“Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image,
according to our likeness.’”
“Why, Mommy? Why? But why?” That’s what I heard an adorable little toddler at Starbucks keep on asking her mother. The little girl was insistent in her questioning. As I listened, I thought about how everyone is a born philosopher. We all are asking “Why?”
There is a whole field of philosophy dedicated to pursuing answers to life’s most profound questions of “Why?” It is called “teleology”, wanting to know the “telos”, or the goal of everything happening to us. Why suffering? Why injustice? Why cancer? Why coronavirus? And on, and on, and on! Why?
Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl struggled with the “Why?” question. From his unspeakable horrific days in Auschwitz and three other Nazi death camps, Frankl wanted to “Why?” Frankl concludes in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning: “He who has a Why to live can bear almost any How.”
The “Why?” to live comes through for us on the Bible’s very first page. There God states His purpose for us: “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.” This tells us what God is ‘up to’ in our lives, His purpose for our days here.
Then we turn a page in the Bible and learn about “sin” and the “fall” marring the image of God in us. We are not as God created us to be! Yet even sin and the fall cannot deter or defeat God’s purpose for us. When we come to the New Testament we read about God’s ongoing and eternal purpose to conform us the very image of His Son, Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 3:10; 1 John 3:2). God purposes that we become more and more like Him.
God unchanging purpose for us amidst the ups and downs of life stands out in Romans 8:28-29:
“We know all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.”
Note how this scripture connects God’s PURPOSE for us with His IMAGE in us. All things work together for the PURPOSE of being conformed to the IMAGE of God’s Son.
English novelist Susan Howatch seizes the promise of Romans 8:28-29 in her popular novel Absolute Truths. Midway through the novel the narrator, whose life is broken and coming apart, visits a sculptor working in her studio. As he watches the sculptor go about her work, she explains to him what she is doing with the clay:
“Every step I take, every bit of clay I ever touch, they are all there in the final work. If they hadn’t happened then this [she gestured to the sculpture] wouldn’t exist. In fact they had to happen for the work to emerge as it is. So in the end every major disaster, every tiny error, every wrong turning, every fragment of discarded clay, all the blood, sweat and tears, everything has meaning. I give it meaning, I re-use, reshape, recast all that goes wrong so that, in the end, nothing is wasted and nothing is without significance and nothing ceases to be precious to me.”
Later in the novel the narrator visits his spiritual director who reminds him of his preferred translation of the verb sunergeo (“works together”) in Romans 8:28. The narrator, who is a Cambridge scholar, knows the translation is right: “God INTERMINGLES all things for good.” He saw that God was taking all the bad things and the good things, and INTERMINGLING them for His purpose of making him into the image of Christ. To quote the sculptor in the Howatch novel: “…in the end, nothing is wasted and nothing is without significance and nothing ceases to be precious to me.” God is intermingling all the things happening to us for a great and eternal purpose! We will forever share in the image and likeness of God!
All of our great “Why?” questions are answered with God’s wondrous purpose for us!
A fellow traveler,