Pain does not equal effort

There’s a bunch of sayings out there that propagate the myth that pain means effort, or effort means pain. And that without pain, we aren’t making an effort.

We measure the amount the work someone puts in by how much they’ve had to suffer. And when someone doesn’t feel any pain and yet succeeds we automatically assume they had it easy and success “fell into their lap”.

This line of thinking infects our spiritual walk and we begin to measure someone’s commitment to God by how much they “suffer for the gospel”.

Yes, often great efforts produce great pains. Yes, many achievements – historic and contemporary – have been born at deep personal and communal costs.

And yet, not all effort results in pain. In fact, when someone continues to feel pain we can oftentimes know that they are doing it wrong.

For example if you keep pulling your shoulder muscle when you do overhead press, you probably have bad form. Likewise, if you keep crashing your car and getting whiplash, you may benefit from driving lessons.

Sometimes we need encouragement when pain comes, sometimes we need course correction. But sometimes we encourage those going in the wrong direction and attempt to correct the course of someone who should persevere.

Just because your legs ache from 26 miles of running, doesn’t mean you crossed the finish line, stayed the course or even started the Marathon Event.

If your experiencing pain, check why.

Genesis 3:1-24 Part 5: In Wrath Remember Mercy

On Monday we looked at the punishment given to man following his crime against God. In today’s post we will examine the other elements of the curse, and how even in the midst of God’s wrath we can see and celebrate His Mercy.

The Promise

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
And between your offspring and hers;
He will crush your head
And you will strike His heel

After God has cursed the snake, He goes on to issue a promise. Some commentators called this the proto evangelium as in, the first proclamation of the Gospel. For it tells us about Jesus:

  1. His Incarnation – this promise tells us He will descend from Eve,
  2. His Suffering – this promise tells us He will be wounded in the process
  3. His Victory – over evil and sin, He will crush the serpent!

The Woman

In light of the curse given to the snake we can see the God’s mercy in the midst of wrath, embedded in the sentence given to the woman:

I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
With painful labour you will give birth to children

Yes, this is a severe punishment and consequence to Eve’s sin. And yet, it is not without mercy. For firstly, she will bear children. This means that the promise above (in verse 15) will continue. God will remain faithful even when we are faithless – He will fulfill His purposes.

Secondly, after the pain of childbirth there will be joy! (John 16:21)

The Clothes

In addition to the mercy shown through God’s words. We also see further mercy, in God’s provision of clothes for the couple.

As an history graduate, God’s provision of clothes is very significant. In Andrews Marrs book, History of the World, he pinpoints the invention of the needle (for the purposes of making clothes) as one of the defining inventions that set man apart from other species. Obviously, this passage does not say that God invented the needle. However, the blessing of clothes provides protection, warmth and even comfort to the humans.

The Shame

Nevertheless, it is undeniable, that God has rebuked us. He has stripped us of the garden, of our pathetic leaf outfit, moved us away from His presence and the tree of life.

And yet, in this shame there is grace. God has shamed us that we might seek Him (Psalm 83:16). As Augustine said: He has rubbed salt on our lips that we might thirst for Him.

We see this in the story of the prodigal son, who realises how good it was in his Father’s house, when he is reduced to pig food!

What now?

What difference does this make to our faith? What difference does God’s insistence on Mercy, towards Adam and Eve, make to our walk with God today?

  1. We worship a God who is the same, yesterday, today and forever. People often assume the God of the Old Testament is not merciful. Yet this story tells us clearly it is there.
  2. God’s plan for rescuing us, is not a fad, it is not a fickle ambition. Rather it has been planned from the beginning.
  3. We serve a God who is able to turn our worst failings, into means to accomplish His glory and our good (Gen 50:20, Rom 8:28).