[June 18]--Why Do Bad Things Happen? An Out-of-Whack Creation

Rom. 8:18-22

I’ve mentioned this before when we studied the first three chapters of Genesis, but it bears repeating: There have only been two people in the history of humanity who've ever seen this world the way it was designed to be. Our first parents were living in a perfect paradise, and then they opened the door to sin. Sin walked through the door, and it brought some friends along: guilt, fear, shame, separation from the Creator, and ultimately death. Please keep in mind that this is always how sin operates: Once we open the door to it, it never walks in alone.

From my reading of Genesis, it looks like humanity was meant to be in charge of the entire world. Everything was subject to us, just like we were subject to our Creator. As long as we were under the authority of the Most High, the world would be under our authority. But once we rebelled against him, in effect declaring our independence from him, the creation under us rebelled against us as well. This is what Genesis 3:17-19 is talking about: Where once the garden would freely supply all our needs, now we would have to force it to do so, with back-breaking and frustrating and (sometimes) futile labor.

The standard interpretation of today's passage--and I agree with it--also adds to the subject. Paul says that the creation was subjected to frustration (apparently by God himself), that it’s in bondage to decay, and that it’s “groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” It seems that this is one of the reasons why we have such things as earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes. This is why we have drought when we need lots of rain and floods when we need less rain. This is why our own bodies, affected by sin, are subject to decay and frustration as well: My eyeglasses and diabetes are prime examples of this.

But how does this relate to God’s sovereignty? We know that he’s in charge of everything, including the storms and earthquakes. So if an earthquake hits a town, is that the Lord's direct action or just an “out-of-whack” creation? By trying to figure that out and say definitively what’s happening in a specific situation, I really think that we’re in danger of repeating the error of Job’s friends. Declaring that we know for sure what he's doing and why, without a specific revelation from him, is very risky. But we know that the Lord is sovereign and that creation is not what it’s supposed to be, and sometimes that’s all we can know for certain.

But the good news is that not only is this world not what it should be, it’s not what it will be either. Paul’s main point in this passage is not to describe what’s wrong but to predict what will be right when the Lord returns. Creation was subjected to frustration, not because of cruelty but “in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” That earthquake? Childbirth pains. And when my Savior returns, both I and the world will be rebuilt and remade and given glorious new bodies which will NEVER be subject to decay or death. In fact, Paul considers “that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Think about that for a moment, and live that truth out today.

Lord Jesus, I can’t wait. When I see all the suffering in the world, from starvation in Africa to the minor pains in my own body, it’s good to know that everything is a work in progress. You make all things new, and I thank you for it.

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