What is your response when someone says that *If your heart is not right with God you are going to experience suffering*? I know the story of the blind man in the Bible but it is so hard to know how to respond to the *well meaning* people at church who say that.
“Well meaning people at church” who say that need to SHUT UP. Is that putting it to harshly?
It takes great discernment and spiritual maturity to adequately address and counsel people in this area. Why? Because suffering comes for many reasons: the random result of living in a sin-cursed world, from God because he knows that a difficult situation will bring about the change of character you need, or yes, sometimes as a result of sin. There are times when sin is the obvious cause of suffering and that needs to be addressed when obvious but Christians need to be careful about assuming this, and especially saying it.
As for suffering being “a result of sin”, this even comes in two parts: a direct punishment from God at times, or (most of the time I believe), as simply the “harvest” of our sinful choices. Whatever seed you plant, that’s what you are going to grow. Very often then our “suffering” is the fruition of one or several bad “seeds” we planted in the past.
That is why the Bible says: “don’t be deceived, God is not mocked. Whatever you sow, you will reap.” (Gal 6.7) This can be in the form of consequences, and sometimes God may simply decide to send judgment or discipline your way to get your attention about some sin in your life.
For example, I may choose to fornicate and suffer for the next twenty years over children out of wedlock, failed marriages and such. This is suffering because I am reaping what I sowed.
On the other hand, known only to God, maybe money is my only focus in life and God sends a “judgment” in the form of some situation that wipes me out financially so I’ll turn to God. That’s a suffering do to judgment from God because of sin I won’t turn away from.
However, sometimes we simply suffer because we live in a Creation that has been corrupted by sin and suffering is an avoidable part of it. For Christians though, suffering is an opportunity for blessing, a topic I have written about extensively. A good place to start is here:
So how do you respond to the “well meaning people at church”? Depends on your emotional state at the time. If you can firly but lovingly tell them they don’t know the whole situation, and suffering is not always about hidden sin, then say so. There is nothing unloving about it. Be prepared to teach them, or direct them to solid teaching that supports your comment. Or, just say, “yes, at times I know that can be true. Thanks for your concern…” and leave it at that.
Most of all, DON’T WORRY ABOUT WHAT THEY SAY. If they have a wrong or shallow misunderstanding of suffering, it won’t be long before God will provide them with a real life object lesson.