While we are often our own worst enemies, bringing trouble upon ourselves due to something we do, some sin we commit, or a mistake we make; we also experience suffering because of other people.
When those we are closely connected with in some way sin, we suffer. They may sin directly against us, or they may sin in a way that affects us.
For example, the sin of a spouse affects us as it damages our relationships, and trust, and confidence in them. The sin of our children affects us. We grieve as we see them making bad decisions, going the way of the world, and sometimes rejecting all they have been brought up to believe. In some cases, the sins of children seem to becoming more complex, aren’t they? U-tube, myspace, school shootings, and beatings of other students… things our parents never had to deal with we find ourselves facing. Some of these bring untold amounts of grief and pain. Sometimes we suffer because of the sin of those who have some form of power over us; like an employer, an official of the government, or a policy maker.
Suffering for the sin of others is what bothers us the most it seems. We cry about injustice and how it is unfair, and our rights being violated. One of the most revealing pieces of home work I hand out in counseling has to do with the area of personal rights. Often when a woman completes this assignment she is amazed at what has been revealed about them! This is because so much of what we claim as rights is not ours biblically! We don’t see this because the world is constantly beating that drum of “rights” or we refuse to believe that we can be denied these things.
I often wonder if any one of us could stand in the face of the injustice our Christian predecessors suffered. Paul says in 2 Cor 11 he was beaten times without number- and he didn’t quit telling everyone about Jesus. If we were beaten just once could the world withstand our outcry? We get upset for being cut off on the freeway! And yet Paul did not stop telling people about Christ after the first beating, the second, third beating or what ever number he was on when he wrote this verse.
Not only can we suffer for the wrongs done by other people, we can and do suffer for doing what is right for other people! There are times in life when doing the right thing is going to cause us to suffer. The early Christians knew this for they suffered greatly for righteousness sake. Paul also suffered for righteousness (2 Cor. 11:23-28) as he was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, left for dead…it is amazing what he went through for the sake of the gospel! I suspect we only have a glimpse of the kind of suffering he endured.
One of the more difficult circumstances we deal with is when one person gets saved after marriage. Often there is a complete turnaround in the person who becomes a Christian and the unbeliever, who does not understand what is happening to their spouse, becomes angry and even hostile.
In know of cases where the newly converted person was formerly quite the partier and since coming to Christ have lost the desire to drink and party. The unbeliever does not get it, and simply wants their husband or wife back. They want them to stop all this “nonsense” and go back to how they used to be. This same scenario happens when one person is saved out of a religion such as Catholicism or a cult. When all attempts to “reason” with their spouse fall on deaf ears the usual course of action becomes insults and accusations of being a hypocrite and a holy roller. The more the converted refuses to respond in kind and seeks to respond biblically the worse the abuse can become.
Often these marriages are difficult and full of discord. I have had many women ask me if they should remain married to their unbelieving husbands since they persist in drinking and carousing and carrying on and want no part of the Christ life the wife is living. They don’t want to go to church, but will allow the wife to go. Usually they see some value in letting the kids go to Awana or Sunday school but not always. The husband wants his wife to join in, to be their partner again, to return to the former things they both enjoyed and the wife cannot do it in good conscience and the husband is angry and confused. The marriage as they knew it is gone, and there seems to be little left between them.
When I am asked, the only counsel I can give them is what Paul gave in 1 Cor 7:10 where Paul instructs them to remain married even if it is to an unbeliever, and in 1 Peter 3 men and women married to unbelievers are both instructed how they may “win” their unsaved spouse to Christ. But too often this takes years if it happens at all, and there is much suffering and adversity along the way.
There are certain kinds of suffering that go along with an unequally yoked marriage. There is little fellowship between the couple except on the superficial plane. The believing spouse keeps an aspect of their life separate from the unbeliever; there is no unity in such a marriage on the deepest level. This is true suffering.