Many of us would like to avoid pain. We actually actively try to avoid it. We also will occasionally hope for, pray for, or wish for ourselves and others to not have to go through pain. We need the pain though, we have to experience the pain in order to understand what God does for us.
I am a programmer, and often I find myself foreseeing potential user frustrations and fixing them before they have the opportunity to feel the pain from that part of my application. This sounds like a good thing right? One might say that sounds like a good programmer. What if I told you that there are some reasons why this is not a good thing? What if I told you that the same situation applies to our relationship with God?
When I fix a problem in my application before the user can experience it, these things happen.
- The work I do doesn’t matter to the users. They don’t know why it should matter, because they don’t know what I’ve done for them.
- I don’t get credit for the good work I’ve done. Without experiencing the pain, they can’t understand why what I did was good for them. They also can’t tell others about the good I have done.
- If I explained to them what I’ve done, they’d understand that I’ve completed a task, but they wouldn’t understand the significance.
When I am programming, I am God of that universe. I create the laws around how the application functions and I create all of the different pieces that make up the universe. Our representation in that universe would be the users of the application. The users encounter the laws they must follow and experience the misfortune of software bugs and unintended usability hardships. Users can even find ways to work around the laws of the application to provide themselves a benefit of some kind. They can even decide not to follow the laws of the application and turn to a different application.
Why Can’t God Just Fix Everything?
He could definitely fix everything. But like my situation with my programs, no one would know he was doing anything at all. No one would talk about how great he is if they didn’t experience what life was like without him. Take for example the scenario Jesus used with two men who borrowed money and were forgiven. If God did not allow the men to be in debt, they wouldn’t love him when that debt is forgiven.
God allows us to sin, with free will to choose him or sin, so that when we recognize our mistake and ask for forgiveness we will love him more when he forgives us. Our sins impact the world, and those impacts are always negative to varying degrees. It causes a lot of the pain we experience. Without it, we couldn’t love God, because we couldn’t appreciate anything he did for us. We have to experience the pain so we can appreciate life with God.
38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[c] and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
For the Glory of God!
There are many opinions of what God’s glory means. Most of the opinions make God sound like the God’s of other religions. It makes it sound like God is self-serving and consumed by the need to be worshiped. I believe God is great and deserves praise and worship, but to believe God’s glory is only that is short-sighted and a bit arrogant on our part.
God’s glory is his reputation. His glory is about him, and how we perceive him. God’s glory is about how he keeps every promise, what he says will happen does happen, and what we tell others about him. God’s glory is about his great acts of mercy and love.
We have to experience the pain of this world so we can express God’s glory to others. We have to understand what God has done in our own lives to bring us out of the pain. After we experience this, we can explain it to others and build up God’s reputation with others.
Talking About God’s Good Works is an Introduction
Talking about what God has done in our lives is like introducing someone you are with to a stranger. You are providing the stranger with something to think about. After that, it is up to them to build that relationship with each other. The obvious difference being the person you introduced the stranger to loves them and wants them to love him back. God doesn’t want a single person to turn away from him, so with relentless perseverance he will pursue that relationship with the stranger. Unfortunately relationships require both parties to want one.
In order for that relationship to blossom, they need the introduction, but then they have to experience the pain so that trust can be built between them and God. They have to experience the pain so they can forgive others as he forgives them. This is how love starts to be put into action. When we understand the magnitude of what God has done for us, we want to do whatever we can to repay our debt. We can explain to people what God has done for us, but they’ll have to experience his love for themselves. If you introduce them to God, you give them the chance to have that relationship.
We have to stop trying to stop people from experiencing this love and forgiveness, and just introduce them to God. They have to experience the pain.
3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.