People often try to search for meaning and spiritual causes for problems and suffering. Some take the perspective that trials and suffering are a punishment of God, while others see suffering and tribulations as a proof of being on the right path, and a consequence of loyalty to god, because Jesus and many others were persecuted and even killed. Here a small compilation of bible scriptures that helped me explore the various perspectives on this interesting topic of trials, problems and suffering.
In Ecclesiastes 9:11 Solomon wrote:
Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the
battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the
intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance
happen to them all. (ESV)
One of the causes of problems and suffering is just plain bad luck. There is also the chapter in Psalm 73 where Asaph, speaks about the prosperity of the wicked. But later in the chapter in 73:17, when he discerned their end, he admits that he was senseless and ignorant (73:22), in envying their temporary prosperity, and he concluded that it is good to draw near to God as a refuge (73:28). So another, reason for suffering is that making the right choices pays of on the long term but is some times is not the most beneficial on the short term. As Asaph, noticed godless and selfish people might seem more prosperous on the short term.
Another cause of suffering was described in Ecclesiastes 8:9
I saw all this when I thought about the things that are done in this
world, a world where some people have power and others have to suffer
under them. (GNT)
It emphasizes that people suffer because of the actions of others.
Other reasons for suffering are indirect and direct influences of Satan:
We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of
the evil one. (1 John 5:19, ESV)
Other examples are the Story of Job (Job 1:8-22) and, the Satan tempting Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11).
Cause and effect. Also the natural consequences of our own actions can cause suffering. Galatians 6:7,8:
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this
he will also reap. 8For the one who sows to his own flesh will from
the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will
from the Spirit reap eternal life. (ESV)
Punishment of God
Some suffered because God has punished people in the past (Numbers 21: 6) because they kept repeating the same mistakes, violated his commandments and ignored warnings. (Numbers 20:5, 21:5, Jeremiah 17:1-5. However god generally gives warnings before he punishes (Amos 3:6,7), and he does not tempt with evil (James 1:13). When people told Jesus about a recent tragedy in Jerusalem, Jesus mentioned another tragic event and said:
Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do
you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived
in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all
likewise perish. (Luke 13:4 ESV)
Jesus not only told that those tragedies were just accidents and no punishments but he also emphasized that we are all sinners/offenders and that in the big picture all will perish if we do not repent our sins. Later he also told that his followers would face additional tribulation and suffering because of being Christians, and because a lack of love in people.
Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and
you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many
will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And
many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because
lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But
the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of
the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a
testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:9-14 ESV)
Knowing and believing the good news from the bible, gives joy, hope and faith. But it is no guarantee for an easy life free of suffering. Righteous people have suffered, and unrighteous people have suffered, because of different causes. More important that the specific cause for our suffering is our reaction to it. As the example in Luke 13:4 illustrates, no matter what the cause for problems or suffering is, it is good to repent mistakes we might have made in the past, even if they are not directly related to the situation. And if we or others are suffering problems either trough persecution because of being Christians, because of temptations by Satan (Job 1), because of natural consequences of actions of ourself or others, or maybe just because of blind bad luck, it is any way good to focus on prophecies from the bible that give hope for a better future.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no
more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore,
for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3 ESV)