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Redeemer Church
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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Why is there pain?

This question grows out of one of my previous posts entitled The Victims of Tyranny and Tragedy. The question arises: why must the fallen world be so painful? The answer is similar to my previous blog in that it is rooted in the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man (neither of which do we grasp the depth and severity of). However, these are only two of the factors and a third may surprise you. One of the main reasons this world is so painful is because of God's great love and compassion for us.

I know, this sounds ridiculous and contradictory but let me explain. As children, we learn what our bodies were not made for through pain (our hands were not made for the stove, etc.). In a similar way, God is trying to teach us as spiritual children that we were not made for this world. More precisely, we were not made primarily for any desire in this world but rather were made to desire God above all else.

This, in fact, is how the whole pain thing started. In the garden, man and woman rejected God as their supreme desire and chose the desire for autonomy and freedom from God (in the form of choosing the forbidden fruit) instead. Through this act, not only did man sin and become fallen, but the world was subjected to bondage to corruption and futility. Because of this, creation has not functioned in the perfect harmony that it was intended for.

Why? Why did God do this to the world? Why so many children with heart-wrenching disabilities? Why natural disasters that take so many lives? Why famines and diseases? As John Piper puts it, God put the world under a curse so that the physical horror we see around us would become a vivid picture of how horrible sin is. In other words, natural evil is a signpost to the unspeakable wickedness of moral evil. God allowed the disorder of the natural world to match the disorder of the moral and spiritual world. Diseases and deformities are God's portraits of what sin is like in the spiritual realm and that is true even though some of the most Godly people bear the most horrible deformities.

Yet we don't feel it! In our present, fallen condition our hearts are so numb and so blinded we seldom feel the gravity of our sin. Almost no one feels the abhorrence that sin is or feels repulsed or nauseated at how they scorn the glory of God. We should feel as deeply about sin as we do about a friend's disability. We should feel as intense and bad about our immorality as we do about starvation. O, that we could feel how offensive and repugnant and abominable it is to prefer anything to your Maker! To plagiarize John Piper once more, the natural world is shot through with horrors that aim to wake us up from the dream world of thinking demeaning God is no big deal.

Thus, if there were not the pain that there now is, it would be far too easy to forget God and how we have spurned Him. It would be far too easy to prefer all the temporary pleasures that this world offers rather than prefer the eternal joy in Christ. To quote C.S. Lewis, "We are half-hearted creatures like an ignorant child wants to go making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the beach. We are far too easily pleased."


lovewillbringustogether said...

Jared,Hi :-0

Please don't take offense at what follows because i don't even know you so how can i wish to offend you or your beliefs - am not even sure what they are yet.

I do assume though that if you post something and do not make it clear that you are opposing what is written you must in some way agree with what you post - fair enough?

I know it is a mistake to narrow things down beyond where the context is still understandable but This post comes across as being based in a belief tthat God soemhow wants to punish us or created us and earth so as to suffer and turn to Him - so our spirit would no longer challenge him.

I can't help but think that is a sad limiting view of 'life'.

I DO believe in 'God' but my God is ALL, infinite, Universal and more, beyond anything man can comfortably 'fit' inside of his own self or comprehension.

This post just mainly posts a pretty small negative view of God in my view. Maybe you did not intend this? Maybe you did?

I think the Earth was made so as to give the countless individual 'sprirts'/forms of God a place that was far enough 'away' from all that He is (while still being an intimate part of it) so that we as individuals could experience ALL that is in physical form and allow us a way to work on ourselves so we become
much 'wiser', more Full of Wisdom and less full of our'selves'.

The pain, sorrow, disater, dis-ease stuff comes about as a logical consequence of the physical world/sensorial human world of pleasure and pain (can't have one without the other 'here' huh?). We get to experience it ALL- here - on Earth (as it is in heaven??)

God is not punishing us - He's loving Us! - enough to watch us suffer as we try to figure out just WHO we all are. And as we try, so badly it seems, to 'get along' and play 'nice' here in playland.

It's all just part of the big game/picture really.

Could you ever see it my way? :-)

Jared said...

Thanks for the comment and the interest. I will give some brief answers to the fair questions you've raised. If you would like to have a more extensive dialogue on this, feel free to e-mail me.

First, this was not meant to be an exhaustive answer to the reason for pain, only to highlight a seldom-considered aspect of it. Also, I don't consider mine to be a small, negative view of God. In fact, I consider it a very positive view of God by showing how small and negative man is without God.

I do feel you've misunderstood my point. In fact, I hold to the opposite of your characterization of my point. God does NOT want to punish us, He wants to be in a relationship with us. God does NOT want to make us suffer, He wants us to experience the greatest joy. God wanted us to freely love Him, so He had to give us freedom of choice. With that freedom, however, we knowingly chose (and still choose) not to do so. Thus we have lost that relationship, that greatest joy, and God is trying to bring us back.

You said yourself (and I agree) God is not punishing us, He is loving us. However, this love comes at times in the form of pain. Pain, not as an end to itself, but used to make us discontent with this world and it's fleeting joys and bring us back to Him.

Let me illustrate: as a child, my parents would discipline me when I would do something bad. Why? Because they understood the world I was in and they knew I would be happier in the end without indulging such a vice. They knew I was too immature to understand the consequences of the poor choices I made, so they had to bring immediate consequences to correct me. Is this a sad, limiting view of life? Is this a small, negative view of my parents? No. Rather, I would question their love for me if they never disciplined me.

On a similar but much larger scale, God does the same for us. God can use pain to rid us of the dangerous vice of thinking this world can fully satisfy our hearts and souls. We are forever too immature to understand the full implications of our sinful lifestyles and our separation from God.

As you said, God is loving us, not to cause us to find out who we are but to cause us to find out who He is. Pain exists not so that we find our way back to our true selves, but so that we find our way back to the One True God.

So pain exists to cause us to be dissatisfied with this world and look for and find God. And the God/man Jesus exists so that we can become right with God when we find Him. In Jesus the bridge has been crossed, the bridge over the gap of pain, sin, and separation. Only through Jesus has a payment been made for our sin. Only through Him can we find a solution to our separation and an end to our pain.

lovewilllbringustogether said...

Misunderstandings over the words others write to us are not at all uncomon, nor in those we read ourselves.

Thank you for clarifying with me your True perceptions - they are in TOTAL accord with my own. Why i could not see this in the words you initially wrote in this post is worth my further consideration.

Hope to enjoy more of your blog - feel free to do likewise,

Pain serves as a way of making us turn away from this world and back towards Him... Hmmm, Pondering :-)

How far do we as individuals need ot go before we 'turn back' or are we on one Great 'Narrow' Circle... hmmmm....