Insights on Coping with Pain and Suffering

Insights on Coping with Pain and Suffering

Day 4 of 40

Autonomy and Vulnerability

We have a choice: overprotect and stifle our children, or trust them and let them grow.

In Christian understanding, God created mankind to have a relationship with him. Desirable relationships are those that mature over time. When children are infants, they are dependent on parents with no choice in the relationship. Increased autonomy comes with each year of life. By age three, children wander a little farther off, and in adolescence they challenge parents’ rules and test boundaries. Parents don’t stifle their children’s autonomy (hopefully) because parents want their children to be fully functioning adults capable of choosing to have a relationship with their parents. Similarly, God wants us to choose to love him, and the ability to choose requires autonomy. The problem with autonomy is that it creates vulnerability.

In the Garden of Eden, God could protect Adam and Eve from all vulnerabilities—physical, emotional, social, and spiritual. But Adam and Eve’s decision to disobey God opened the door to physical illness, emotional and mental vulnerabilities, natural disasters, accidents, and the evil acts of mankind. However, it also facilitated the option for maturity and choice. As parents, we let our children ride their bikes a little farther, learn to drive, and leave home—all the while knowing the risks of life. If we overprotect them, they remain dependent on us and fail to mature and learn to live on their own. We must allow—and be allowed—growth and maturation.

Consider This:

  •  What is your understanding of God’s role in the pain and suffering you have experienced in life?
  • How would life be different if Adam and Eve had not been given the opportunity to make choices in the Garden of Eden?
  • If you were God, what would you have done differently?

Take Action:

Write out what you believe about God’s role in the pain and suffering people experience. As you do so, think about physical pain, emotional or psychological pain, relational pain, and spiritual pain. Share your thoughts with someone.

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