Who Said It Is the Same for Everybody?
A man read an article in the paper stating that there were some five hundred causes for headaches. The next time he went to the doctor, he asked him, “How many causes are there for headaches?”
The doctor said, “A lot of them.”
The man asked, “Could there be as many as five hundred?”
“I don’t know, but there are a lot of them,” the doctor said.
“Then what does it mean when someone comes to you and asks about the symptoms, and they say, ‘I have a headache.’?” he asked.
“It means that something is wrong,” the doctor answered.
The doctor’s answers illustrate the causes or combination of causes of suffering. When we ask why people suffer, we seem to imply there is one simple, easy-to-find answer that will fit every person. Such is not the case. Who said it was the same for everybody? Just as there are many causes for a headache, so it is for what causes suffering.
We may suffer because of our own sins. The way of the transgressor is hard (Proverbs 13.15). If a man gets drunk, provokes a fight, and is injured, he has brought suffering upon himself. If a person loses his temper and creates a problem with others, he has to bear the consequences himself. Never can suffering be blamed on someone else when our own sins have caused us trouble.
We may suffer because of the sins of others. Innocent people suffer because of the troubles others have created. A drunken driver could cause a head-on collision, killing someone who was not drinking. Jesus Christ suffered at the hands of cruel men and no fault was found in Him (1 Peter 3.18).
We may suffer because of natural disaster. Jesus said the sun shines and the rain falls upon the evil and the good (Matthew 5.45). Earthquakes, tornadoes, forest fires, floods, storms, etc. are all natural disasters which bring destruction, losses, and suffering. All mankind is under the same law. These things are not partial in the destruction they cause.
We may suffer because of ignorance. Never believe the saying, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you!” You may have heard some say, “If I had only known...” If I had only known that disease was contagious. If I had only known it would cause... If I had only known. Think of the suffering that could be avoided if people would take time to know and understand certain facts.
We may suffer because of an unwholesome attitude. Do you realize how much suffering is attributed to worry, fear, anxiety, or just a bad attitude in general? Pessimism has caused a lot of needless suffering. When people expect the worst, it often comes. If it does not, something will take its place. To some people, there is something bad in everything. There are few things, if any, for which they are grateful. Not only do they suffer, it causes everyone around them to suffer. Think too about those who are thin-skinned and wear a chip on their shoulders. If they feel slighted, neglected, or hurt, they suffer and so does everyone else. This suffering is preventable if only those involved would completely overhaul their attitudes.
We may suffer because we live in a world of law and order. Anytime someone breaks a law, suffering will ultimately follow. Whether we forget about a law or intentionally rebel against a law, we suffer: Injuries sustained in a fall; prescribed medicine which controls a person’s life when taken improperly; cars that transport millions but kill thousands because of misusing such a powerful machine. Keeping your life in order by the law of order can reduce the possibility of suffering.
We may suffer because we are righteous. Matthew 5.11-12, 2 Timothy 3.12, and 1 Peter 4.12-16 warn us of the suffering which accompanies right living. We are not of the world, therefore the world will hate us. It hated Christ, and we will not fare any better than He did. When you take upon yourself the responsibilities of living in the kingdom of God, you must expect a brand of suffering others will not receive. The stimulus for suffering this way is for righteousness’ sake, but it has its purpose - to receive a reward those in the world will not receive.
We may suffer because of God’s disciplinary actions. This is difficult to explain because it is hard to know whether God brings things upon us for the purpose of punishment or takes what comes upon us and uses it for our chastening. One thing for sure, chastening is a fact of life. When you read Hebrews 12.7-14, you know the purpose and hopeful results of suffering. What we need to do is accept that our troubles are being used to bring good. That way, we can stand the trials no matter how hard they become.
Much of the reason for suffering, whether we know the cause or not, comes because of sin in the world. Even if the guilt is felt by only one person, the consequences may be felt by many, whether guilty or innocent. And the reason for your suffering may be one of or a combination of the causes we have mentioned. There may be other causes, but whatever the cause and the problems associated with the suffering, how will you handle it?
Try not to grow bitter and begrudge the weight you carry. Doing so will only eat away at your soul. The weight will not go away if you carry it with you everywhere you go.
Do not give up and let the suffering get you down! If you do, you shut the doors for escape and keep out opportunities to take what has happened to you and use it for good. Think about what Paul did with his troubles when they would not go away (2 Corinthians 12.8-10). Use yours to produce something good.