When we see folks going through hard times, it’s very easy to conclude that it was something they brought upon themselves. This isn’t always the case. Yes, sin likely leads to hardship as God’s judgment falls upon the guilty. This is especially true in the case of a believer where God disciplines His own. But we’ve got to be careful to not jump to conclusions. Otherwise, we sound like this:
“Remember now, who ever perished being innocent?
Or where were the upright destroyed?
“According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity
And those who sow trouble harvest it.
– Job 4:7-8, NASB
These are the words of Eliphaz the Temanite and they were spoken to Job. We know that Job wasn’t guilty of a sin. What was happening to Job was not the result of God’s punishment. Rather, it was Satan operating on Job, making him suffer to see if he would give up on God. God permitted Satan to do this, one could say He goaded Satan into it, to show that Job’s love for Himself was genuine and not the result of any particular favor shown to Job. But Eliphaz jumped to the conclusion that the reason Job was suffering was because Job had some unconfessed sin in his life. Surely God wouldn’t bring down upon Job what had happened unless Job was guilty of something! That’s why he made reference to the innocent and the upright. In other words, he was accusing Job of not being either. We know differently.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.
– John 9:1-3, NIV
The disciples were faced with a perplexing problem. They had come across someone born blind from birth. In their mind that meant someone had sinned. So they asked Jesus who was it? While it couldn’t have been logical for the son to have done so, they included him in the question. Jesus’ point is that the hardship wasn’t due to sin. And in the next few moments He demonstrated such by healing the man. The disciples had fallen into the same trap which Eliphaz had: thinking hardship equaled sin.
The fact of the matter is that bad things are going to happen to people. This includes God’s people. As a matter of fact, the closer we’re walking to God, the more we should expect attacks from our Enemy. After all, Jesus warned us of such time and time again. So when we are seeing someone go through a hardship, we need to make sure we don’t jump to the conclusion that it’s because of something they’ve done wrong. This is especially true of ourselves. If we have gone before God and opened ourselves up and asked for sin to be revealed in our life and we’re still going through hardship, it can still be an easy thing to say, “This must be my fault. This must has come upon me because of something I’ve done.” It is also very easy to say, “This is someone else’s fault. I am suffering because someone else has brought this upon me.” In fact, neither of those things have to be true for us to suffer hardship. We see this with Job’s example. And if we’re sure it’s not a sin issue in our own lives and we’re undergoing hardship, an appropriate response is the one Job gave, which is to simply accept the hardship and worship and praise God for it:
At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”
– Job 1:20-21, NIV