Question:

Man’s creation has recently come up in my mind.  I do not understand it exactly. My confusion comes up with the idea of love. I get that God is relational and he made us to be that way also. However, I feel confused about why he would let us endure so much pain here. It looks like God created us imperfectly on purpose so that we would have free will and consider choosing something else. He gave us a “thorn in our flesh” so that we would need to rely on him and there would be some missing piece in us that is filled with him. But, he also created the law which says what sin is. Also, he gave us the desire to sin in the first place. The law seems to deny the desires that he gave us, which he then punishes us for giving in to.  I know the Bible says everything he created was good but everything he created also had the potential to be bad and almost wanted to be bad.  It just seems weird that as Christians, we praise God for blessing us and giving us grace when he made us imperfect and he made us want the things that he has labeled “sin”. We praise him for saving us when there was no other option as soon as he created us. He had to save us if he was going to make something imperfect and give it the option of even choosing him because their “desires” which would become “sin” would require salvation. So what are we praising? Are we praising the fact that he was willing to sacrifice something he loved for something he loved that required a sacrifice because he created it that way?

Answer:

Thanks for having the courage to ask this question.  I will have to agree that the truth, as I see it, and as God describes it in the Bible is a bit hard to grasp and seems to defy logic to some extent.  As Paul tell us in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, the message of the cross is “foolishness” to those who think they are wise.  The Greeks look for a message which is logical, yet the message of the cross defies human logic. 1 Cor 1:25 “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”  v. 20 “Where is the philosopher of this age… has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”

Why would God let us endure such pain?  Why would he allow us to suffer?  You have suffered more than most at your young age, so naturally you are driven to ask this question. The answer is that he wants to love us and he wants us to love him.  Love hurts, and it hurts God even more than it hurts you and me.  If, through suffering, we can come to know God, then this is a good thing.  Does it feel good at the time?  Obviously not.

But consider the alternative.  Is this better?  Alternative #1.  We do not exist at all.  Not so good.   Alternative #2  We exist, but are mere animals, with no relational ability–without the image of God and the ability to choose.  Also not so good.   Alternative #3  We exist and we are made in the image of God, which means that we are free individuals with the ability to choose to love or to hate.  This is the best of the three, and the best I can tell, there are no clear alternatives beyond this.

Parents understand this on a visceral level.  Giving birth is no picnic.  Raising kids is hard work, then they become teenagers and give us an even harder time (sorry, but this is the truth 😊).  Then we risk them leaving us and causing us all great heartbreak and sense of loss.  Why do we do this?  Because we, like God, want to give and to receive love.  Doing this with people not related to us is fulfilling, but bringing people into existence who otherwise would not exist at all, and offering them our love, but also our willingness to set them free is the greatest fulfillment of all.

This is God, and it is human parents.   Does this include suffering?  Yes, it does.   Is it worth it?  You decide, but I say yes.   Would we prefer it to not include suffering?  Yes, but there is no way to do this.  Choice implies the possibility of bad choices, and bad choices cause suffering.  Plus, there is the fact that these bodies were not intended to be eternal, so there is the suffering of sickness and dying, but that is because God has a greater plan for us.

Does this cause us to feel confused at times?  Yes!

About the law and sin, here I think you are a bit confused, in my opinion.  Let me share my thinking.  You imply that the desires God gave us are evil, but I disagree.  I believe that all the desires he gave us are good, but our choices make what was good into something evil.  We desire love, but love corrupted is jealousy.  Love is good, but jealousy generally is sinful.  We desire intimacy, and God gives us a wonderful way to express intimacy between a husband and wife.  Yet, we corrupt this good thing and turn it to evil.  God gives us our amazing senses as a source of pleasure that he wants us to have, and which is good, but we choose to indulge in sensuality. Food tastes good, and thanks to God for that, but we resort to gluttony and turn what was good into something harmful to us and sinful.  ALL of these desires that God has given us are good.  They give us a kind of pleasure that God wants us to have, or in some cases they keep us alive.  Sin is not an evil desire given to us by God, but it is a good desire turned to evil by our choice to rebel against God.

The Law does not deny the desires he gave us, but it denies the harmful uses of those desires which are actually good, not evil in and of themselves. It does have the potential for evil, but this is the natural state in a reality which includes choice.  Again, consider your alternatives.  I hope this makes sense.

If God gives us a “thorn in the flesh” he does so because we are imperfect, fallen creatures.  If he indulged our every desire it would be a total, utter disaster.  You have not lived as long as I have, but I am sure you understand what would result if God did not discipline us, including at times allowing a thorn in our flesh to enter our lives.   I cannot prove that all such thorns are good for us, but I know from experience that some are.  Is this all hard to work out?  Is it sometimes hard to know if a thorn is from God or the result of someone else sinning?  Yes.  But remember that all of this is because God loves us and because he gives us real choices–not just hollow ones.  This is what love does.

Let me talk about this last part:

We praise him for saving us when there was no other option as soon as he created us. He had to save us if he was going to make something imperfect and give it the option of even choosing him because their “desires” which would become “sin” would require salvation. So what are we praising? Are we praising the fact that he was willing to sacrifice something he loved for something he loved that required a sacrifice because he created it that way?

I am not sure that God “had to save us,” but it is his nature.  It is the nature of God, as it is the nature of a good parent, to do this sort of thing.   Does the parent have to sacrifice for their children?  Well…   I will have to admit that this last section seems like a real quandary.  In this sense, God is a mystery. I do not think we can analyze this using human logic.  It is about love, not logic.  It requires faith to grasp it, but faith is not necessarily logical.  It is a bit of a leap in the dark.   However, it is nor really a leap into total darkness.  It is a leap into the lap of a God who has shown again and again that he really does love us and that he really does have what is best for us in mind.  “This is love, not that we loved him, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”   Honestly, this is a mystery, but it is true.

I really hope I am helping and not hurting here.

John Oakes

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