Remember when we tackled the book of Job and then got into a study of why bad things happen in this life? One of the main reasons (for bad things) we discussed was the fact that this world is not what God created it to be. Let’s look at it.
Like much of Paul’s writings, he packs 10 pounds of meaning into a five pound bag of words. He’s talking about the glorious benefits of our salvation in Christ: past, present and future. And before he talks about us, he takes the broader view of all creation and gives us insight into how our sin affected it.
I’ve hammered this home again and again, especially at the beginning of year one, but it bears repeating: You cannot understand the rest of the Bible, nor life, without knowing, understanding, and believing the first three chapters of the Bible. Let’s focus on the second part of that statement for a moment. A few months ago as of this writing, a major hurricane battered the Northeast U.S., leaving a lot of people homeless and devastated. Every year we read of earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, droughts, etc., which destroy peoples’ homes, livelihoods, and even take lives. Why do these things happen?
Well, the ultimate reason anything bad happens at all in this life is because of sin—maybe my own personal sin or someone else’s—but there’s something more to it. When he was created, Adam was put in charge of the entire world. He had a perfect world in front of him: He had no experience of disease, pain, hardship, or death. But then he (and his wife) chose to disobey their Creator, and in that moment. . . everything changed.
Bringing sin into the world had a lot of effects, but the one in today’s passages is the effect it had on the physical creation. Adam was head over physical creation, but only so long as he was under the headship of the Lord. Once he rebelled, creation rebelled under him as well. That’s why creation doesn’t work the way we like. That includes everything from mosquitoes biting us to earthquakes and floods which kill thousands.
But there’s a further aspect of this we need to consider: This was a terrible thing for creation as well as us. Our sin negatively affected the world, which in turn negatively affects us. Genesis quotes God as saying that he would curse the ground for Adam’s sake. We have to experience horrible things in this world, but so does everything else. We get frustrated, sick, hurt, and dead, and so does everything else.
But Paul’s passage add a whole new light to all this. The coming of Jesus changed everything. That's why Paul doesn’t call the condition of our world a curse, but birth pangs. Think about that. A woman in birth is in incredible pain (or can be), worse than almost anything she can undergo. When God told Eve she would bear children in pain, he wasn’t kidding. But her pain has a purpose. She produces a child, and (ideally) at the end of it she says that it was all worth it. Her pain on one end is more than balanced by the joy she has when she looks upon her newborn. And in this world, the only way she could completely avoid the pain would be to not get pregnant. So in that way, her pain is completely necessary to the end result, the child.
The Lord subjected the creation to frustration. Why are you or anyone else frustrated? The only reason anyone gets frustrated is if they know of something better. The reason why creation is “frustrated” is because deep within it, there’s an unconscious echo of what it once was, an intuitive knowledge that this is not the way it’s supposed to be, and a whisper of what one day will come. Just like us.
Just like with us, he's not subjecting creation to frustration for no reason. He subjected it to frustration in anticipation of liberation. Liberation of who, or what? Well, as God’s children, one day we’re going to be liberated from these sinful bodies and souls, cleansed, and given brand new ones which will never wear out. We get liberated, and creation will be “brought into” that. Which we’ll discuss more tomorrow.
In the meantime, let’s focus on the fact that—just like us--this world is not what it was, nor is it what it should be, but it also isn’t what it will be. When you see the “birth pangs,” take heart.
Father God, it’s really heartbreaking to read and see people and all creation broken in front of me. But I know that the reason it’s so frustrating is because I know that there’s something better—behind us, and in front of us. Help me be patient.