I Didn’t Ask to be Born

I Didn't Ask to be BornWe received the following email: “How can you expect me to believe in a God who created me against my wishes and without my consent, and then because I don’t do things the way he thinks I should, sends me to eternal suffering in hell? That is a product of a twisted mind and is not something I can believe in or serve. I didn’t ask to be born, and I won’t spend my life worshiping an evil, abusive God who rejoices in bringing pain to everything he touches.”

Obviously, this email was sent by a person in pain – a person who is angry, frustrated, confused, misinformed, misled, and disconnected from reality. Many of this person’s problems are due to the traditions of human creeds and theories. Much of the frustration is due to assumptions that are not valid or biblical.

There are some questions and challenges in the message that I, too, struggle with, and I make no pretense of having all the answers. What we would like to do is to dissect this email in the hope that it will help some of our readers who may have some of the same concerns and struggles. I am sure there are others with the same complaints but are not willing to be quite as honest in expressing them.

“I didn’t ask to be born.” Have you ever gotten so frustrated with life, and especially with people in your life, that you wished you had never been born? I think that most of us have gone through that. Job certainly radiated that feeling when he said: “May the day of my birth perish, and the night that said ‘A boy is conceived’ “(Job 3:3). As an atheist, I said almost those very words in a modernized form and got so far down the road of despair that I attempted in a crude way to end my life. From an atheist perspective, there are times when we feel that life is a worthless, meaningless, painful experience that we would rather not endure.

However, at the end of every night, there is another day, and things do get better. For the Christian, the meaningfulness of life is more easily seen because of the purpose that a Christian has in living. If your only goal in living is seeking selfish desires and pleasures, it is easy to run out of reasons to live. If your life has a bigger purpose, then you have a reason to live, a purpose, and a goal.

Job finally came to understand his purpose in life. He looked at what had happened and what he had endured, and he had a new perspective. He told the Lord that before all these things had happened to him: “My ears have heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5). He then goes on joyously praising God because he sees a purpose in his life.

I am sure Job always had some sobering thoughts and memories of what he had lost. But he was glad to be alive, and God enabled him to see purpose and meaning in his life. Saying “I didn’t ask to be born and I wish I had never been” is a knee-jerk reaction to a crisis. Before we seek a permanent solution to a temporary problem, we should allow God to remind us that we are love, and we have a purpose.

Tomorrow, we will look at a second challenge in that email – “Why does God have the right to tell me what to do?”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Misconceptions of Heaven

Misconceptions of Heaven In a series of studies, I became impressed with some serious misconceptions of heaven that are common among believers and non-believers alike.

One misconception is that heaven is a physical place with physical relationships. Jesus faced this same misconception among the people of His day. In Matthew 22:28-30, someone asked whose wife a woman would be in the afterlife because she/had been married more than once. His reply was, “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” In our day, we find people talking and joking about doing physical activities in heaven such as golf, fishing, and the like. I do not have enough information to determine whether we will know one another in heaven. I do know that heaven will be such a beautiful existence that nothing we have ever experienced on Earth can begin to approach it. No negative physical emotions exist In heaven – neither sorrow, nor pain, nor tears, nor crying, nor death (Revelation 21:4).

One of the prominent misconceptions of heaven by many people is that it’s a literal city of gold floating in the sky. Second Peter 3:10-12 describes the end of time as when the “elements are dissolved with fervent heat.” Nothing physical will remain, and our existence will be one of a “spiritual body.” “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God… we shall all be changed … and put on immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:44-58). We must remember that Christ clearly stated: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). In Christ’s day, people refused to accept that He would not rule a literal, physical kingdom, and so today people expect a temporal rule of an earthly nature.

Time-dependent existence is another of the misconceptions of heaven. Not only will there be no physical form or physical problems in heaven, but time itself will not exist. A child asked me what would happen when heaven was over. Like a lot of us, this child had not considered what eternity really is. Time does not exist in eternity. This also means that all the things associated with time will not exist either. God is the Alpha and the Omega. Before time was, God was. We think too small when we try to lock God into our time capsule.

Another one of the common misconceptions of heaven is that it will be boring. A man once told me that he did not want to go to heaven because he did not want to spend eternity singing hymns and/or playing a harp. This was an intelligent and sincere man who said everything he read about heaven in the Bible sounded as “boring as church.”

