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A Biblical view of suffering

By Scott Tibbs, July 28, 2009

Earlier this month, North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Il, the leader of the nation with one of the world's worst human rights records, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Kim's regime has been responsible for a huge number of murders, "disappearances" and various human rights abuses. On top of that, a famine caused by Kim's inept state-run economy resulted in a death total some estimate to be as high as three million people. Kim Jong Il's government senselessly rejected further desperately needed food aid from the United States in March. (See The Guardian and MSNBC.)

Does Kim Jong Il deserve compassion as he approaches the end of his wretched life? Is it wrong or "un-Christian" to ridicule him as he approaches death? The Bible itself mocks one of Israel's enemies, King Eglon of the Moabites, for being morbidly obese. (See Judges 3:15-22.) Jesus was very harsh on a number of occasions, including violently driving merchants out of His Father's temple with a whip and condemning them for turning the temple into a den of thieves. (See John 2:14-17.)

Could Kim Jong Il's cancer could be a judgment from God after all he has done to his people? Scripture is very clear that earthly suffering and death is quite often a punishment for sin. (This is certainly not always the case, as we can see in the book of Job.) After all, God struck down King Herod for blasphemy. (See Acts 12:21-23.) Ananias and Sapphira are two other examples, struck down by God for lying to the Holy Spirit. (See Acts 5:1-11.) The Bible is filled with examples of people who were judged directly and indirectly by God for their wickedness. Not everyone who gets sick is sick because of judgment, but with a mass murderer and tyrant it is a pretty safe bet.

The important thing for Christians is that we do not deny the sovereignty of God in earthly matters and that we do not deny Scripture's very clear lessons about how God deals with us on earth (not just in eternity) based on our wickedness or righteousness. God also deals with wickedness on a corporate level, as he did many times in disciplining the nation of Israel when they went whoring after other gods. (We also must avoid going too far and falling into the wicked heresy of the health and wealth gospel.)