To the extent that the point of this cartoon by David Hayward is that spiritual growth hurts, I agree – it can hurt.
Surely that is the reason why many prefer to remain immature, not merely childlike (which can be positive) but childish. Spiritual growth, like any growth, is a painful process.
However, I suspect I am not the only one who also has qualms about the depiction of God kicking someone off a cliff.
That, I think, is part of the challenge theology faces when it comes to theodicy.
If a human parent were to make things deliberately difficult for their child, we might well accuse them of child abuse rather than fostering spiritual development. And yet some degree of “throwing them in the deep end” is acceptable pedagogy when teaching a child to swim. Indeed, we sometimes cause harm and long-term challenges to our children both when we fail to provide support and protection they need, and when we provide too much. And so it is no wonder that we struggle with relating this to our ideas about God.
How much of the problem is in our anthropomorphism, our depiction of God in human terms? How much is due to the things we depict God as doing? And how much is due to our own assumptions about what it means to be good, or our inappropriate imposition of those values on God?