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HOW DOES GOD DEFINE GOOD?
It’s no use playing games of denial. A lot of what God calls good seems awful to us, so let’s be honest about it. And by the way, who was it that taught us how to define good and bad in the first place? God did. It is God who teaches us to view suffering as a negative thing. It is God who teaches us to be compassionate instead of amused when we see another human being hurting. It is God who teaches us that it’s wrong to sing and dance around those who are mourning. It is God who teaches us that intentionally inflicting pain on others is a terrible thing…and then He goes right on to inflict all kinds of pain on us. Hm.
While God has given us a general list of good and bad behaviors, He also teaches us that examining mere actions isn’t enough. To make an accurate assessment of something, we must examine motivation. In general, the action of murder is labeled as bad. But there are other times when murder is a good thing. When a cop shoots the man who is firing bullets at another policeman, that is a good thing. When a convicted murderer is exterminated for his crime in some humane way, that’s a good thing. When a doctor must kill a baby in order to save the life of the woman giving birth to him, that is a good thing. Murder has its place, and even bad actions can become good depending on motivation.
The reason God defines His often brutal treatment of us as good is because of His motivations. God designed humans to be creatures who are constantly changing. We can either change in good ways or bad ways. God says that the things He puts us through are the things that we need Him to put us through in order to make us change in good ways. God says that the choices He makes for us are all driven by a desire to see us experience the best existence possible—one in which we feel deeply satisfied, joyful, and complete due to our rich soul communion with Him.
WHY DOES GOD TAKE SO LONG TO FINISH PERFECTING US?
God will never finish perfecting us. He designed us to be creatures who are constantly changing. Heaven is not a place where we all go to eternally stagnate. In Heaven we will continue to grow and change. Because God has no interest in making us into automatons, we will continue to have choice in Heaven. We are not going to stripped of free will when we die, instead we will continue to be creatures who make continuous choices about how we will respond to our Creators.
COULDN’T GOD HAVE COME UP WITH A BETTER PROGRAM?
This is a common question, yet it is based on faulty assumptions. If you want to make a cake, you use a recipe for a cake, not a recipe for cookies. But when they’re frustrated with God’s cake making process, Christians whip out the reality of God’s infinite capabilities and essentially ask, “Couldn’t God have reached the same end goal using an entirely different method?” In other words, couldn’t God make a cake by using a cookie recipe? Logically, we know that He could, thus we decide that God is a pill for choosing to put us through so much pain and anguish to get us to a destination that He could have gotten us to by some better way. It’s like making someone walk across America instead of letting them fly. What’s the point? By preventing someone from using the far more pleasant mode of travel, you just inflict a bunch of unnecessary hardship on them. This is often how we view our lives on earth: as unnecessary hardships that will eventually land us in a blissful Paradise that we could have reached without all the pain and strife. There are two things wrong with this kind of thinking. First, we are viewing a happy life in Heaven as the end goal. But Heaven is not the end goal to God. When God kills you and transfers your soul to Heaven, He’s merely changing the context in which you exist. He’s not rolling the credits, He’s not saying, “That’s a wrap! You’ve arrived!” We are designed by God to live FOREVER, and as long as we are alive, we are going to be in a constant state of change.
The second way we go wrong in our thinking is by misunderstanding the goal. God is not trying to get us to reach a certain destination. The journey is the point to Him. How you are relating to God RIGHT NOW is just as important to Him as how you will be relating to Him 10,000 years from now in Heaven. Your decisions TODAY are determining what your tomorrow will be like. The decisions you make tomorrow effect the next day, and so on. It’s like adding continuous links to an eternal chain, and the link forming process is what is fascinating to God. It is our continuous evolution that He is focused on, not getting us to some particular point. Perhaps today the theme of your life is learning deeper submission. While the Holy Spirit has that goal on the board, it becomes the exciting goal that you look forward to reaching. But as soon as that goal is reached, the Holy Spirit comes up with a new one. You will never finish growing closer to God, and to Him, this is the most thrilling aspect of your existence.
When you first meet your future spouse, the most exciting part is the dating period, when everything is new. You’re both venturing into the unknown: discovering new things about each other and enjoying the rush of exciting revelations. Fifty years down the line, you feel like you know your spouse inside and out. If your marriage is still strong and healthy, you feel deeply bonded to them, but the thrill of mystery is long gone.
