How many times have you experienced this:
You fall into sin. Bad stuff happens as a result of your sin. You get angry, upset, depressed. You get mad at God – “God, why is this happening to me? I don’t deserve this!” You get angry at other people – “Why can’t you all just be more forgiving!” Maybe you try and sanctify it a little – “It isn’t God, it’s the devil. He’s so awful. He just makes life so tough!” Or it’s other people – “Everyone is out to get me. At least I have God.”
Then again, maybe you don’t know how many times you’ve experienced this because you don’t see the connection. So, let’s try this instead. How many times have you experienced this:
Your child – or a younger sibling, nephew or niece, or a child you care for – does something foolish and wrong. You enforce a consequence, or allow the child to experience the natural consequences. They get mad at you – “This is, like, so unfair!” They get mad at others – “Just leave me alone! You’re all so annoying!” Maybe they try and sanctify it – “The toy is naughty! The devil made me do it!” Or they blame – “It’s just that my brother was being so mean!”
Too often we don’t see the connection between our sin and our suffering. To be clear, I’m not talking about suffering that comes as a punishment for sin; God punished Jesus for our sins, so there is no longer any punishment for sin. Yet, when we sin God seldom sweeps in and rescues us completely from the earthly consequences of our sin. And occasionally God allows suffering that has no direct connection to our sin as a means to wake us up to our own sinfulness.
I’m sure that you would like to believe that you can see the connection your sin and its negative results in your life. I’d like to believe the same about myself. But if that were true, we would either not sin or not need to experience consequences for our sin. The very fact that we do means we still need training.
Which is really what God is doing with us when he lets us experience consequences. Yesterday I posted an example from Kirk Martin about how to let natural consequences teach our children, and he explained that by allowing his child to suffer temporarily, he was forming in him a lasting character. God does the same with us when he allows us to experience the natural consequences for our sin.
See, if God stepped in an saved us from all the ramifications of our foolishness whenever we step outside the bounds of his will, we would run the risk of never really understanding the seriousness of our sins, and we would remain in them. Eventually, that blase’ attitude toward sin would leave us with seared consciences and dying faith. If we don’t see sin as serious, we don’t see grace as great, and it becomes meaningless. It is specifically to prevent this that God allows a teenage girl to get pregnant when she sleeps with her boyfriend, or a faithless husband to get caught, or a dishonest dealer to be audited by the IRS, even if in many other ways they show the evidence of faith. God is trying to preserve that faith, however weak or strong it might be, from the greater harm of unrepentant sin.
In other words, it is an act of grace.
What? Allowing suffering as an act of grace? Go back to Kirk Martin’s example. As a father, he was showing love to his son by letting him suffer, and any good parent sees the love behind that. In fact, we have probably all shaken our heads a few times at the irresponsibility of a parent who gives a child whatever the child wants despite the child’s naughtiness. We know how that turns out. In the same way, God would not be loving to just let us do whatever we want, free of any consequences.
The writer of Hebrews puts it this way: “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?” (Heb. 12:7).
So, the next time you feel like God is treating you, like, so unfairly… Stop. Look at the circumstances. Ask yourself what God might be teaching you. Repent and seek his grace, and then see that it’s been there all along.