In the last blog I talked about how God’s will comes in two parts: His “desired will” for our lives and His “permissive will.” Now we will look at how those interact using Biblical examples, and we can study different reasons why we may suffer. Please note, that the reasons we will address here over the next several posts will not be all inclusive. You’ll also begin to see that God can use one event of suffering to accomplish several of His purposes. And sometimes, it just simply is not for us to know the “whys” of what we go through. But this will hopefully show you that God is Sovereign, and in His Sovereignty we can have hope and peace in our times of trouble. Through the life and death of Jesus, we also know that our suffering will never outdo what Jesus did for us.
The first reason we may suffer is as a consequence of our own actions. God’s permissive will must allow us to experience the consequences of our own choices. It’s not a “judgment” by God per se, but just what naturally occurs as a result of what we do. There are consequences for every action and decision that we make. And if we make those decisions to sin, then we face the results of that – and it oftentimes results in our suffering. For one example of this we are going to consider the life and death of Judas Iscariot. Judas was chosen as one of the twelve disciples. In all three gospel accounts of disciples chosen, Judas is listed as the one “who also betrayed Him.” He doesn’t even get an introduction without his label as “traitor.” But he was chosen as one of Jesus’ disciples alongside all the others, alongside John, the one whom Jesus loved, and Peter, the one Jesus renamed “Rock.” Judas was even the treasurer for the disciples so he had been entrusted with the group’s finances. We know Judas played the part of friend right up until the end, even daring to ask at the Last Supper “Lord, is it me?” when Jesus announced someone would betray Him. And we know that Judas even signified his betrayal with a kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Betrayal by an enemy is not surprising, and sometimes may be expected. What hurts the most is being betrayed by one of your closest friends. That’s a pain that’s extremely hard to get over. And that’s what is going on here. We know that betrayal led to Jesus’ trial and ultimate crucifixion, but what happens to Judas? Matthew 27 says that Judas was remorseful and brought back the money the Pharisees paid him for his betrayal. He even told the Pharisees, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” Judas felt guilty for what he had done, so much so that he called it "sin." He realized that he had truly sent an innocent man to be condemned, not just any man, but a man he had followed and befriended. The full weight of what he had done came down on him that he went out and hanged himself.
Did God strike down Judas because of his betrayal? Was Judas persecuted by the chief priests because he had a change of heart about what he had done? Was Judas punished by the disciples for being a traitor? Judas’ demise came from Judas. He was so overcome with his own guilt and shame that he committed suicide. The natural consequence of doing something so heinous as to betray your friend results in guilt and shame. For a Christian, that guilt and shame may come from the Holy Spirit to lead us to repentance. But for those that are lost, it doesn’t necessarily produce repentance. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” Consider the different responses to guilt between Judas and Peter. Peter denied knowing Jesus during the trial, not once but three times. Both men betrayed and denied their friend and
Savior. When Peter realizes his sin, he goes out and “weeps bitterly.” Peter is ashamed of himself too, but Peter uses his guilt and shame to redeem himself by repenting. And we know he never again denied the name of Jesus, even unto his own death on a cross. Judas is overcome with a worldly guilt and shame that doesn’t produce repentance and it led to his suicide.
God warns us that this will be the consequence of desiring a sinful life led away from Him. He gives us over to our sin when we continually choose that path. When we make it clear that our desire is to have a life lived outside of God’s presence, then He will give us a life outside of His presence…that means a life kept in the darkness, outside the light. It means a life without the goodness and blessings of God. Imagine how dark and lonely and cold that place would be. God gives us the consequences of our choices by allowing us to have the life we seem to be wanting. And a life that is removed from His goodness will be a life with suffering.
Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them…22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man – and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves…26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions…28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness.
In the Old Testament God declared the same truths to His nation, Israel. Judges 10:13 Yet you have forsaken Me and served other Gods. Therefore I will deliver you no more. 2 Chronicles 15:2 And he went out to meet Asa, and said to him: “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.” Psalm 81:11 But My people would not heed My voice, and Israel would have none of Me. So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels.
Does God want to abandon people to their sin? In 2 Chronicles it says “The Lord is with you while you are with Him.” The Lord wants to be with Israel as long as they are with Him. In Psalm 81, He calls them “My” people to show He wants the people to belong to Him. Yet they would not heed His voice, which indicates that He is calling for them. The Lord longs for us to walk in fellowship with Him. In Judges it says, “You have forsaken Me.” It was Israel that left God for idols, not God who left Israel. God’s desired will is to have us with Him. Only when we continue to push God away, does He use His permissive will to allow us our true desire – this world and sin.
So sometimes our suffering is the natural consequence of our actions -- but not always. Stay tuned…