Tag Archive: THE CURSE


You stub your toe on a table leg. You passionately address the table, and perhaps even the gods who you may not believe in, with certain derogatory words and accusations which your mother would never have approved of…

You wonder why the gods allowed your throbbing toe to make contact with such a solid object at all. Couldn’t they have moved the table aside one second before contact?

Why does the Biblical God allow us to suffer? Isn’t he a God of love? Why, if He’s omnipresent and omnipotent, isn’t he one step ahead of us, preventing all the terrible things which happen in our world every day? There are a number of answers to this, which none of us like. We can’t know them all, but we can know some of them…

First of all, God created a physical universe for physical beings to live in, and a physical universe must have natural laws to govern it. Why would God create a physical universe, and then negate its natural laws? If you drop a concrete slab, you can be sure that gravity will rapidly draw it with some considerable force and momentum towards your toe, already bruised and throbbing after its connection with the table leg.

We don’t know whether Adam and Eve, before the Fall, were susceptible to concrete slabs dropping on their toes. We do know, however, that once they began to rebel, they were susceptible to anything including death:

“For in the day that you eat thereof, you shall surely die.”

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Something happened when Adam disobeyed God, and he began to die, just as God had warned him he would. It took him a long time to die, but die he did, as a direct consequence of his disobedience. His disobedience, and later our own, led to our downfall also. It doesn’t take us so long to die as it took him, because he was still a fresh and extremely healthy creation. We Christians-those of us who believe the Bible-talk about the Fall of man and of nature, at which time humans and all of creation became subject to adverse events and circumstances. When Cain struck down Abel, God didn’t stop him…God let Cain do it. Why did he? Why didn’t God say, “Hey Abel! Look out-your brother has a knife!” Why didn’t he make whatever weapon Cain used turn to dust before it could do the dirty deed?

Since the Fall God has intentionally allowed us to face consequences: consequences of our own actions and of others’ actions; consequences of natural laws such as gravity, and consequences of the fall of nature, so that our bodies degrade and become ill. There can only be one alternative to perfect health forever, and that’s illness, decline and death. God refuses to allow fallen man-in rebellion and disobedience-to live forever, or to live without natural consequences.

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Free will is an amazing gift to us from God, as a vital part of His creation. God wants man to have his own mind and spirit, and to choose to love Him and each other, rather than creating him with robotic compliance. However, free will comes at a price. It’s the driving force behind all the hatred, unrest, unhappiness and evil we see playing out in our world. If God had turned Cain’s weapon to dust before it killed Abel, Cain would no longer have free will. If God froze our tongue moments before we made our feelings clear to someone, in the process hurting them, we would no longer have free will.

In suffering we learn and grow. If there were no consequences to our actions and our words, we would not learn to control them. We would not mature. We would remain like children in our character.

Perhaps the hardest lesson for us all to learn is that it’s God’s will that we suffer, in this world. He-not the devil- instituted the Curse. The Curse is one of those natural laws that God created. It affects all of creation. He’s able to negate those laws when he sees fit (in what we call a “miracle”) but for the most part, it’s His will that we endure suffering. How we respond to that suffering and those challenges is of great interest to God. It’s how God, and everyone else, finds out what we’re really made of. Even Jesus Christ was sent into the wilderness, by the Holy Spirit of God, to be tempted. In the Bible the words “tempt” and “test” are interchangeable.

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To that end, God even allows that rebellious spirit-Satan-to test us. You only need to read the story of Job to see that. Satan is able to afflict us physically and to sorely test us mentally and spiritually-if he receives permission from God to do so. While Satan probably doesn’t afflict all of us directly (he has his own minions) his hateful exploits have devastating affects on our world. But the most important message of Job’s story is that God-and Satan-were vitally interested in how Job would react to his suffering. What was he really like inside? What were his real motives for acting as he did, and for claiming to care about his creator? Did he really love God? Would he maintain his humility before God? Had he really only been following the Lord because life had been rich and trouble-free, or was it because he saw the Lord as his Master, for better or for worse? In marriage our love for our spouse is put to the test and seen for what it really is when we have problems and disagreements, not when all is going well.

God knows that human nature is contrary to His, and that even if He made sure that everything went smoothly for us, we would not feel the need to seek Him. In fact, in many or most cases we humans will only seek God, and humble ourselves to him, when we are suffering or struggling in some way. Somehow, God knows that we grow spiritually under adverse conditions.

Our universe is temporary, and this physical, limited world we live in is a proving ground for all of us. In time, we will be judged for our responses and actions. The most relevant fact that we need to respond positively to is that God has provided his own Son as a sacrifice, so that we can know Him. If we accept God’s gift of his Son, we can escape the limitations of our mortal, temporary bodies in the future, when he will restore all of nature to a state of perfection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What do you do when you’re down and troubled? Do you cuddle the dog? Do you put the TV on? Do you pop a pill or light a joint?

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We’ve probably all had someone tell us when we’re down that there are people worse off than us. That’s supposed to cheer us up. But as a 20th century British comedian, Peter Cook, observed, that just makes us feel bad about the other people as well.

