The story of creation begins with God who spoke, created, named, blessed, finished, and rested. The account is accented with the steady refrain “and it was good…” God created and placed the man and the woman in his creation. Humankind was created with a profound capacity for knowing God intimately. Created in the image of God, they were distinguished from the rest of the creation. There in the garden the man and the woman lived perfectly in the presence of God. But living in the presence of God comes with strings attached. God demanded obedience to his will and his commands. Under those conditions, the man and the woman lived in innocence, perfection, joy, and purpose. What does that have to do with suffering? A lot.
First, we discover that suffering was not created by God. God is good and did not create suffering and evil. He created a good world for the good of his creatures. Humans were good and blessed beyond measure, made in the image of God, with an unhindered relationship with God.
Second, there was a time when suffering did not exist in our world. It is not original and has not always existed. When we look at life and our world today, somehow we are reminded that this is not the way it is supposed to be. What happened?
While not a part of creation, evil and suffering do exist. The world is not the way it was and it is not the way it is supposed to be. Humans were created with wonderful privileges and significant responsibilities. But in Genesis 3 we read that they did not follow God’s will or obey His commands. The account begins with a tempter who calls into question God’s truthfulness, purpose, sovereignty, and goodness. It is interesting to read that from Genesis 2:4-3:24 he is “The LORD God,” the covenant making God who not only creates but enters into relationship with his creation. When the tempter addresses Eve, he simply refers to “God.” Adam and Eve got into trouble when they forgot their covenant relationship with God and focused on themselves. But before we become too hard on Adam and Eve, we need to remember that every day we face the same choice: God or Self?
The results of their fall are devastating:
They experienced shame as they discovered their nakedness;
They became estranged from God and tried to hide from him;
They experienced alienation from one another as they attempted to fix blame;
Pain and sorrow entered the picture: for her, pain in labor and delivery, and for him, toil in working the land;
The pair was banned from the garden;
Ultimately, there was physical and spiritual death.
The creation account of chapters 1-2 is accented with the resounding “it was good, it was good, it was good.” From chapter 4 forward, the story is punctuated with a new refrain “and he died, and he died, and he died.”
We have been born in a fallen world. We have never known Eden. Still somehow we know this is not the way it is supposed to be. The fall disrupted the relationship with God, with one another, and with creation. Sin originated in the garden. But it didn’t stay there. Its effects spread to all people of all time.