If we deserve worse than we get, why do we seek better things? Because we do not like to suffer. Is it good to avoid the suffering you deserve? If your view of salvation is that Jesus’ purpose was to suffer on our behalf, and for you to just be grateful, then I think yes. Most people don’t think they deserve worse than they are getting, they think they suffer unjustly. I believe if we become aware of the nature of our sins, then we will come to see that we deserve worse than we get.
If a person believes that Jesus suffered because he assumed fallen human nature, and the fall made us crooked, then that person can see that straightening is painful. Being crooked is also painful. Many times cures are temporarily worse than the disease. Christ from his conception straightened every part of being human. Crookedness is maintained and worsened by continually sinning. It is easy to see the world’s fallenness in others, not so much ourselves. Our own continuing in fallenness can negatively affect the whole universe. Our justification, or straightening through Christ can positively affect the whole universe. Perhaps quantum physics are involved. My son says that the universe’s expansion and growing apart is accelerating over time, which has physicists baffled as they believe it should be expanding at a constant rate. Maybe sin is increasing on the earth.
Either way, if we think Christ took the effects of suffering as punishment or as the result of our broken natures, then how is earthly circumstantial relief even possible? If there is physical and emotional relief on the earth, then the fall must not have caused total depravity or utter corruption. There must be some semblance of goodness on the earth, apart from the extraordinary miraculous types of heavenly relief such as Stephen’s when he was being stoned. More of the type of the Good Samaritan who demonstrates the innate goodness of human nature, even if some people have de-prioritized it by giving in to the option of their own selfish gain.
Arguments against total depravity aside, why do we try with all our might to avoid suffering, once we are aware of how we deserve it and worse, caused by our own sinfulness? Because we believe God ultimately does not want us to suffer. That healing and restoration will put an end to it. I think we are all optimistic that eventually the suffering will stop by the mercy, grace, and love of God, even if not by our deserving it. We were not created to suffer.
Our family has been watching the TV series, Supernatural, which I think my daughter heard about at college last fall. We are up to the first episode of season 6, the season when the creator, Eric Kripke, steps back. I noticed a sad difference in the first episode. Anyway, I wish there wasn’t as much immorality in it, but the spiritual and philosophical themes keep me coming back. They are not altogether Orthodox, but they are true to perceptions of God’s absence among other themes such as mean angels.
One theme is the self-loathing of one of the brothers, Dean Winchester. Even if he believes he deserves to die, he still wants to be with the family he has left. He seeks the relief available by maintaining certain relationships and partnerships. It makes me wonder how he thinks he deserves it. He’s willing to check out by dying, but if alive, he keeps seeking after them. So he must think that dying will bring him more relief than even living with the relationships. Certainly more than living without the relationships. Therefore it seems he believes he will enjoy existence better once dead, as he also believes in an afterlife. I wonder if people used to be more afraid of hell, or less certain of God’s tender mercies on most of the departed. Maybe not for Hitler or murderers, but most people aren’t so bad, are they? The old Catholic pronouncement of suicide being a mortal sin has gone out of favor.
One could argue that we have an innate life force (even though some think it’s more like cowardice) that keeps most of us from committing suicide. That may be true, but I think people overcome their strong instincts if persuaded to. Therefore I think people are persuaded that they don’t deserve to suffer, whether they are avoiding the pain of committing suicide or the fear of the unknown if they do, or the pain of life. Even if they think other people do deserve suffering. Except for people who cut themselves. However, even they say that that practice brings some relief.
Accepting suffering seems weird. Another reason for this is that to feel suffering seems wrong morally. Like people who suffer don’t have enough faith, if it’s emotional, or are being wimps, if it is physical. Or that they are suffering because they want the wrong things and are selfishly feeling disappointment. Maybe that’s true, but they’re probably wrongfully projecting their hopes on a substitute for some sort of deprivation. One should still try to endure, but if they can’t handle it, ask for relief. But I think we should try to handle it through prayer, knowing God is patient, especially towards those who are trying, and is our ultimate object of desire. If they feel they need more relief than that, hopefully they are getting it through proper channels, like moral human relationships, but if that seems unattainable, one should try for baby steps, though I’m not an expert on the hierarchy of vices. Is over eating better than smoking, for instance? Complications of obesity (diabetes, heart disease) probably kill as many people nowadays as lung cancer and heart disease caused by smoking. In Supernatural, sexual immorality is given a pass because of how Sam and Dean have forsaken normal lives to pursue hunting demons. Dean especially believes he deserves that, but his self-loathing is also tied into it. Fascinating show, at least the first 5 seasons were.
People also pick what they are willing to suffer for. They’re willing to be parted from a loved one if it is for a good enough cause, like school, career, marriage. They’re willing to refrain from bad language or smoking in front of certain people, etc. If you feel it’s temporary, you can take a lot. Despairing people think everything is permanently ruined. I wonder if people give up on diets for this reason. They lose faith that it will end a different type of suffering. Maybe it doesn’t. Not over eating then has to be for a different reason. That reason being that God has no tolerance for self-indulgence, or idolizing comfort over prayer? “No tolerance” on God’s part is probably the wrong mindset. No tolerance on my part to put anything before God seems better. And that I’ll be rewarded for it. That eternal heavenly rewards are worth temporary suffering and are better than the temporary sensational rewards of food are.