Cause and Effect: An Often-Overlooked Principle

Many tragedies and much suffering can be traced to their source: our own all-too-human actions and decisions.

Many tragedies and much suffering can be traced to their source: our own all-too-human actions and decisions. In a world of freedom of choice, some choices inevitably lead to bad results.

Actions yield consequences. We know we reap what we sow, but we don't realize the source of that saying—the Bible (Galatians 6:6-7). Thousands of years ago one of the friends of Job—no stranger to suffering-observed that "those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same" (Job 4:8).

Centuries later the Hebrew prophet Hosea looked at the sad spiritual condition of the kingdom of Israel. Idolatry, violence and immorality were commonplace (Hosea 2, 4). Within a few years the mighty Assyrian Empire would sweep in from the east and lay the kingdom waste, slaughtering thousands of its inhabitants and enslaving Israel's survivors. God revealed to Hosea what was coming and why. "They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind" (Hosea 8:7). "You have plowed wickedness; you have reaped iniquity. You have eaten the fruit of lies . . ." (Hosea 10:13). It was inevitable that the people's sins would catch up with them.

When thousands die in natural disasters—hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes and droughts—people blame God. Yet, as God told the ancient Israelites, He would bless them with favorable weather only if they obeyed Him (Leviticus 26:3-4; Deuteronomy 28:12). Most chose not to obey. That decision affected not only their own lives but the lives of their children, who fell victim to their parents' foolish choices. The innocent often suffer for the sins of others. That is one of the tragic consequences of wrong choices.

When we analyze suffering, we can learn a great deal if only we will trace the circumstances back to their cause. Proverbs 22:3 warns us to consider the long-term consequences of our choices: "A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished."

When we look for the major causes of suffering, we often need look no further than ourselves. In one way or another sin is the underlying cause of most suffering.




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