Can We Really Compare Today’s Pain to God’s Goodness?
Programmers know about incompatible datatypes. If you check to see if “hello world” (a string of letters) is greater than 0.05 (a number), most programming languages will refuse. So does it make sense when Christians say this? “Life in 2020 is hard, but we can give thanks because we have Jesus.”
It only makes sense if the worth of Jesus can be compared to the disappointments now. If having Jesus is in one category, but “real life” is in another, it will make no sense for you to compare the two.
But if you can think of the goodness of having Jesus — your hope of Heaven with Him, and knowledge He is interceding for you now and never leaves you — and relate that with the goodness of this life, you’ll be able to give thanks when the goodness of this life is lost.
We have to be able to see that our expectations in Jesus are just as real as pains, but they’re more permanent and more certain.
COMPARISONS WE CAN IMAGINE It helps me to think of examples of disappointments that I can compare to imaginable goods. Imagine you lost a $100 bill, but your friend told you: “It’s bad that you lost your $100 bill….but your Dad is mega rich and he’s set aside $100 million for you.”
Or: “I know it’s frustrating that they canceled your Disney World ticket…but you have friends who work for Disney who will get you in the gates any time you want for free.” One ticket is a loss… but less than lifetime free pass.
Or: “I know it’s bad that you totaled the car…but it wasn’t even your car; it was a loaner from the factory. And they’ll provide you as many cars as you need.”
Or when you arrive at Yellowstone and it rains for days, but your friend reminds you: “It’s no good that it has rained so much…but you get to live here now, so you’ll have plenty of time to see everything in every season.”
Of course, these four stories are just imperfect, tiny analogies. But they help me get a taste of comparing something truly disappointing with something large and wonderful. The promises of paradise with God (Luke 23:43), of knowing things fully (1 Corinthians 13:12), of work to do in God’s kingdom, are truly too immense to be fairly compared with the hardships now (Romans 8:17-25).
PAIN IS REALLY PAINFUL. Future hope doesn’t negate pain now, even if the pain is small by comparison. God knows how real and devastating it is. He knows we are frail and he cares about every tear (Psalm 56:8); he welcomes our complaints of hardship. So we’re told to bring them all to Him in words — anxieties, needs, requests — along with our memories and recollections of the good he has done. (Philippians 4:4-7)
But before you can think such a comparison makes any sense, you have to buy into God’s word about key points. You’d have to believe Jesus really did come from God, and was punished as your substitute for wrong you have done, and that God resurrected Him from the dead, and that Jesus returned to the Father to do good for you, and that the Father hears and cares about your prayers now.
Pray that God will give you those open eyes to see it — that YES life is hard, and YES God is good, and YES God is with you even in the darkness today, and YES God’s kindness really outshines the darkness.