“I feel like I’m being punished,” says a woman in her mid-50’s after learning that she has cancer. Reflecting on a wrong she committed years earlier, she concludes, “This must be God’s way of telling me I sinned.”
WHEN faced with adversity, many people feel that God is punishing them for some past wrong. Overwhelmed by a sudden avalanche of problems, they may be heard to lament: “Why me? What have I done to deserve this?” Should we conclude that our problems are an indication of divine disapproval? Are personal adversities really a punishment from God?
Consider what the Bible reports about a man named Job. Without warning, he suddenly lost his wealth. Next, all ten of his children were killed in a windstorm. Soon thereafter, he was struck with a debilitating, loathsome disease. (Job 1:13-19; 2:7, 8) Such adversities led Job to cry out: “The hand of God has struck me down.” (Job 19:21, Today’s English Version) Evidently, like many today, Job felt that God was punishing him.
However, the Bible reveals that before Job’s trials began, God himself had described Job as “a man blameless and upright, fearing God and turning aside from bad.” (Job 1:8) In view of this expression of divine approval, it is clear that Job’s adversities were not a punishment from God.
The fact is, the Bible is filled with accounts of upright individuals who faced personal adversities. Although he was a loyal servant of God, Joseph endured years of unjust imprisonment. (Genesis 39:10-20; 40:15) The faithful Christian Timothy suffered from “frequent cases of sickness.” (1 Timothy 5:23) Even Jesus Christ, who never did wrong, was cruelly mistreated before suffering an agonizing death. (1 Peter 2:21-24) Hence, it is a mistake to conclude that adversity must be an expression of God’s displeasure. But if God is not responsible for adversity, who, if anyone, is?
The Bible shows that Satan the Devil was the cause of Job’s tragedies. (Job 1:7-12; 2:3-8) Furthermore, it identifies Satan as the chief source of our problems today when it states: “Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” (Revelation 12:12) As “the ruler of this world,” Satan has influenced many to engage in evil acts that have resulted in untold misery and heartache.—John 12:31; Psalm 37:12, 14.
We should not, however, be quick to blame the Devil for every adversity we experience. As a result of inherited sin and imperfection, we are prone to make unwise decisions that can cause us problems. (Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12) For example, imagine a man who by choice neither eats properly nor gets sufficient rest. If this eventually leads to serious health problems, should he blame the Devil? No, the man has merely reaped the bitter consequences of his own poor judgment. (Galatians 6:7) In such an instance, it is just as a Bible proverb puts it: “A man’s own folly wrecks his life.”—Proverbs 19:3, The New English Bible.
Finally, it must be realized that many unpleasant experiences are simply the result of “time and unforeseen occurrence.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11) Consider the person who is unexpectedly caught in a rainstorm. Whether he will get a little wet or completely drenched may just depend on where he happens to be standing when the rain begins to fall. Similarly, in these “critical times hard to deal with,” negative conditions can quickly turn into a downpour of adversity. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) To what extent we are personally affected is often a matter of timing and circumstances, over which we may have little or no control. Does this mean, then, that we will always be plagued with adversity?
Happily, Jehovah God will bring an end to all adversity very soon. (Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 1:3; 21:3, 4) In the meantime, he shows that he really cares for us by providing “instruction” and “comfort from the Scriptures” so that we can cope with trials now as we look forward to that wonderful future just ahead. (Romans 15:4; 1 Peter 5:7) At that time, those who are upright in God’s eyes will enjoy unending life in a new world, free from every form of adversity.—Psalm 37:29, 37.
▪ Is it only wrongdoers who experience adversity?—Job 1:8.
▪ Is the Devil to blame for all our problems?—Galatians 6:7.
▪ Will adversity always exist?—Revelation 21:3, 4.
“Time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all.”—Ecclesiastes 9:11