When you’ve tried something and found it harmful, you can’t undo that experience. The damage is done, and you’ll end up suffering the consequences of your actions.
That is not a popular notion today in a world that is obsessed with finding a quick fix for every problem. Ours is a very shallow world, not prone to giving much thought to the link between problems and their underlying causes.
When you’ve tried something and found it harmful, you can’t undo that experience.
When it comes to problems, few can equal AIDS. It now rivals the most deadly epidemics of all time, taking almost as many victims as the dreaded waves of Black Death—the bubonic plague—that devastated whole continents in past centuries. It’s estimated to have cut down 19 million lives already, with another 35 million infected and given what amounts to a death sentence.
We can learn a great lesson from the AIDS plague. Many tragedies and much suffering can be traced to their source: our own actions and decisions. In a world of freedom of choice, some choices inevitably lead to bad results.
Actions yield consequences. We’ve heard the saying, “You reap what you sow,” but most don’t realize the source of that saying—the Bible (Galatians 6:6-7 Galatians 6:6-7  Let him that is taught in the word communicate to him that teaches in all good things.
 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.
American King James Version×; compare Job 4:8 Job 4:8Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.
American King James Version×).
Many centuries ago 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 and lay the kingdom waste, slaughtering its citizens and enslaving the survivors.
God revealed to Hosea what was coming—and why. “They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind,” He said (Hosea 8:7 Hosea 8:7For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it has no stalk; the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.
American King James Version×). “You have plowed wickedness; you have reaped iniquity. You have eaten the fruit of lies” (Hosea 10:13 Hosea 10:13You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped iniquity; you have eaten the fruit of lies: because you did trust in your way, in the multitude of your mighty men.
American King James Version×). God warned them that they were simply reaping what they had sown. It was inevitable that the people’s sins would catch up with them.
When we look for the major causes of suffering, we often need look no further than ourselves.
When thousands die in great disasters—epidemics, famines, hurricanes, floods—many blame God. Yet, as God told the ancient Israelites, He would bless them with health, favorable weather and abundant crops only if they obeyed Him (Leviticus 26:3-12 Leviticus 26:3-12  If you walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them;
 Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.
 And your threshing shall reach to the vintage, and the vintage shall reach to the sowing time: and you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.
 And I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land.
 And you shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword.
 And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.
 For I will have respect to you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you.
 And you shall eat old store, and bring forth the old because of the new.
 And I set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you.
 And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people.
American King James Version×; Deuteronomy 28:1-14 Deuteronomy 28:1-14  And it shall come to pass, if you shall listen diligently to the voice of the LORD your God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command you this day, that the LORD your God will set you on high above all nations of the earth:  And all these blessings shall come on you, and overtake you, if you shall listen to the voice of the LORD your God.  Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field.  Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, and the fruit of your ground, and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your cows, and the flocks of your sheep.  Blessed shall be your basket and your store.  Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.  The LORD shall cause your enemies that rise up against you to be smitten before your face: they shall come out against you one way, and flee before you seven ways.  The LORD shall command the blessing on you in your storehouses, and in all that you set your hand to; and he shall bless you in the land which the LORD your God gives you.  The LORD shall establish you an holy people to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and walk in his ways.  And all people of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD; and they shall be afraid of you.  And the LORD shall make you plenteous in goods, in the fruit of your body, and in the fruit of your cattle, and in the fruit of your ground, in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers to give you.  The LORD shall open to you his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain to your land in his season, and to bless all the work of your hand: and you shall lend to many nations, and you shall not borrow.  And the LORD shall make you the head, and not the tail; and you shall be above only, and you shall not be beneath; if that you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day, to observe and to do them:  And you shall not go aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.
American King James Version×).
Most chose not to obey. That decision affected not only their 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 we trace the circumstances back to their cause. Proverbs 22:3 Proverbs 22:3A prudent man foresees the evil, and hides himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.
American King James Version×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.
God has a better way: Learn from the experiences of others. He tells us many of the events described in the Bible were recorded as examples for us (1 Corinthians 10:11 1 Corinthians 10:11Now all these things happened to them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the world are come.
American King James Version×), so we can learn the lessons without the painful consequences.
God’s laws—which many dismiss as hopelessly out of date or infringements on their personal freedom—define a path of life that will help us avoid pain and suffering. He gave those laws “that it might be well” with those who keep them (Deuteronomy 5:16 Deuteronomy 5:16Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you; that your days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with you, in the land which the LORD your God gives you.
American King James Version×, 29, 33; 6:3, 18). God told ancient Israel that if they would obey Him, neighboring nations would admire them for their wisdom and understanding and want to follow their example (Deuteronomy 4:5-8 Deuteronomy 4:5-8  Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do so in the land where you go to possess it.  Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.  For what nation is there so great, who has God so near to them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call on him for?  And what nation is there so great, that has statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?
American King James Version×).
We all have a choice. We can obey our Creator and it will “be well” with us, or we can disobey and, as is pointed out in several articles in this issue, reap the sad consequences.
Either way, we reap what we sow.