In ancient times, according to the book of Genesis, man united to kill God.
We might think the idea is fairly ridiculous, the idea of killing God. Whether you believe the story to be literal or metaphorical, the story is about an inborn hostility towards the Divine.
With modern Christian theory that the spiritual happens on an alternate plane (or on an alternate level), we know that we cannot “physically” harm God (unless He becomes physical and allows us to), but what about “emotionally” or “mentally” harming God? Is pain only a possibility with Christ, or has God felt or endured a kind of pain throughout time?
To answer this, I think we can turn towards the person of Christ apart from his physical being. We know that “Jesus wept.” (1) due towards the suffering of those around him (in the death of Lazarus), that he unleashed “hell” upon the temple (psychology shows us anger is connected to a type of pain (2)), and that he lamented over Jerusalem (3). Should the Father and Christ be one, as scripture says (4), God must share these same emotional states as Christ, and we know sorrow/fear/anger to be a certain kind of pain. It only follows that an eternity free of pain means an eternity free of these things.
So in a sense, God does feel a certain kind of “heart” pain throughout His interactions with humanity.
Yet this is where I think things get interesting. I’m not sure that the squashing of a spider harms the heart of God. We may feel compassion by projecting an imagined human soul inside of a living creature, but in the end, two colonies of ants went to war today, thousands died, and nobody truly cared. A boulder fell from a mountain today and split into many pieces- and nobody truly cared (if you did you’d be a loon). Yet that family pet that we’ve owned and loved, the one we’ve made “almost human“, feels pain and our hearts ache.
Why would they? Because there are things we have chosen to love, and there are things we have not. We cannot love our pets without the possibility of pain in losing them, or their suffering. To take on the joys of love, we must endure the hardship that comes with it. Should a person not feel a pain of loss, then the love that person truly had would be in question.
So if God were to be truly loving in a universe where desires clash all over the place, He must yet endure pain.
We must also realize that our ability to hurt the “heart” of God comes from the fact that he allows us to do so. He allows us to hurt Him, because He allows Himself to love us. While desire remains, so does pain. We may feel the grief of loss of a loved one, as long as we are missing them. Inevitably, we move on and do not feel that pain of a lost desire until that person is remembered. We may feel the pain of missing an old girlfriend/boyfriend until we decide to move on and no longer desire it/ be conscious of it.
And I believe this is where scripture leaves us. God has a desire for man, yet if man will not satisfy the desire of God, He must at some point “move on” even for Himself to be truly happy. He must forget man (the old lover), and cease to desire.
So where does this leave us? If everything I’ve stated so far rationally follows, than man carries himself a great responsibility. We have been to bring God joy whilst we have greatly hurt Him. How could forgiveness mean anything unless a Being has been wronged? And how could being wronged mean anything unless your wrong causes some kind of pain? And if we have caused pain upon God, restoration must come in making right a relationship. If we do not, perhaps the fires of hell are just the metaphor for “having God move on from you, and missing out on your chance to be the object of love from the Great Being.” Perhaps realizing you were made to be loved, and perhaps this realization of all hope to obtain it is truly the worst pain imaginable.
We may not know, but for now, we know that we are faced with the abilities to both please God or hurt Him, and while we may yet hurt Him (and hate it) for the rest of our lives, perhaps we can examine where our own hearts are at, and see if where we stand.
1- John 11:35
4- John 10:33