In every area of life, God has created an element of extra thrill when something is new. The wide-eyed wonder of children who have limited life experience is a joy to be around. As adults, we become increasingly hard to impress and excite as we take the familiar for granted and everything becomes familiar. Yet in our relationships with God, He has fixed it so that the thrill of new discoveries never goes away. Because God is infinitely complex and filled with polar opposite passions and traits, we never come to the end of learning new things about Him. The closer we get to Him, the more fascinating He becomes. There is always some new, deeper mystery being uncovered—always some unanswered question that tantalizes our curiosity. By creating us to be creatures who are eternally evolving, He has fixed it so our relationship with Him will be eternally enticing. Our experiences change our perspective, our perspective changes our experiences and on and on it goes in a fascinating upward cycle of deeper identity with our Creators. To God, this earthly life is not at all some unnecessary hassle that He’s dragging us through. It is a vital part of the eternal shaping process. It’s right now that is shaping how we will view God when we reach eternity. God loves every stage of the journey, and He is always planning ahead. Today He is giving you experiences that will shape your future experience of Him. Those future experiences are carefully chosen to guide you into other experiences, and on and on. It’s not about reaching a destination, it’s about the journey itself. So to ask “Couldn’t God have chosen a better method?” is assuming He is focused on a destination, which He’s not. It is this method that He’s focused on: and this complex blend of pain and joy is what He wanted. So to God, having us on this earth is a very good thing. Getting us out of here is a very good thing as well. God heartily approves of all stages of the journey because to Him the stages are interconnected.
Now when you look around, you’ll notice that people are spending very different amounts of time down here. Some die in the womb, others live to a ripe old age. This is because every soul is unique to God, and He’s writing different plotlines for each of us. We are not like sand on the sea to Him. He doesn’t see us all as an ocean of uniform beings. We are individual creatures who He is relating to on an individual basis. He doesn’t compare us with each other: your story with Him stands alone. But He weaves the stories of other souls in and out of your story to make your story all the richer. It is this infinitely complex dance of countless lives being intertwined with each other without any one life becoming devalued that God finds so satisfying. You are priceless to Him, and so is the next fellow. But your individual communion with Him is an intimate thing which no other human can fully understand or experience. Each soul is treated as a unique treasure by God.
GOD TREATS SOME PEOPLE SO TERRIBLY. WHEN I LOOK AT WHAT HE PUTS THEM THROUGH, I LOSE ALL MOTIVATION TO PURSUE A RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM MYSELF.
This is a classic problem, and the solution is to pull your focus in onto you and God. You’re not going to understand any other story but your own, and yet as you proceed forward in your own story, God will teach you many principles that will help you understand why He uses such tough methods on some people. Every soul is on a unique journey with God: that is an essential point to keep in mind. God is not shaping your life after some master pattern. Your story is unique. So when you see Him devastating others, and you think, “If I pursue God, He could treat me the same way,” indeed, He might, but if He does and you ask Him to have His way with you in it, you will end up better off for having gone through it. God has designed you to thrive only in the context of an ever-deepening relationship with Him. If you start shoving God away from you, you’re guaranteed to languish. There is only ONE path that leads to true joy, and that path includes many elements that you will not like. But you are not the Creator of all things, and you’re not the plot writer. God is the One who controls your life path. Your choices are either to submit to His program and receive His best, or to refuse to submit to Him and end up in misery.
As much as we’d like God to coax us into obedience like a mother coaxes her brat into sitting still by giving the child endless treats and presents, God is not going to do everything the way we want. God is an autonomous Being who we have no control over. You do not have to like God in order to submit to Him in your heart. But if you submit to Him, you will learn to like Him. If you try to use the fact that you dislike Him as an excuse for why you’re justified in defying His Authority as the Creator of all things, well, how do you think He is going to respond? Does your personal opinion of the current leader of your country change how much political power he or she has? We humans put far too much importance on our approval. We think that if we don’t like God, that excuses us from having to deal with Him. Some even take it so far as to pretend that God can’t literally exist until they personally believe in Him. Who are we kidding with such ridiculous thinking? You might not approve of me hitting you in the head with a hammer, but your lack of approval is not going to stop me from hitting you, nor will it make the hammer in my hand cease to exist. You didn’t create yourself. You were created by Someone Else, and that Someone Else demands that you submit to His Authority or else He’ll make your existence a continuous misery. How stupid is it to rebel against the One who is holding ALL of the power? When it comes to submitting to God, there is no room for negotiation: it’s His way or Hell.
To struggle with God’s Character and methods is an inescapable part of relating to Him. We need to be honest about the struggles, but then we need to realize that there is only one productive way to resolve them. It is MORE submission to God, not less, that will bring resolution to our frustrations. “God, help me accept Your will in my life. Help me get over my anger about how You’ve hurt me in the past. Help me to get over this belief that my judgment is so much better than Yours. Help me to gain confidence in Your goodness and love for me.” These are the prayers that are going to resolve our conflicts. These are the prayers that will lead us to soul-freeing answers. This is because in all of these prayers, we are practicing SUBMISSION.
Whenever we find ourselves in a conflict with God, the answer is always found in moving towards Him, not in turning away. We need to engage, we need to submit, and then we need to give Him time to work in our hearts and minds. God IS good—He is even good as WE would define the term—but He is the only One who can convince us of this. He will convince us of it, but only if we first give Him the submission He demands. God will not negotiate with flecks.
Why did God create sin?
Understanding Refinement: Why Your Path is So Easy
Understanding Refinement: Why God is Brutalizing You