2009 has been a big year for The Beatles. Their original catalogue was digitally remastered and released, along with the highly anticipated The Beatles: Rock Band video game, on 9/9/09. And today marks what would’ve been John Lennon’s sixty-ninth birthday.
Yet despite the huge success of The Beatles and his solo work, Lennon struggled with deep emotional pain from his father’s abandonment, his mother’s ambivalence, and her tragic death when he was just 17. Perhaps that’s part of the reason he experimented with a variety of religious ideas. In one of his most poignant songs, he writes:
God is a concept by which we measure our pain. I’ll say it again. God is a concept by which we measure our pain.
When we experience physical pain firsthand or see loved ones suffering, it’s natural to wonder why God allows pain. Surely it could not have been part of His very good creation. Or was it?
Good for Now
Throughout Genesis 1, God called His creation “good” and “very good.” Yet, as Hugh Ross points out in his book A Matter of Days, “the creation is called ‘good’ and ‘very good’ but not ‘ultimate perfection.’ Revelation 21 and 22 promise a vastly superior creation yet to come. This perfect creation follows God’s ‘wrapping up’ of the present one.”
Regarding pain, Hugh adds:
Turning once again to the passage that recounts God’s response to Adam and Eve’s sin, we see evidence that physical pain—closely connected with decay—likely existed before the Fall. In Genesis 3:16, God says to Eve, “I will greatly increase [or multiply] your pains in childbearing.” He does not say “introduce”; He says “increase” or “multiply,” implying that pain already existed. Likewise, to Adam, God explains that henceforth he [Adam] will work harder (Genesis 2:15; 3:17-19).
Maybe my understanding of “good” and “very good” needed rethinking. I had always thought pain was a bad thing, but God tells us in Isaiah 55:8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.”
This’ll Only Hurt for a Minute
As a kid I remember raising a skeptical brow, thinking my mom (being all powerful in my child’s mind) could come up with a bandage-removal method less painful than the rip-it-off-quick one. But, though she wanted to spare me pain, she couldn’t—that quick “ouch” simply became part of the healing process.
Much in the same way, our heavenly Father doesn’t spare us from all pain. Though most people wouldn’t consider it a favorite pastime; still, there are reasons why pain is beneficial to humans.
Hugh writes, “Pain is essential for our safety and survival. Our nervous systems, equipped with quick pain response, protect us from many dangers in our environment.” He adds that, “While the characteristics of the universe and Earth are ideal—that is, “perfect”—for the conquest of evil, they are far from perfect for glorified creatures.”
Though I couldn’t initially wrap my head around it, this first creation is indeed “very good”—even if it included the possibility of pain prior to the Fall. God already prepared a plan for this creation long before Adam and Eve nibbled on the forbidden fruit.
New With Tag (NWT)
Savvy eBay shoppers know that it’s worth a few extra bills to swipe something labeled NWT. (“Vintage” Beatles shirt NWT? Yes, please!) It indicates the item is in better-than-good condition.
What’s in store for us in the new creation will also be better-than-good—in fact, it will be far superior to this present universe. As Hugh writes in Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, “The new creation is so magnificent, pleasurable, and rewarding that no earthly human can fully visualize its wonders.”
For those who’ve placed their trust in Christ, we can have confidence in knowing that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” In the new creation there will be “no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:3–4).
Or, just as John Lennon sang, “the best is yet to be.”
For more on the pre-Fall world and what’s in store for us in the new creation, check out:
“God’s Plan for Humanity—Paradise Restored or Paradise Replaced?”
“What Does a ‘Very Good’ World Look Like? Part 2 (of 2)”
See also chapters 12 and 13 of Why the Universe Is the Way It Is.
Just for kicks: Check out “that Christian parody band’s” take on Beatles classics
And my top five Lennon songs
2. Dear Yoko