Friday, November 19, 2010

Why is there pain?

Why must the fallen world be so painful? The answer 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."


Unknown said...

Let me see if I understand. The reason some babies are born with defects and disabilities, the reason why people suffer and die in natural disasters, the reason people are starving to death all around the world and in our own towns and cities is... God wants to remind us of how horrible not obeying him is? He's causing the pain, suffering and deaths of millions of innocent people around the world just to teach us a lesson? A lesson to be obedient to him above all else? These are the actions of our wise, loving, and just Father? Sounds more like a megalomaniacal dictator to me.
What if I, as a father, acted more like God? I throw a rock at a little girl passing by and hit her in the head. I turn to my own daughter and say "See, honey, that's how ugly not obeying me is." We have a word for that. Evil. Not in the religious sense, but in the "no one in their right mind would condone, much less praise, such behavior" sense.

Jared Totten said...

Luke 13:1-5
Romans 8:22-25

It is far too simplistic to say it is the only reason. Or even the main reason. Sin is the main reason. Fallenness is the main reason. High treason against the God of the universe is the main reason. And we (none of us) see it that way. And without this sort of tension that "things shouldn't be this way", none of us would see it that way at all.

In the same sense, God is not the cause of pain, suffering and death. Sin and rebellion is.

Until we see our sin as God sees it, until we understand its depth and its ramifications, we will not understand the depths of the justice and the mercy of God in how he deals with us.

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:6-8