Is Tragedy a Punishment for Sin?

“What do you have against me, man of God?
Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?
1 Kings 17:18 (NIV)

Gordon Rumford Ministries - Daily Devotional - Is Tragedy a Punishment for Sin?Over forty years ago I visited a lady who was very ill. As a new pastor I had little in my inventory of comments to make to a person who suffered so much. I had known her for years and realised that the frightened person before me bore little resemblance to the fun loving woman I had known.

She asked me what she had done to deserve such pain and suffering. I recall little of what I said on that occasion but I have visited many people since who find the same question on their lips in a time of sorrow.

The woman who spoke the words of our verse was so poor that she was making the last meal she could for herself and her son and then they would starve to death. Her situation was already pitiful but it soon became worse when the “man of God” showed up and asked her to make him a meal. For a short while after his arrival she discovered that her pantry produced food for all three of them.

Suddenly the woman’s son fell deathly ill and died. The mother then said to the prophet, “Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” (NIV) The distraught woman thought the reason for her son’s illness and death was because of some sin in her life. This is a common but usually wrong assumption on the part of people who suffer.

To properly understand suffering in our world we must go back to Genesis 3 and read about how our first parents sinned and what God did in response. It is clear from the history of the world that Adam and Eve’s defiance of the law of God resulted in the whole world being “cursed” by God (Genesis 3:14-19). Disease, decay and degeneration were all now built into the created world.

From Romans 5:12-21 we learn that Jesus, the “second Adam” came to take away the curse and restore the creation to its original state (Romans 8:18-23). Everyone born into this chaotic world will suffer because of Adam’s sin. Very godly people such as Job suffer and it is not necessarily because of their specific sin. God made it very clear that Job was a godly man (Job 1:8; 2:3) so there was no direct connection between a certain evil in Job’s life and his suffering.

If you have believed that your suffering must be related to something in your life that is especially offensive to God, your reasoning may be very wrong. Jesus in Luke 13:1-5 makes it clear that we cannot draw any conclusions about how sinful people must be who experience tragedy.

If you are in a tragic circumstance today you are invited to come near to God and seek strength, comfort, and peace of heart. Jesus’ loving invitation is always appropriate to repeat, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29 (NIV).

I cast my burdens on the Lord, The Lord sustains them all;
My courage rests upon his word, That saints shall never fall.

– Isaac Watts

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