The Common Narrative
The longer that I am a Christian, the more I realize how nuanced suffering is. Take the story of the Fall of Man. In the first three chapters of Genesis, God creates the world. Man is placed in the perfect Garden of Eden to work and cultivate. There is a rule, however, God is to be the ultimate reality as to good and evil. Man is to eat of any fruit of the garden, but is not able to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, a tree that symbolizes becoming the arbiter of what is right and wrong. Man rejects God’s good gifts and rejects God, takes from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and eats, putting himself in the moral place of God.
Now, the common narrative goes something like this. God was angry at the disobedience of man, and drove man from the garden. At the same time, God cursed the work of man, the childbearing of woman, the serpent, and the earth. This sweeping pronouncement is known as The Curse. Sinful man could no longer live peacefully with a holy God. And that narrative is true, God has the right to be angry, God created man and man despised the rules that God put forth. However, while the common narrative is correct, it is not complete.
The reason that the common narrative is incomplete is because Romans 8 gives us a fuller picture of what was happening at the fall.
“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”
(Romans 8:20-21 ESV)
The creation was subjected to it’s futility by God. But though there was a sense in which God did it as punishment, there is another sense in which he did it in hope. What does that mean? It means that God hopes that the brokenness of the world would drive us to him. And isn’t that our experience? How many of us ran to God in a time where everything went well? Rather, isn’t it when we feel the brokenness of creation most acutely that we call out to God. When we look back on a decade of work and wonder if we did anything significant, we are feeling the brokenness of creation. When we see a tornado wipe away everything we built, we feel the brokenness of creation. And when we achieve everything that we want, but our discontent grows instead of dies, we feel the brokenness of creation. And often these moments are the times that we most acutely feel the need for God.
Think of it this way, the most callous thing that God could have done to Adam and Eve would be to not pronounce The Curse. Because then people would still be able to define right and wrong for themselves, but still live forever. People would still rebel against God, but without futility, they would be content in their sin. The deforming power of sin combined with everlasting life would leave people increasingly proud, lustful, and hateful day by day. And the worst part is that they would be content in their evil, they would never look towards God.
So, the curse, oddly enough, was a blessing, though a devastatingly severe one. So as we feel the futility of this world, let’s push into the correcting rod of our Lord, until we get to the day when it is no longer needed.