The answer to that question is both yes and no. Yes, in the sense that all pain, suffering and death is a result of sin. The Bible says, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned – “ Romans 5:12
So “Yes” – pain, suffering and death are all the result of sin and since we all sin, as the verse makes clear, we all suffer. There are many times when we can see that a person’s sin leads directly to his or her suffering, pain and death. If a person chooses to drink too much then get behind the wheel of a car and drive off a cliff—then that sin led directly to the result.
However, there is also a “No” to that question. There are other times when it appears from our perspective that pain, suffering and even death is not the result of a person’s sin.
In fact, we find many such cases in the Bible where a righteous man seems to suffer without having committed a sin that led directly to that suffering. Take the story of Job for instance. Job lost everything—his family, health, and his wealth. The grief, pain and suffering were so overwhelming at one point that he just wanted to die.
We are given no indication in the story that all the tragedies that befell Job were a result of his sin. We are however, told that Satan believed that Job would fall away from his love from God if he lost everything. As a result, God gave Satan permission to take everything from Job not because of his sin, but because He believed Job would be faithful.
However, the book of Job never tells us that Job was ever aware of the conversation between Satan and God. As a result, Job struggled all the more because from his perspective it was just unfair and painful. Even Job’s friends believed that Job had to have committed some grave sin for God to punish him so strongly. Job’s only recourse was to simply trust God.
The life of Joseph is another story that teaches us that all pain and suffering does not directly result from sin. Joseph is sold into slavery by jealous brothers, but kept his faith and worked his way up into Potiphar’s house. Then Potiphar’s wife lied about Joseph’s actions and had him thrown into prison. —Again, Joseph did nothing wrong.
While in prison, Joseph faithfully served and ended up overseeing some of the most important prisoners. As a result he was able to interpret dreams for a man who would soon have Pharaoh’s ear and be able to help Joseph escape prison life. However, he was forgotten about—again, no sign of Joseph’s suffering being a result of his sin.
But for those who know the end of the story, Joseph does end up being promoted in the land of Egypt and he eventually saves his family, his people and many Egyptians from a harsh famine.
In Genesis 50, Joseph comes face to face with his brothers who sold him into slavery. He could have dealt harshly with them or even had them executed, but Joseph chose a different path.
Here is what the Bible says about the dialogue between Joseph and his brothers, His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. Genesis 50:18-21
Did you see that…his brothers meant it for evil but God meant if for good, but we have to wait all the way to chapter 50 to see the good in it? If it had been left to Joseph, he would have passed on all the pain and suffering. However, without being sold into slavery and subsequently thrown into prison Genesis 50 would have never happened.
Thus, pain and suffering is not always the result of personal sin. Sometimes we will never know what may come our way as was seen in the story of Job. In those situations the only recourse is to trust God. At other times, our pain and suffering is the result of someone else’s sin as seen in the life of Joseph. In those situations the only recourse is to simply stay faithful.
However, regardless of why pain and suffering comes our way, we should always remember the words of the Apostle Paul who wrote, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
John Mark Caton