“Those who I love I rebuke and discipline.  So be earnest and repent.” – Rev. 3:19

  If there is a good God in heaven, why is there such pain and suffering in the world?  Isn’t that the strongest case for believing that nature developed life through the random trial and error of evolution, rather than life coming from the hand of a loving Creator?  Even those who have no doubt that the Almighty is loving and good, still question why innocent people must suffer.  It seems so inconsistent with the idea that God is good and his love endures forever (Ps. 136:1), for the innocent to be inflicted by such widespread suffering.

  The misconceptions in such questions is based on our assuming that there will be no consequences for our behavior.  Think about how as a child you were not always allowed to have your way, you were disciplined.  As adults we are not that different.  We also want to have our own way.  If in order to have our own way, we ignore God’s commandments, we are rebelling against his authority.  This is what the Bible calls “sin”.  The Bible makes it clear that we “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23).  It was because of sin that degeneration was introduced was into the original balance in God’s creation.  Like a genetic defect, we all inherit the tendency to disregard what God requires of us.  As a result, our world is now full of the injustices and inequities that are the consequences of our foolish choices.

  It should therefore come as no surprise that God allows us to face the consequences that we bring upon ourselves.  However, when our heavenly Father permits these things, it is to chasten and correct us.  The scolding that we receive is not inflicted during a fit of frustration.  God, our Father, gives us what he knows we need to protect us against things we do not yet understand.  As a loving father he trains his children, so we will grow to be wise and mature.

  In order for us to grasp that we need to change our behavior (repent), God must first get our attention.  If we were to never known anything but prosperity and health, it would be unlikely that we would be aware that our Father is protecting and sustaining us.  Therefore, he does not let us have peace when we are ignoring him, rather he gets our attention by disciplining us.  Listen to how David described his own attempt to ignore his guilty conscience:  “my bones wasted away … For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.” (Ps. 32:3)

  Our strength is being sapped.  This is the cause of the illnesses we face.  This is the reason our land becomes polluted, the rains fail to come, heat and cold oppress us, and “moth and rust” destroy the goods we produce.

  Once we see that we cannot control our situation, or even our basic necessities, we become able to realize our dependence on God.  This theme is repeated throughout the Old Testament.  People strayed from God’s requirements and so were allowed to suffer the consequences of their actions. When they humbled themselves and cried out to God, he forgave them and restored a portion of the blessing that he had withheld from them.

  This means that to some extent, the curse is a progressive disease.  Each subsequent generation is left to deal with the compounding of this deterioration that our repeated rebellions have had on the good creation.  God allows nature’s resources to continue to erode so that each generation will sense this “wasting away.”  We go from bounty to want.  We have gone from Eden to the thorns and thistles of the still lush pre-Flood world.  Since the Flood, we have experienced climate changes which have left large parts of the world dry and barren, or perpetually covered with ice.  This is part of what the Bible describes as “creation’s bondage to decay” (Romans 8:32). 

  The effects on the environment as a consequence of humanity’s choices have been compounding since we were first put out of the Garden.  Over the centuries, each generation has considered the deteriorated condition of nature which is passed down to them to be the standard for health and prosperity, but in fact, these conditions are chastisements that God has sent to correct us.  The fact that we struggle with pain and suffering, shortages and decay, is intended to serve as a reminder to us that we are not to forget our dependence on him, not only for our daily bread, but for his forgiving our rebelliousness.

  The Bible records how in the past God has used nature as a tool to correct and discipline mankind.  So why is it that today we look at what is happening to nature and feel that things are out of control?  If it appears that God is once again withholding from us a portion of his bountiful provisions, the proper response to being “spanked” by our Father is for us to begin to ask him what we are doing that is causing to be disciplined.  But instead, many people simply question whether we have a Father in heaven.

By Maurice Hamel               11ABD032301       www.healingtheland.org