterness, deceit in the affairs of men, and a whole host of other troubles. He is capable of causing physical suffering, as I will show. Paul called Satan “the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Ephesians 2:2). John said that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).

Remember from part 6 of my series that the original Greek and Hebrew words translated “tempt”, “test” and “trial” have almost the same meaning, and these three words and other related ones are chosen on the basis of the motives of the one doing the testing.

            I never heard this from any Christian minister, and it’s something that took me many years to discover and then come to terms with: God uses Satan. People traditionally think of Satan (in his tight red suit) slogging it out with God, and the Lord running around frantically trying to minimize the devil’s work. But when you really get into some of those difficult scripture passages, and face up to what they are truly saying, there’s no escaping the fact that God not only spares Satan and his demons, (for now) but uses them to bring about His will on the earth. Now, I’m not teaching a Yin-Yang type theology here, in which good and evil are two sides of the same coin: they are not. What I am saying is that God is so supreme and almighty that he can even find a use for those who rebel against Him. Satan is on a rope, and one day that rope will be pulled in, and there will be no more use for the deceiver: he will go to the place where he belongs. Let me give you a few examples of scripture to illustrate what I’m saying, beginning with the Old Testament.

When God judged the earth by Flood because humanity had become so corrupt and violent, as recorded in Genesis chapters 6 and 7, we see a God who is in total control. There is no attempt by Satan to stop the Lord from sending judgment: he’s nowhere to be seen. God’s actions were decisive and unimpeded: He has complete power over the forces of nature and of Creation.

When the Sprit of God left Saul because as king he was serving himself and not the Lord, we are told that “an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him” (1 Samuel 16:14). God had actually sent the evil spirit himself.

When wicked king Ahab wanted to attack one of his enemies, the Lord employed a lying spirit to lead Ahab to his death (2 Chronicles 18, especially verse 19).

When Satan wanted to put poor Job’s faith to the test, he had to first get the Lord’s permission to do so, and God gave it (Job 1:9-12, and 2:4-6). Notice in these verses that the Lord put a limit on what Satan was allowed to do in order to test Job. For example, God said to Satan “Very well then, he is in your hands, but you must spare his life” (2:6).

            In the New Testament, we see that at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness (Matthew 4: 1-11). However, it’s important to note that “Jesus was led by the Spirit…to be tempted by the devil”. This is astonishing! This goes totally against all those old die-hard beliefs about God and Satan just having endless battles to see who would come out on top. Here we see God Himself sending his Son intentionally to be tempted by Satan. Why? If you have read my notes on free will, you saw that we are in fact all tested continuously to reveal the condition of our hearts. However, Christ is a very special case. While sin entered the world by the disobedience of Adam when he failed his test (Romans 5:12), Jesus was to bring salvation from the effects of Adam’s failure (Romans 5:18, 19). God the Father sent his Son, knowing that he would pass the test of obedience with flying colors. It was a demonstration to all of Creation that Jesus was going to be the savior of mankind, and deserved to be.

As a second example, think of “the Lord’s prayer”. When Jesus was teaching his disciples how to pray, he told them to say “Lead us not into temptation” (Matthew 6:13). He did not say “do not let the evil one lead us into temptation”. This is a request that God would spare us the ordeal of temptation in which we might fail and face trouble in our lives. Paul indicated that the Lord allows us to be tempted, but that He will put a limit on our trial, just as he put a limit on Job’s trial. He said that God “will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). We could say “Why does he let us be tempted or tested at all? But as I have pointed out in Part (), the Lord desires to test us, to see what is really inside us.

Satan and his companion fallen angels are well aware that God is in ultimate control of all things. Satan will know when his time is short (Revelation 12:12). His demons were afraid that Christ would attack them during his ministry in Israel. They said to him, “What do you want with us, Son of God? Have you come to torture us before the appointed time?” (Matthew 8:29). It is interesting to realize that he did not torture them, but allows them a certain amount of freedom until the “appointed time”.
Here is another fascinating example. Paul said that in order to prevent him from becoming conceited, the Lord sent “a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

Wnen we read about future things in Revelation, out of the many mind-boggling passages there stands a remarkable one relating to God’s use of Satan. We find in chapter 20 that Satan will be captured and thrown into the abyss-but only for a thousand years (Revelation 20: 1-3). Why, we might ask, is he not kept there for ever? Verse three says that after the thousand years “he must be set free for a short time”. “Satan will be released from his prison!” (verse 7). Immediately, ” he will go out to deceive the nations….” (verse 8).

There is no getting away from the fact that God is using Satan here to once again test people, to find out and display to all Creation where their loyalties and preferences are: do they love God and the ways of God, or do they prefer to rebel against God and to do wrong? It’s God’s universe-he has the right to make the rules, and He knows what is right and what is wrong for a healthy, happy universe. He cannot tolerate evil. A heaven full of rebellious people would be no heaven at all- it would be hell, or at best, it would be as the earth is now, with all its murder, war violence, hatred, immorality, rejection, snobbery, theft, disease, and more.

After Satan has been used like a sniffer dog to deceive those who prefer sin to obedience, he will be swiftly and finally punished for his own rebellion (Revelation 20:10).

CAN SATAN CAUSE PHYSICAL SUFFERING?

We just read about the example of Paul being sent a messenger of Satan. Notice that this was a problem in his flesh (verse 7). Elsewhere in the New Testament, we read of the woman who was crippled- bent over- for eighteen years of her life, until Jesus healed her. Jesus said that this physical harm was inflicted by Satan (Luke 13:11-16). Again, I want to stress that I do not believe that all, or even most suffering is inflicted by the devil, but the Bible shows that some of it is.

In Revelation 2:10 we read that Christ warned some believers that the devil was going to put them into prison and they would be persecuted to death. This is about as physical as suffering can be! Of course, Satan did not appear in his little red suit to personally lock the door, but he led people who were open to his evil to do his work. Again, we see that free will comes into play here. If our hearts are right with God, we are able to withstand the tests that are given us. If they are not, we are open to the leading of the devil and his human helpers: we then either become one of his helpers, or just one of his victims.

In the Old Testament we find that Job was inflicted with all kinds of suffering at the will of Satan. His cattle were killed, his children killed, and his house was destroyed (Job 1:12-19). To make things even worse, Satan “afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head” (2:7).

So we see that the Bible clearly teaches that Satan is able to cause us to suffer in any way. So what is the solution-what can we do? There are many answers to this question. Most importantly, I would say that “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” (Psalm 34:7). There are conditions to this protection: a reverential fear of God is one of them. You can find others scattered around the Bible. That’s one reason why we need to read it as though it’s actually true.  This is not to say that we can be trouble free, but that once we are within God’s will, any suffering which does come our way is for a purpose, and allowed by a God who loves us and ultimately wants his best for us, though it may not seem like it at the time. Secondly, remember the prayer that Jesus taught as an example in Matthew chapter 6. He said “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”. It is when we are humbly and truthfully seeking his mercy that we can be within his will and his protection.

Finally, remember that “the one who is in you (if you are a true follower of Jesus Christ) is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).”Who is it that overcomes the world (and its troubles)? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:5). Jesus himself said “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).

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