Suffering and the Fall
The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:15-17 ESV)
He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:11-13 ESV)
To help us better understand suffering, we need to first take a look at the beginning. Prior to the Fall in Genesis, suffering was nonexistent. Tragedy had not yet darkened the hopes and hearts of mankind. Death was nowhere to be found, and tears of sorrow never flowed down a tender cheek. Agony is not something we were ever intended to experience. It wasn’t until the moment Eve took the forbidden bite from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil that sin made its not-so-grand entrance. Rather, it slithered in like a thief in the night, cowardly and unashamed. At this moment, the world was forever changed and sin would now intrude on the hearts of all humanity. If the Creator of the universe was watching this atrocious act, why did He not stop it? Surely, if He is the all-knowing God, He would have been able to see how this choice of sin would impact the world. If God is watching us and knows our deep soul pain, why does He allow it?
When we find ourselves in the midst of a challenging season, whether ankle deep or we feel as though we are drowning, we cry out to God with questions of “why.” It is challenging when we face hardships, whether as a new believer or spiritually mature, to understand why God allows such painful events to occur. Not only are we forced to walk through the trial, but we are also ushered into dealing with the grief that accompanies the situation. All of this can be overwhelming and feel very lonely.
The world and many believers tell us to buck up and move on, but this is not what scripture tells us. There is a distinct difference between moving on and moving forward. Moving on implies forgetting or sweeping the pain under the rug, burying it deep inside and not allowing God to use it to work in our own hearts. Moving forward allows us to acknowledge the painful good, which God is cultivating in our lives. It is not okay to dwell in the misery of our deep soul pain, but it is okay to acknowledge our wounds and seek to know the good God is working.
In an effort to answer the question of “why,” it is important to strive to know God. Scripture is an infallible spiritual ocean of information to help us know God well, although there are aspects we will only understand when we meet Him face to face. In Deuteronomy 29:29, the Bible teaches us about God’s revealed will (sometimes referred to as His moral will), “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever…” With this, we are provided a path to follow and choices along the path. While our choices come as no surprise to God, He still allows us to make them. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105 Regardless of the choices we make, none of them, not one, is outside of God’s sovereign will; Proverbs 16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. God is sovereign over all of the plans we make, and we are not given a free pass to sin. Each sin committed has consequences that cannot in any way be avoided. We are to follow the instructions God has laid out for us in His revealed will within scripture.
This is not to say our suffering is always caused by our personal actions, but it is something to consider. It all comes down to the fact that if the Fall of man (sin) did not occur, we would not journey through any amount of affliction. Many times we face adversity simply as a result of this fallen world we temporarily call home. What the revealed will of God does tell us is we can take great comfort in knowing God has already worked out the plans He has for us. All that transpires in our lives and the lives of others, God means every bit of it for good, including suffering. One of the greatest events of suffering ever to occur was the crucifixion of God’s son, but it was part of his sovereign will, and it was planned from before Eve ever took the tragic bite of fruit upon the creation of humanity. When God watched Eve in the Garden of Eden, He was not caught off guard; this event was not unknown to Him. God knew exactly how this event would affect His creation and had a plan already conceived to redeem His children. It is in our best interest to not be so tempted to resist His will, but rather we should embrace it.
God Has Good Plans For Us
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:2-8
When we find ourselves smack in the middle of some hard, gut-wrenching pain, it is challenging to see the joy and find the good. How then are we to see suffering as a gift? With the understanding that scripture is infallible and God breathed, we can put all of our trust into the promises God has given us throughout His word.
Many times over the course of my life, I’ve experienced deep soul pain. With grief like nothing I’d experienced before, each event sparked a new pain I did not feel before and added to the pains of past experiences. There were quite a few times I was given Christian platitudes and told I needed to let go of the hurt. However, I needed to feel the hurt before I could move forward. I needed to grieve the losses and feel the agony. Please do not mistake feeling the agony with sitting in it. There is a difference. I never once planned to sit in my despair, but I certainly needed to acknowledge it, and then I needed a gentle reminder to look up through the tears. Even in the darkest times of my life, God blessed me in tremendous ways; I simply needed to remove my focus from solely being on my grief and choose to see what God was working in my heart and in my life.
When Christ was crucified on the cross, He cried out to His Father in utter agony. He acknowledged the physical and emotional pain, which He had no choice but to feel. In this pain, Christ did not despair; He took comfort in the arms of His Father and knew the pain he was feeling was necessary for all of God’s children. He saw the good in His pain through His tears. God reveals His promises to us throughout scripture, and within these promises, He reminds us over and over again: He loves us, He will not leave us, and He works all things for good. In the moments of brutal grief, we are afforded the opportunity to know God and His word better, to seek His wisdom and comfort, and for Him work in our heart and life through our tears.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Where is God in the Pain?
“He gave me the gift of suffering. God did not rescue me out of the pain; he rescued me through the pain!” —Tullian Tchividjian, Glorious Ruin
The moment agony wraps itself around us and tries to squeeze out every drop of life, we feel breathless, alone, and as though death is taking hold of our heart. In these moments, hold tight to God; He has promised us He will never leave or forsake us. During the unthinkable deep soul pain, He is holding us close to Him. Just as He was watching Adam and Eve in Eden and His son on the cross, He is watching us and has a good plan for us. We are His, and He knows our pain; He bore all of our pain in His death on the cross. We do not find hope and joy in our circumstances; we find it only in Jesus and His goodness, grace, and love.
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:1-2
Questions for Consideration:
1. Do you believe God when he tells you He loves you and will not leave you?
2. In what aspects of your life are you unwilling to relinquish control over to God?
3. Are you willing to accept you cannot change God’s will?
4. Do you believe God only wants good for you?
5. Who is responsible for how you respond to your circumstance?
6. What responsibility, if any, do you have in your present trial?
7. Are you using this trial to draw closer to God, or are you using it to push Him away?
1. Write out words to describe how you are feeling, and then write out how you should respond biblically to those feelings.
2. Identify the reason for your feelings.
3. Write out the good you see in your present circumstance and note God is the giver of everything on your list.
4. Pray, cry out to God, and let Him know your hurts.
5. Don’t give up! Write out Isaiah 43:1-2 (or another favorite verse that reminds you God will not leave you, but carry you through).