The most controversial and least understood part of God's plan to rescue us from godlessness and return us to paradise is the delay. Instead of delivering to us the gift of life and the gift of paradise simulataneously as he did with Adam and Eve, God tweaked the timetable for the delivery of his gifts. God inserted a delay. First God delivers the gift of life, then a delay, then comes the gift of paradise. During the delay, we get to stew temporarily in the sourness of godlessness. This harsh medicine generates all of the complaints about God's rescue plan. Letting humanity stew in the sourness of godlessness from generation to generation is the surest way to maximize the negative feedback against God. The sourness of godlessness has caused many to shake their fists at God as they cursed him in the foulest of language. It is the basis that drives many to the incorrect conclusion that God is a malicious misanthrope instead of the benevolent philanthropist that he truly is. Yet, in the eyes of God, the effectiveness of the medicine justifies its harshness so God prescribes it. Letting us stew in the sourness of godlessness achieves multiple purposes:
1) God doesn't want us to get fooled twice. One "original sin" is enough. The debacle of Adam and Eve need not be repeated. The experience in godlessness makes it impossible for the serpent to deceive us a second time. When we have learned the truth for ourselves, no lie can deceive us . The sourness of godlessness is the medicine that innoculates us against the lies of the serpent. Having tasted the pig sty for himself, the prodigal son will never return there. Neither will we. When God delivers the gift of paradise to us, we will keep it. We will keep it without turning paradise into a prison, God into our warden and us into prisoners. We will not abdicate the gift of paradise for godlessness as Eve did, as Adam did, as Lucifer did and as the gaggle of angels who follow Lucifer did.
2) The experience in godlessness shatters the illusion conjured up by the serpent that sugarcoats the sourness of godlessness. It shatters the illusion as the blow of a hammer shatters glass. After the sugarcoating is shattered, the sourness of godlessness becomes visible to us. Rational people flee the sourness of godlessness. They head for the exit. They pick up the roots they have sunk deep into the hostile desert of godlessness and make their escape. It is contrary to their welfare to do otherwise. The truth sets them free. It transforms them from settlers into pilgrims. The sourness of godlessness is the engine that pushes us on the escape route from godlessness to paradise. It is the "stick" of God's rescue plan.
3) Moreover, the experience in godlessness proves that the serpent was a liar and that God told us the truth . It shifts the credibility from the serpent to God. Now, when there is a conflict between the word of God and the word of the serpent, we prefer the one with the proven track record of telling us the truth .
Indeed, letting us stew in the sourness of godlessness is harsh but effective medicine. In his mercy, however, God has taken measures to mitigate the sourness of godlessness. Here is one of them. There are others.
We were having difficulty passing through the boiling cauldrons of suffering that pockmark the landscape of the valley of tears. We were not very good at it. God took notice of our plight and had pity on us. In the fullness of time, God revealed to us the secret of passing through suffering. The transcendent God descended from heaven to earth to teach us this skill. The God who fashioned us out of the mud with his hands put himself into the hands of the mud to teach the children of the mud how to tie their shoelaces. He did not just send a memo in which he revealed the secret to us. He did not just hand over a sheet of instructions. He did not just share a link to a Youtube video so we could see how it is done for ourselves. He did not dispatch his subordinates to teach us. The transcendent God himself showed us how to do it. We did not know how to suffer so the Son of God himself paid us a visit to teach us. He demonstrated the secret as we baptized him in the boiling cauldron of suffering. Look, observe and learn. Watch his demonstration .
What is the secret of passing through suffering?
As we baptized him in the boiling cauldron of suffering, He clung to his love for us, held tight and refused to let go. He clung with the iron grip of the drowning man who clings to a life preserver in the stormy sea after his ship has sunk. Love is the life preserver. When we cling to love, the Cross does not bury us. We can pick it up. We can carry it. Therefore, cling as Jesus clung. Hold tight and refuse to let go. This is the secret hanging in plain sight from the Cross.
Suffering tends to extinguish love. The tendency is powerful. However, it is a tendency that is more destructive to you than the Cross you are carrying. Therefore, do not heed your natural inclination. Deny yourself. With the help of God, fight the powerful tendency. Refuse its urgings. Like the serpent, it is trying to steer you in the wrong direction. It is giving you instructions that contradict your self-interest. Your natural inclination is lying to you. It is trying to deceive you. You are worse off, not better off, when you yield to it. Your welfare depends on clinging to love and refusing to let go .
Matthew 16:24-26 is not a recommendation to suffer. It is a recommendation to love.
Recall that the evil we did to him ought to have, at the very least, pissed him off. It ought to have antagonized him. It ought to have earned us a place on his shit list. It ought to have provoked his natural instinct for justice. It ought to have triggered his reflex for revenge, retaliation and retribution. It ought to have transformed him into our enemy - into a misanthropic monster - into the God who hates us. It ought to have shifted God from the pro-human team to the anti-human team with the serpent and his minions. When the fuse is lit, the bomb ordinarily explodes. But, remarkably, it did not. The fuse worked but the bomb was a dud . The evil we did to him did not extinguish his love for us or reduce it by even the slightest degree . He clung to his love for us, held tight and refused to let go. God let us get away with murder - with deicide . Such is the nature of God ! Wow! Our God is a benevolent philanthropist not a misanthropic monster. This is the good news of great joy - very good news for us indeed.
Another measure that God put in place to mitigate the sourness of godlessness is the brevity of life. God made life brief. A life is but an infinitesimally thin slice of time when we compare it to the thickness of eternity. The brevity of life proves the mercy of God.