I happened to catch a bit of Christian talk radio on my commute home the other day, and heard an exchange that was either funny or heartbreaking or possibly both. The guest was an author who had written a book about “God’s Purpose in Suffering,” or some such, and the point he was making was that God uses suffering to strip away His blessings so that we can learn to love Him for Himself, and not just for the things He blesses us with. He used the book of Job as an example, and quickly sketched out the story of how Satan said Job only loved God because God was richly blessing him, and how God said, “Fine, do whatever you want, just don’t kill him,” and boom, disaster for poor Job. That was supposed to teach us that it’s selfish of us to love God’s blessings, and call it “loving God.” God (according to this author) allows suffering to teach us Who and what we’re really supposed to love.
At that point one of the co-hosts chimed in with a story about her own suffering, and how she prayed and prayed and prayed just that God would provide her with a little bit of inner peace. Just peace. And it never came. You and I know why it never came, and we could probably laugh at her, but at the same time, it’s really heartbreaking to think that so many people are trapped in this kind of self-deception. Here she is, experiencing first-hand God’s absence from real life and His inability to do anything beyond the power of any other Imaginary Friend, and yet what does she do? She blames herself. With the help of this Christian author, she found a way to re-frame her experience of God’s non-existence, and turn it into a fanciful narrative in which He is mercifully trying to teach her a valuable lesson about love.