I was reading C.S. Lewis today and his masterful work, "The problem of Pain." Now, I am no C.S. Lewis, but reading it really touched me. And what he was talking about was the love of God; and how this love presupposes our suffering.
Let me explain. There are images used in the Bible about God's love towards us. We have Him as the potter and we as the clay [Isaiah 29:16]. We have Him as the Shepherd and we as the sheep [John 10:11]. We have Him as the Father and us as the child [Luke 15]. We also have Him as the groom and us as the bride [Revelation 21]. Now, I want to take these four images and talk about them in relation to our suffering.
Most Christians, when they talk about the love of God, want not real, exacting love. They want a disinterested grandpa who simply wants the children, "to be happy in what they are doing." But that is not real love. Real love desires the best for the object of their love. For example, if a potter is approached by a boy that he has only a cursory relationship with, and that boy wants the potter to make a pot, the potter may oblige the boy. Yet, it will most probably not be his best work. The boy is easily pleased with a simple pot - and the potter will make it. He will make the pot, give the boy the pot, and the boy will go away happy. All is well.
Yet, if the potter wants to produce his best work, he will painstakingly make the pot. Those things that are not right in the creation of the pot will be put right. The pot will be intricate. The pot will be special. The potter will sweat in order to create it correct. All those that see his prized pot will marvel at the beauty of it all.
Yet, if the pot were sentient, I wonder what the pot would say during the molding process. At what point would the pot say, "ok...that's enough! That's good enough already!" The pot, during the process, may even question the goodness of the potter and his exacting nature.
The same might go with a puppy. [Many of our readers do not own sheep - so the puppy illustration is one that C.S. Lewis used and I like.] If the puppy had an adult human mind, the puppy may be confused about the goodness of the master. He does not let the puppy pee where it wants. He does not let the puppy play and, "nip" at the children. He may even cage the puppy from time to time. He will give the puppy shots and vet visits. But the master will also play with the puppy. [The fact that puppies do not have adult human minds is why they are so happy no matter what we do :)] Yet, the old, wise dog, who lives with the master and has seen his contemporary wild dogs die off young knows that the hard work the master put in in the beginning was worth it.
So also a son. We have all met adult children. [Those who numerically have reached adulthood and yet still often act and behave as children.] We have seen how unattractive they are in character. What good Father would want such a thing? No good father. This is why the good father both loves, and corrects and disciplines, his child.
The husband is often most critical with his wife. This is not good. Yet, I do believe I know the motivation from a Christian husband. He loves his wife more than any other girl. The petty selfishness or irritations that he may see in other women he overlooks because he cares less for them - but from his wife he wants her to be the most beautiful, most well-spoken woman there is.
In a sinful world suffering is necessary. I cannot imagine a sinful world and a loving God without it. We must be refined.
What gives me all the hope in the world is we have a suffering God - who went through it all with us - and for us. He lived on this earth. He died our sinners' death. He rose again to bring us to Him. Refine me Lord. Amen.