There are indeed statements in the Bible about being with God and singing to God. Again the problem is attaching physical significance to heavenly acts. Heaven will not be an eternal church service. It will be a union with God which has some parallels with our worship on Earth, but it will be free of the negative feelings and irritations we sometimes experience here. Those of us who have had the privilege of participating in a worship service which raised our spirits, brought us great peace, and lifted us through song and prayers may have had a taste of the feeling we will have in heaven. It will be a timeless spiritual “high” with our God which is so beautiful that our limited minds can only faintly comprehend it.

There are undoubtedly other misconceptions of heaven, but their root is probably the same as what we have already considered. In our present materialistic realm, we cannot understand a non-physical existence, and thus we will have misconceptions of heaven and hell. Although we “see in a mirror darkly,” with study and thought we can “press on to the mark.” Praise God for all we have now and all we have to look forward to!
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Why Does God Allow Suffering?

Why Does God Allow Suffering?Why does God allow suffering? That is one of the most common questions we hear. Many atheists who comment on our posts try to prove that God cannot exist because there is suffering in the world. They are assuming that if God existed, His purpose would be to give us happiness all the time. Since He doesn’t, that means God can’t possibly exist.

That mindset assumes that we are God’s pets, and His responsibility is to see that we don’t get hurt no matter what we do. There is no doubt that we do many foolish and hurtful things. So why do we think that God should be our servant to keep us always happy as if happiness is the primary goal of life?

However, if God does exist (as we believe He does), He should have a more important goal than taking care to always provide us with what we think we need to be happy. What happens if human parents bow to every whim of their children by always giving them what they want and expect? The result is a spoiled child. Sometimes after warnings to a child, the parent has to stand by and watch the child make bad decisions in the hope that they will learn from their mistakes.

What if the primary goal of human life is not happiness? What if the primary goal is to learn to know and trust God? It is that knowledge of and trust in God that will bring–if not continual happiness–true fulfillment and ultimately, everlasting fulfillment. Why does God allow suffering? Although the suffering in this world may be counterproductive to our happiness, it might help us to gain a deeper knowledge of God and dependence on His love.

We can’t explain suffering in all of its forms. Nobody can. We can’t see the ultimate purpose and outcome from where we stand, but God can. We can be reassured by knowing that God Himself is acquainted with suffering (Isaiah 53:3) and that He cares (John 11:35).
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Understanding Pain

Understanding PainThe May 2019 issue of Smithsonian Magazine (page 48-) carried an article titled “A Mystery in the Family” by Matthew Shaer. The article describes a family in Italy in which the family members feel almost no pain. It also shows how far we are from understanding pain.

The entire Italian family seemed to share a lack of sensitivity to pain. It wasn’t that they couldn’t feel pain at all. When scientists injected capsaicin (the chemical that gives chili peppers their heat) into a family member’s arm, they felt the burning sensation, but only for a matter of seconds.

Our bodies are designed with the ability to feel pain, and we need it to avoid damage from our environment. When you touch a hot pan handle, you feel pain, so you put it down quickly. This is good pain and is essential to our survival. Studies show that one in five Americans suffers from chronic pain which is defined as pain that is unrelated to a recent injury and which lasts more than six months. The recent attention to opioid addiction is undoubtedly connected in some ways to how chronic pain affects us. Researchers are proposing that chronic pain results from our lifestyles. Eating more processed food, getting less exercise, and environmental pollution may all contribute to chronic pain.

Pain is different from our senses of smell, taste, or sight because there is not just one section of the brain responsible for the experience. There may be half a dozen or more areas of the brain involved. Doctors prescribe opioids to relieve the pain. Understanding pain and how we experience it could help us find a better way to relieve chronic pain.

One has to wonder if we have not brought the chronic pain issue onto ourselves. Those of us who have done some world-wide traveling have seen that pain is perceived and handled in various ways in different cultures. People walking on hot coals or running knives through their hands seems to be nothing exceptional in some areas of the world. When I was in the army, a young man assigned to our unit had grown up on the north slopes of Alaska. His view of what was cold in Wisconsin in January was not the same as the rest of us. In the Smithsonian article, an Italian family member showed up on a very cold day with a bitter wind blowing in a short-sleeved dress with her ankles bare. The young man in our army unit used to walk from the barracks to the mess hall in a T-shirt while the rest of us wore heavy parkas.

