Love is Painful

WARNING: Brain bucket spillage ahead.

I would be lying if I did not struggle with the age old question that begs for divine intervention:

“If God exists and loves me, why is their pain and suffering?”

It is those two words in the same sentence that bring discomfort “love” and “pain”. Not only in the same sentence, but being used in an analogical way. I know the basic truth to the answer that every good Christian does, in that their is pain and suffering because we live in a world of imperfect people that hurt one another. However, this only avoids the deeper question that remains as the Hydrogen Peroxide to the already gaping wound in the human soul:

“Why would God create us then if he knew we were to fail? What is the purpose?”

There are another two words that do not seem to belong in the same sentence, “create” and “fail”. I read an article recently talking about how a Christian cannot believe in Evolution, and this article made good points but seemed to be to be poignantly bitter towards the idea of a Creator God. The point that article made at the end was how human biology and other creatures have obvious weaknesses in their design that prove that if there was a Creator God then he was either incompetent or malicious. Basically, this author believed that a Creator God would have failed in his creating us in a decent way. Honestly, this is an attitude that is easy to fall into and the belief that God made a mistake in making us.

Although this leads to a dead end in both directions, I thought of the third option which is that he is merciful. I began to think however, and totally see how someone could logically come to those conclusions. Why did he make his creation, humans and creatures alike, to be so fragile and weak. My immediate answer is that so we would realize our weakness and turn to God. Any look at the Bible would answer that question. “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 There still remains the question of why God would want us to want him, and why he would create us in a way where we constantly fall and are constantly reaching out to him?

God’s purpose of making the glory of God evident is accomplished through our being weak and fragile. This does make the thoughts pop up in my head such as, “How rude! How tormenting!” There is the question of why would someone put through those he loves through all of this torment? I will first turn to the first point which is about our FREE WILL as created beings.

As created beings, we can only do things that reflect our Creator. We can love others as Christ loved others, however we can never be pure love. God is love. This begs a questions of how can love be so tormenting. First of all, that is not the best word in this situation. I will use a more general word in its place: painful. Here is a reality check:

LOVE IS PAINFUL.

Why is it painful? Let us look at how the Bible uses love.

In the first and second commands to the Israelites, God communicates to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” and “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Already, it is obvious that there is pain involved in love, that pain is choosing to put aside of one’s desires to help another and that pain is choosing to redirect every thought, desire, passion and movement to be for love of God and not love of self. It is the selflessness involved in love that hurts.

Fast forward to the letters of Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 with the much used and overly quoted passage about love. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Once again we are seeing that love is the complete denial of one’s own stubborn selfish will and doing everything one can to love another person. Love is also painful because it chooses to set aside offense and chooses to forgive despite the inherent desire for making the other person feel the pain you experienced.

You may be thinking duh, I already know that love requires sacrifice, but what does that have to do exactly with what we are talking about?

Well, humans are definitely familiar with the pain involved in the giving and receiving of love. And if God is Love itself, pure and wonderful, how does he even take part in the pain that love causes? Here is where we forget, Christ was THE act of painful love. He was able to experience the pain of loving so much (such as the moment he looked at Jerusalem and wept bitterly because they were unaware of their sin that was separating them from the Heavenly Father’s love) to the point of death. His death was the act he did of painful love, so that we could now approach the Father blameless in Jesus’ name and know him and his love more fully. This fullness comes from knowing that God chose to endure pain and take on our sin, forgive our trespasses against him and love us anyways despite our being deserving.

Why did God give us the FREE WILL knowing that we would screw it up? It all comes down to the fact the love is a conscious CHOICE. If we were forced into perfect union and love with God, than as created beings it would not be love at all. It would be manipulation and infatuation, which are cheap and immature versions of love. God does not manipulate us to love him. Adam and Eve were in that union with God in the Garden of Eden, and were able to be intimate with him on a deeper level because of their innocence. Even so, how much greater did Adam and Eve know the love of God when they experienced his MERCY for the first time after sinning? This love was humbling and was even greater than imagined.

Here are the basic questions again and I will try to summarize:

Why does a loving God allow suffering?

Why did he create us weak and with free will to fail?

Love is not all butterflies and cornfields, it is a mixture of pain and redemption. Thus is life, God gave us choice so that we would know his love in a fuller way. We choose to sin and God knew that no matter how much we sinned, that his love is relentless and is evident throughout the Bible as working to redeem us back through Messiah.

I am going to stop now before my brain explodes. I have been reeling at this for a few hours.

“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.” Ephesians 3:18

-Bethany