One thing that’s helped me in recent times of feeling down is facing up to the fact that I’m feeling down. And with it I’ve also found comfort in the fact, after all, that others are suffering. I’m not saying that it’s a good thing to suffer, and I’m not saying that we should wallow in our trouble, or that we should not cuddle the dog or do something to “shake out of it”. But there’s a very real sense in which knowing that humanity is born into trouble and suffering, and that just being alive exposes us all to the consequences of being in a fallen world of nature and people…is half of the cure. It’s normal. It’s not an aberration to be down and troubled: it’s natural. It’s part of who we are. It’s life. It’s reality. It’s what humans do.

The other half of the cure (the subject of the third part of my “dark side” series, still to come) is stated clearly in this New Testament quote from Jesus Christ:

I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33 NIV).

By facing up to the reality of our human plight, we can also find the answer to it, in Jesus Christ.

Why does a new car devolve into a rusted, broken wreck? Why do the weeds keep coming back in the garden? Why do we get sick? Why does life sometimes seem like an unwinnable battle…

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(Picture by Marlith)

I’m tackling the problem of suffering from a Biblical point of view, because I really believe that the Bible gives solid answers, unlike many-or all-of the world’s alternative religions and philosophies.

Perhaps the most hopeless philosophy is that of naturalistic evolution. While some atheists put a brave face on their future by saying that they’re part of the onward and upward evolution of life, they can’t escape their own beliefs. Yes, they can feel good about themselves and their mortality by making the world a better place to live in for everyone else, but according to evolution suffering and death are necessary components of evolution. As individuals we struggle, suffer and die, with no hope of anything afterwards. We are, in this philosophy, no more important or valuable than a tape worm, and we prove to be no more than parasites on the earth.

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Atheists and evolutionists in general tend to dismiss the Biblical God by saying that he isn’t doing his job, which is to stop all suffering and to give everyone a good time. Well excuse me, but who told them that that was God’s “job” description or God’s obligation? And if he doesn’t do it by their prescription (or ours) isn’t that up to him? How are we going to force his hand anyway? Who decides what God “should” do, and how he should run the world that he created and sustains? Where does it say in the Bible that God promised to stop all suffering and give everyone a good time, except at the end of the Revelation? Just because God doesn’t do things our way, it doesn’t mean he isn’t there at all.

The source of most of human suffering is laid out for us clearly in the early chapters of Genesis. I wrote in part two about the free will that God gave to man, to choose between right and wrong, as well as the ability to decide on many things. Genesis tells us that God gave man a simple test of that free will, because without an opportunity to make the wrong choice and disobey, there could be no free-will.

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God gave Adam and Eve a perfect place to live in, with the companionship of a beautiful healthy mate, and his own presence. He also gave them all kinds of delicious and exotic natural foods to eat freely. However, God made one tree that they were not permitted to eat fruit from, and warned them clearly that if they ate from that one tree they would die. They failed the test.

God would not let imperfect man live for ever in a perfect world, so he profoundly changed the order of things. He told Eve that she would bear children in pain (Genesis 3:16). He removed Adam’s access to the tree of life, which would have given him and us health and life without end (Genesis 3:22, 23). He told Adam that he would henceforth have to work hard for a living, until the day he died, and made it clear that the world would no longer be just a playground of pleasure, but was cursed along with his own life. It would actually provide some resistance to him (verses 17 to 19).

Yes, death was and is the result of Adam’s disobedience. Paul stated the situation clearly, when he said “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…” (Romans 5:12).

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It’s not just humans who suffered from Adam’s decision. Paul explained that “the creation was subjected to frustration” (Romans 8:20), and that “the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (verse 22).  Whereas God created a perfect world with the potential for perpetual fulfillment and happiness, now all of nature is running down and decaying, and is not on an onward and upward journey of evolution.

This may seem to us like very stiff punishment for “one little mistake”. However, decisions do have consequences, and God can do what he wants to do. More than that, God’s action was a road-block to human nature which already tended towards rebellion against the creator. It wasn’t long before the dark side of humanity was at work again, when Cain, Adams’s son, murdered his brother (chapter 4).

And the rest is history, because like it or not we all inherited the same sin nature that Adam had. It’s not just that we have that same willingness to ignore God’s clear guidance which was written into our conscience and later in Scripture, but we’ve inherited that nature just as surely as we inherit genetic material from our ancestors. It’s as if we’re born with a disease, which God calls “sin’.

We’re not left without hope, because right from the beginning God had a plan-as I said before, “Plan B”- to rescue mankind from sin. Paul wrote:

…if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17).

We all now have the opportunity to make a very positive choice with our free will: a choice which will ultimately rid us of all suffering and give us eternal life. Jesus said:

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die (John 11:25, 26).

Paul wrote:

Since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man (1 Corinthians 15: 21).

The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus… (Romans 6:23).

In this provision of forgiveness and eternal life is seen God’s concern and love for us, even while we suffer for now in this fallen, broken world.

 

 

 

 

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