We can see that our suffering is sometimes a result of our own decisions or even the result of someone else’s decision. But does God ever use suffering to punish us? We always like to talk about how God is loving and merciful, and He is those things. But we can’t overlook the other attributes of God. He is also our Judge, and everyone will ultimately be judged for their lives here on earth. How can that be if God is loving? Well, it is the same concept for an earthly judge. If there were a judge who never punished a criminal, never convicted or sentenced any man no matter his wrongs, we certainly would not call that judge loving or good. We would question why he let people “get away” with their evildoings, their sins. Our Heavenly Judge is the same way. He would not be showing love, righteousness, or holiness if He never punished our sins. So there are times that our suffering is because we are being judged for our sin.
One Biblical example of God’s judgment of sin is found in Genesis 6-8 with Noah and the flood. God saw that the people on earth had grown evil and wicked, and He was “grieved in His heart.” That was not His desire for His people, but it was what the people had chosen. God decided to pass His judgment for their wickedness. His creation had strayed so far from His goodness and His fellowship that He wished He had never made us in the first place. That is how much we displease God with our sin. God decided to destroy everything and start again, saving the one family who had remained faithful to Him. And while after the flood God promised to not destroy the earth with water, He didn’t promise to not ever judge us for our sins. Our sins still require judgment.
We tend to focus on the positive story of Noah and the ark. We paint the picture of his family and the animals happily leaving the ark under the rainbow. But think about what happened to everyone else. They all drowned. They were all destroyed. For 300 days the rain water prevailed on the earth. ALL that had the breath in life was destroyed. ONLY Noah and those on the ark were saved. As Jesus tells us in Matthew 24, “For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
Who caused the flood? Was God in control of the rain or did it just happen and God allowed it? Was it God’s will that all those people be destroyed? It was God’s will that they walk in obedience to Him. But because they chose not to, it was now God’s will to pass this judgment on all of creation. God said, “I will destroy man whom I have created.” God created man and God destroyed man. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
We see the same judgment on sin with the account of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18. We can see it again in His dealings with the Philistines when they captured the Ark of the Covenant in 1 Samuel 4 and 5. But those are all Old Testament accounts. God wouldn’t do that in the New Testament, would He? Check out what happened to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. They lied to the Holy Spirit, portraying themselves as more generous than they were. And they both “immediately fell down” and “breathed their last” as a judgment of their sin. It taught the people that God was serious about the sin of hypocrisy and did not want that to take root in His church. It says that great fear came upon all who heard about it. God wanted His newly formed church to know that He was serious about sin in the church. The people learned that death, however imminent, is the consequence of sin.
Is suffering always because of judgment on our sins?
Luke 13:1-5 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you supposed that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
Evidently Roman officials had gone into the temple and killed some Galileans while they were offering a sacrifice. It was believed by the people that a death like that must have been a sign of divine displeasure over some particular sin. Those who suffered in some uncommon way were assumed to be guilty of some severe immorality. Likewise, Jesus mentions this incident of the Tower of Siloam. Siloam was an area at the south end of the lower city of Jerusalem. One of the towers guarding the aqueduct apparently collapsed killing eighteen people. Again, people made the connection between calamity and sin. But Jesus tells them that those people weren’t any more or less sinners because of how they died. Such a tragedy was not God’s way to single out a particularly evil or sinful group. Indeed, we are all sinners in need of repentance, no one worse or better than another. Though it can be, tragedy and suffering is not always a direct judgment from God.