From a recent post on Reknew:
1. Nowhere is this explanation of suffering put forth as a general explanation for the problem of evil in Scripture. Indeed, the only time an explicit connection is made between divine punishment and evil in general is to deny that such a connection can be made. For example, the psalmist repeatedly complains that suffering and blessing are meted out to the righteous and the unrighteous arbitrarily. Jesus never suggests that any of the multitude of afflicted or demonized people he ministered to were being disciplined or punished. Rather, he suggests that such afflictions or demonizations were the direct or indirect result of Satan being the “ruler” of this world. (Jn 12:31). Though every person Jesus ministered to was a sinner, he uniformly treated them as casualties of war.
2. There is a world of difference between encouraging Christians facing persecution to see God refining their faith in the process (Heb 12:4-11) and encouraging a mother of a stillborn child to see this as God’s way of teaching her a lesson. While we certainly must believe that God is always working to bring good out of evil (Rom 8:28), in most circumstances it is presumptuous to suggest that God specifically allows or brings about suffering in order to discipline a person. Apart from divine revelation, how could we possibly know this? But this presumption morphs to cruel absurdity when we are speaking of horrors like a man mourning his murdered wife or a mother grieving over her stillborn child.
3. Even in the Old Testament when God is said to discipline individuals or nations with hardship, it is never presented as a part of God’s eternal plan. Instead, it’s depicted as a necessary response to sinful choices people were making. This is God’s “tough love.” It grieves God to do such things. He “does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone (Lam 3:33), though in response to sin he sometimes has.