God’s design of the human body is so complex that it can be disturbed by a variety of external causes. God didn’t design us to have chronic pain. Understanding pain, how it works, and how to relieve it is essential. We need to survive what happens to us without being immobilized by aching that never seems to stop.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Human Suffering Human-Caused

Human Suffering Human-Caused
There is a constant flow of books, articles, television shows, and blogs dealing with the question of why God allows human suffering. All religions deal in one way or another with this issue, and atheists have attempted to dance around it by denial or avoidance.

We have suggested over the years that Christianity offers the only rational solution to the issue because:
1) The question is only for this life and in the context of eternity is of extremely short duration.
2) Suffering allows ministering to others that Christians are uniquely called to do.
3) To be human there has to be choice, otherwise love is impossible, and choices can have consequences.

Most logical people would agree that if you jump off a bridge, you can’t blame God when you hit the bottom. The fact is that massive amounts of human suffering are because we refuse to live as God calls us to and we do things that bring suffering upon ourselves. God doesn’t cause wars and human actions that cause droughts and famines. God also does not cause us to make bad choices that lead to our own suffering and the suffering of others.

Science News in their last issue for 2017 gave a summary of the latest data in four areas where human suffering is human-caused:
1) 13.4 million U.S. adults misused or abused opioids. (Data from 2015).
2) 19 children die or are medically treated for gun-inflicted wounds every day.
3) 9 million people died directly from pollution.
4) 46% of U.S. adults have high blood pressure largely due to poor diet and lack of exercise.

It isn’t 100% of the pain and suffering issue, but a vast percentage of the pain in this world we bring on ourselves. It is not caused by an angry or malicious god who likes to see us hurt.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Babies and Pain–A New Study

Babies and Pain
One of the areas of medicine that seems to be neglected is pain management. That is true of all ages, but one of the least studied age groups for investigating the experience of pain is what infants experience before, during, and after birth. There are special challenges when studying babies and pain.

Pain assessment in babies is difficult because they don’t talk and it is difficult to know whether they are in pain or whether their crying is due to something else. The use of facial expressions or body jerking or wiggling is likely to be very misleading. The May 3 issue of Science Translational Medicine carried a report on the use of electroencephalography (or EEG). Doctors used a special device called a Cz electrode to pick up brain waves when the baby experienced a painful event such as having its heel lanced to draw blood. The electroencephalogram showed a neural spike immediately after having the poke to the heel.

Babies born prematurely between 34 and 36 weeks of gestation show the same kind of responses to pain. Not all babies have exactly the same response, but there is enough consistency to believe that the babies do in fact sense pain. The babies did not show the same response to loud noises, flashing lights, or non-painful touches.

This research suggests a number of things. Procedures done on babies that could cause pain in an adult seem to be very likely to cause pain in a baby. The use of painkillers and the effect of medical treatment on the brain of a small child needs to be more carefully studied. Medical studies of babies and pain must proceed with care.

The question of whether abortion causes pain in the baby must be considered. The answer seems to be that babies do sense pain and that is also true of premature babies. Women who are considering medical procedures on their babies and especially abortion need to know what the evidence shows.
Reference: Science News, June 10, 2017, page 8.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Excruciating Pain!

Crucifixion Of Jesus
Crucifixion Of Jesus

The ancient Assyrian army would drive a stake into the chest of their enemies impaling them. Then they would plant that stake in the ground to display their victim. They did this both to frighten and to intimidate those who would oppose them.

The ancient Romans further refined this gruesome tactic. Instead of impaling their victims on a stake, they nailed them to the stake. Impaling resulted in quick death, but crucifixion extended the horror. Crucifixion was slow and agonizing torture that sometimes lasted more than a day. It’s from this execution method that we get our word “excruciating”–which literally means “from the cross.” Crucifixions took place in public where people could see the victim and become terrified to go against the Roman government. This torture was used for the worst of criminals.

But one time it was used for the only perfect man who ever lived. He had done nothing wrong. He died for those of us who have sinned. He suffered excruciating pain and public humiliation in a way that demonstrated love and grace. He went willingly to the cross. Even more amazing is the fact that while suffered on the cross he forgave his tormentors. From the cross, he even pardoned a real criminal who hung next to him. He forever made the worst form of torture and execution a symbol that millions proudly hold up, wear, and display. What other execution device is so loved? Why do we call the day of his torture and death “Good” Friday? It’s because of God’s amazing love and grace demonstrated in Jesus Christ. That’s the “crux” of the matter.
–Roland Earnst © 2017