“6 "Therefore, behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns, And I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths. 7 "She will pursue her lovers, but she will not overtake them; And she will seek them, but will not find them. Then she will say, 'I will go back to my first husband, For it was better for me then than now’” (Hosea 2:6-7)
God loves you enough to hurt you. That sounds odd doesn’t it? Our experience is that those who cause harm to us desire our ruin, and those who cause pleasure desire our good. We don’t have a lot of precedent for concluding that love will cause terrible discomfort and pain. Typically, discipline becomes a mask for abuse; justice is the veneer of malice and hatred. As such, we naturally assume that to inflict or allow pain and suffering is an expression of hate and not love.
In his book The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis argues God loves us so much that he hurts us; if God doesn’t allow and use pain in some way to touch our lives, he would not truly love us. Why does he think this? His thinking is something like this:
The great problem to be remedied isn’t pain, but evil. The worst thing for a person is to be evil. The best thing for a person is to be good. One form of false-love is one that doesn’t really care all that much about whether a person is good or bad, so long as they don’t suffer. A true love, however, has as its ultimate goal the goodness of a person-gone bad. And a true love will use the tool of pain to get that person good. A true love recognizes that pain is inevitable in making bad people good, just as pain is inevitable in re-breaking and re-setting a bone. God breaks bones in salvation, and for good reason...
“We are not merely imperfect creatures who must be improved: we are…rebels who must lay down our arms…[and] surrender a self-will inflamed and swollen with years of usurpation is a kind of death” (88-89).
Since God is love and desires our restoration, and our restoration is bound essentially to the surrender of self bent in on itself (like a tree that grows abnormally), we must expect the untwisting of salvation to be excruciating.
“To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labor to make us lovable” (41).
Paradoxically, to ask God for less pain may be to ask him for less love, not more. To be loved is to be hurt. His affection for us is so great as almost to be “intolerable.” He demands the perfection of the beloved. The good news is that he will fulfill his own demands for us, for he doesn't expect clay to make itself into pottery. The "bad news" is that he will not compromise in making us lovely, leaving no tool untouched that will serve his glory and our good.