Haggai 1 contains two verses that clearly state that the sinful lifestyles of the Jewish people resulted in punishment or a lack of blessing from God. Verse 6 says, “You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
Verse 9 adds, “‘You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.’” In both verses, judgment was the result of disobeying the Lord. Is this true in our lives today?
The biblical answer is that there are some times when our struggles are the result of our sin, but not always. In fact, persecution or suffering can sometimes be the product of serving God. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy from a Roman jail, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
In addition, suffering sometimes serves as part of God’s plan for our lives. God said regarding the apostle Paul, “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:16). James 1:2-4 teaches us to consider it joy when we encounter trials: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” The result of persevering through difficulties is spiritual maturity.
However, there are cases in which we may suffer due to our sin. God does discipline His wayward children (Hebrews 12:6). Acts 5 contains the account of Ananias and Sapphira, who died as the result of their deception, even though they were part of the church. Paul said that some of the Corinthians had been sick and a few had even died due to their sin when partaking of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:30).
The reasons we suffer are varied. It is unwise to jump to conclusions when the reason for a particular trouble is unclear. For example, sometimes people claim that a certain natural disaster is a judgment from God on a nation or a city due to its sinfulness. However, God does not tell us why natural disasters occur when and where they do. Rather than make such judgments, the appropriate Christian responses are to empathize with those affected (Romans 12:15) and to help meet the needs (Luke 10:25-37).