C.S. Lewis wrote, in The Problem of Pain:
The problem of reconciling human suffering with the existence of a God who loves, is only insoluble so long as we attach a trivial meaning to the word ‘love’, and look on things as if man were the centre of them. Man is not the centre. God does not exist for the sake of man. Man does not exist for his own sake. ‘Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created’ (Revelation 4:11).
We who in faith call ourselves, “Christ-followers,” already realize that God doesn’t exist to serve us, and that we don’t exist for our own gratification. Though we realize that fact, we often—dare I say, “usually”?—fall back into the opposite attitude. When that is the case, what kind of love do we practice, and what makes us different from worldly-minded, unregenerate people? As unregenerate means, “not reborn,” what are we who are reborn, when we willfully live as the world lives? Would the word “degenerate” apply?
We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the Divine love may rest ‘well pleased’. To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled, by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labour to make us lovable. We cannot even wish, in our better moments, that He could reconcile Himself to our present impurities—no more than the beggar maid could wish that King Cophetua should be content with her rags and dirt, or a dog, once having learned to love man, could wish that man were such as to tolerate in his house the snapping, verminous, polluting creature of the wild pack.
At first I balked at the idea of God being repelled by “certain stains in our present character.” I mean, what about John 3:16? But on second thought, I realized that God redeemed us through Jesus’ blood for the expressed purpose of recreating us in his image, as he made us in the beginning. Apostle Peter wrote, “What the true proverb says has happened to them: ‘The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.’” (2 Peter 2:22) Though Peter wrote in that chapter about false prophets and teachers, that doesn’t exempt us from his warning:
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. (2) And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. (3) And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
We are, after all, living letters from God. That makes our lives a declaration of God’s gospel. As Lewis said, God’s purpose was to reconcile us to himself, not himself to us. And Jesus went to a lot of trouble to do just that.
Lewis finishes that thought:
What we would here and now call our ‘happiness’ is not the end God chiefly has in view: but when we are such as He can love without impediment, we shall in fact be happy.