Thursday, March 28, 2013

Loving the White Whale: God, Pain, and Man's Creation

Most of us have read, or at least know the story found in, the novel, Moby Dick. A bitter sea captain has pursued a white whale across the abyss in order to kill him for taking away his leg. The white whale represents God in the story, white due to His purity and holiness, which Ahab tells us he hates. The lost leg becomes a symbol of suffering and pain in the world that God made. The captain, then, becomes a representative of all who have suffered and hate God for it. But the pursuit to remove the white whale only destroys Ahab. It doesn't kill the whale.

In the book, it is Ahab who assigns evil intentions to the whale. He ignores the voice of reason that says, "Moby Dick seeks thee not. It is thou, thou, that madly seeks him!" In his quest to kill the whale, he only kills himself and almost everyone around him. His hatred for the whale can be summed up in his expression:

“He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.”

There is a great lesson in the book that I think is very biblical. The idea that God has made and placed us in a world filled with pain and loss. It is a world of suffering. And as we go through life, we will have a choice to make with every bit of suffering we encounter. We can either assign evil intentions to God, hate Him for it, and seek to kill Him (i.e., either by exchanging Him for a false god or ridding our lives of any belief in deity at all), or we can believe the Bible, submit to His plan, and love Him for loving us.

Now, you may ask, But how is this love? But that is the point to be made by the Bible. We could all wish that God would have just picked up Adam and Eve in their neutral state and placed them directly into a heavenly state, or that He would just take every fallen man since and immediately place him in His presence. But we would be morally neutral, or even wicked, creatures just the same. There would be no transformation that comes from a daily experience of choosing right and wrong, making decisions concerning how we are to do good in this or that evil situation. Evil and suffering are the fires by which a man is either burned up, like Ahab, or refined into gold.

And that is important to remember. Genesis says that God rested on the seventh day, but that is an expression of God's sovereignty, not a relation of His ceasing to create. The truth is that we are in the midst of creation out of chaos. We are in the transitional period while God makes humans into the image of His Son--which was always His purpose in making humanity. God is making us good, godly, like Christ, and it is only through the challenge of suffering and pain that one can make the choice to become like Christ and love God for His goodness or to shrink from becoming like Christ and hate God for what would have been considered as a loving act had we not been made insane by our bitterness.

The atheist and the false prophet are one in this, as they seek to kill the real God through either anti-religion or false religion. But the believer anchors his hope in God's love, and He sees the world as a place made for him--that he might become what he was meant to become, what is good and everlasting.

This is hard for us to see. Life isn't all rainbows and butterflies. In the end, death takes us all. We lose everything. But if we believe the Bible, we have a light in a very dark place to direct our hope and cultivate our love for God and fight the temptation to hate Him for lovingly creating the necessary conditions of our deliverance from moral neutrality and evil.The whole of the fall and all of the suffering and evil since have been a part of His plan all along. This is His doing. And it is good, not an evil, work.

In this life, you will have to choose which path to take, what person you will be. Will you be one who is drowned in the abyss of bitterness while you seek to erase God from the earth, or will you be one who acknowledges God's right to have taken your leg and His love for doing so? The devil works hard now to convince the world to become the former. May the Spirit of God prevail among His people that they may become the latter.


  1. I'm a bit lost for words reading this, and that is rare. ;) But I do want to thank you for writing this. As we wade through a difficult period of life, it is always good to be reminded and encouraged to trust God in it. As Spurgeon so eloquently put it, "If you can't see His way past the tears, trust His heart. "

  2. Thanks Emily. I'm glad this encouraged you. I know you've felt the pain of loss and the choices it gives you to love or hate God for it. I'm encouraged by your continued trust in Him in the face of great suffering. When He has completed His goal with you, He will restore to you all that you have lost and a hundred times more. God bless you and your family.

  3. Look Bryan... I understand children are a blessing from the Lord, but I don't think we can handle "a hundred times more". :) Thanks for this encouraging word, it was timely.