There are many who think Christianity to be nothing more than a man-made system conceived to help people cope with life.
These posit that God is for the weak. That he is just an imaginary figment devised to help the poor and downtrodden get through life.
Perhaps, they might reason, that without suffering no one would even care about God. In such a scenario people wouldn’t want him because they wouldn’t need him. “In the absence of suffering, would we still want or need God? Or is God just for the weak, poor, and hurting?”
The heart of this thinking is a form of utopian humanism, or even transhumanism, by which man erroneously thinks he can become his own god.
Regardless, it brings up an interesting dilemma; in the absence of suffering, would we still want or need God? Or is God just a “concept” for the weak, poor, and hurting?
While this sounds like a profound argument against God, it is actually faulty, and uninformed. As we will see, it is actually a profound argument for God.
Here’s the problem. If we did not suffer, there would be no sin. Suffering, in all its varied forms, is the result of sin. It’s a symptom of man’s insurrection against God in the Garden of Eden. (Rom. 5:12)
If there were no suffering, we’d still be Eden. If that were the case, we wouldn’t want God because we wouldn’t have even the slightest conception of loneliness, pain, misery, suffering, death or any sin.“Suffering, in all its varied forms, is the result of sin.”
Want implies a realization that something is missing. And on this side of heaven, God is naturally missing in our lives. We are born enemies of God.
In Eden man was in a state of perfect fellowship with his creator, he didn’t want or need anything because he already had all that he could ever need. He had total fellowship and harmony with God.
Before sin, God saw everything and it was very good. (Gen. 1:31) God was (and still is) all sufficient. (Gen. 17:1) Man and woman were not ashamed. (Gen. 2:25) There was no concept of want or sin, or want because of sin.
Adam and Eve also didn’t need anything in the sense that all was under God’s complete care and provision. Need expressed as a feeling to fill a void was not present.
In fact, the first instance we see of desire was want for the forbidden fruit through the tempting by the serpent.
Eve saw it as “a tree to be desired.” (Gen. 3:6) Now, she and Adam had a way of escape. They also had no concept of sin at that juncture, but the serpent made sin attractive and she and Adam did not rely fully on what God had told them.
The rest is literally history. Man disobeyed God, and sin and death entered the universe. Suffering was sadly here to stay. Something was now missing, and that something was fellowship with God.“Sin always points to God’s existence, not away from it.”
When people ask if things were perfect would we even want or need God, what they are really demonstrating is that they do not understand that wanting God comes from a realization of our sin nature and need of a savior.
It is impossible to have a perfect universe or for us to be perfect, righteous or holy with God making us so. (Is. 53:4-5) This is why salvation is called being “born again” spiritually. Even Christians, those who accept Jesus’ gift of salvation, will not be fully perfected until heaven.
What is more, there are plenty of people in pain today who do not want or believe they even need God. They do not want to concede to admitting their need.
Ultimately, we need him to overcome our sin. Only he can do that. As Romans 5:21 states, “That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Moreover, Jesus is the only one who “taketh away the sin of the world.” (Jn. 1:29) Notice the present tense, “taketh.” He is still doing that.
Thankfully, God will come again and recreate heaven and earth where there will be no more sin or devil. (Rev. 21:4)
We don’t want or need God because we suffer. We want and need God because we’re all broken sinners.
Sin always points to God’s existence, not away from it.
Original sin infects us all, may we overcome it through God’s saving grace. Amen.
Notre Dame Seen from the Quai de la Tournelle, c. 1897/1902. Jean-François Raffaëlli (French, 1850-1924). Oil on fabric. The Cleveland Museum of Art. Gift of Mrs. Myron E. Merry 1953.649
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