Suffering is unavoidable, and it comes without warning. Hardship can shatter or strengthen us, just as it can destroy or deepen our faith. The outcome hinges not on the nature or source of the adversity, but on the character and spirit of our response to it. But how should we respond to suffering caused by our own sin?
Rebellion against God always has a consequence.
Rebellion against God always has a consequence of some sort, even if it's only guilt. How can you respond to suffering that's the result of your own willful choices? To follow are steps I've found helpful in dealing with the consequences of sin:
- Assume responsibility. Don’t look for someone else to blame—and avoid thinking about what would've happened if the other person had acted differently. Instead, own up to your mistakes. Admit to yourself the adverse circumstances you're facing are of your own doing.
- Confess and repent of sin. To confess is to agree with God regarding your disobedience. Tell Him you've sinned—not just that you made a mistake or had an accident. Then repent, which requires that you make a decision to turn away from sin. This may entail ending a relationship or finding a new job. You may need to apologize to the person you wronged or return something you've stolen. To repent is to make every arrangement necessary to avoid repeating the same failing.
- Do not complain. If you suffer because of your own actions, you have no right to complain. Don’t spend your energy trying to get people’s sympathy. Focus on getting right with God.
- Ask God to help you discover the weakness through which sin crept into your life. Is there a flaw in your thinking? Have you adopted ideas into your world view that are contrary to Scripture? Do you have any unaddressed insecurity? Are your friends dragging you down? Is someone or something in your life a constant source of temptation? Questions like these can help you identify how sin entered your life and found a resting place.
Regardless of the source, adversity is always a powerful tool in the Lord’s hands—when you cooperate with how He wants to use it in your life.
- Recognize God wants to use adversity in your life. Regardless of the source, adversity is always a powerful tool in the Lord’s hands—when you cooperate with how He wants to use it in your life. Tell Him, “I know I'm suffering because of my own doing. But I trust You will use this time of adversity to deepen my faith and strengthen my commitment to You.”
- Thank God for revealing your sin. True repentance is followed by genuine gratitude. God disciplines those He loves, and no one finds the process pleasant (Heb. 12:11). But when you understand suffering from God’s viewpoint, you can appreciate that He plans to use trials to accomplish good.
No matter what hardship sin has caused in your life, you don’t have to be defeated by it. If you're a child of God who desires for Him to be glorified through your life, adversity will not put you down for the count. There may be initial moments of shock and confusion. But the man or woman who views life and eternity from God’s perspective will emerge victorious through any trial.
Adapted from “How to Handle Adversity” (1989).