19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;
21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
Every time there is another natural disaster in the world, Christians always get asked, "Why would God allow such things to happen?" Indeed, it seems like God gets the blame for every bad thing as well as every good thing, even though, if we are thinking Biblically, the Lord our God only wishes us good. (Jeremiah 29:11-14, Romans 8:38-39) It is true that He allows some bad things to happen, and yet it is equally true that He often diverts tragedy from our lives. But the miracles are often forgotten in the everyday pains and trials of life, and the wonders of His grace are rarely remembered in times of affliction and sorrow. The fact that we are still walking and breathing on this world is a testimony to God's longsuffering and His abundant mercy, because if we were to be judged according to our faithfulness and love for Him, we would all have died long ago. As David said, "The LORD is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy." (Psalms 103:8) Praise God for that!
But that still does not answer the question of why even nature itself seems arrayed against us as in a battle for our lives. The Bible does answer that question:
17 Then to Adam He said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat of it':
"Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
18 "Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
19 "In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return."
"Cursed is the ground for your sake": it just doesn't get any more plain than that. Because Adam sinned, because the first man violated a simple and sacred commandment from God, he ruined the world itself. Before the fall of man, the earth yielded its fruits without toil or effort, and the garden provided for all that the man and his wife needed. So long as Adam maintained his proper relationship with God, then all creation was subject to him. But as soon as Adam violated the simple covenant of obedience to God, he broke not only his relationship but he also broke creation.
1 Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
And so, as Paul remarks in today's verses, even as mankind eagerly awaits deliverance from this daily grind of trouble and toil, creation itself also awaits its own redemption. This world, however, cannot bring about its own salvation through faith, but it must simply await its rebirth. In point of fact, this world will actually be destroyed in order to purge its brokenness (2 Peter 3:10, Revelation 21:1), and the redeemed of God will inhabit a new earth and a new Jerusalem that will descend from God Himself. (Revelation 21) Until that day comes, we are all of us subject to the futility of this world.
14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.
15 What is crooked cannot be made straight,
And what is lacking cannot be numbered.
And so we suffer the troubles of a broken world, we face a nature that is not the way God originally made it. We live in a world corrupted by our own sin, live in bodies that suffer from the curse of death.
17 Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls--
18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
19 The LORD God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer's feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.
To the Chief Musician. With my stringed instruments.
That truly is how we should respond to this shattered world, with rejoicing in the Lord our God, because we live with fervent hope that He shall redeem us. Our salvation is written in the blood of the Son of God, our wholeness purchased by the broken body and pierced hands of our Savior. No matter how horrible this world may seem to be, no matter how wretched our lives may be, no matter what dark paths down which the devil may lead us to test and tempt us, we shall yet hope in the Lord and His salvation.
38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God. NOTHING. And so, whether we face the death of a loved one, whether we face disease or infirmity, whether we face broken relationships and shattered families, whether nature itself seems to rise up against us, we yet have an Advocate who stands before God and declares His love for us. (Hebrews 7:25) Despite our doubt and faithlessness, despite our rebellion and pride, despite our idolatry and greed, the Lord is yet faithful to His promise to never leave us nor forsake us. (Joshua 1:5) He will not cast us aside forever. In fact, He loves us so much, His Son came to pay the price for the redemption of all men. (John 3:16-17)
Every time I sink low into depression and worry, I seek God and I try to remember that these present trials are like labor pains as I await the hope of my salvation. Like all creation, I wait with anticipation, subjected to the emptiness and futility of this life and yet overcoming the world through faith, so that in the end I may partake of the glorious riches of God's grace. Despite all I may face, I yet rejoice in the Lord, because I know He is faithful and mighty, that He is my strength and my song, that He has become my salvation. (Exodus 15:2, Psalms 118:14)
Dear friends, be not troubled by life itself. That is not to say that we should just sit back and roll with the punches. On the contrary, we must still stand up for what is right and good in the world, and we should call all people to see the glory and wonder of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we now have access to the salvation of our souls and the resurrection of our bodies. One day even the earth shall put off what is corrupt and be clothed in incorruption, just as we one day shall be raised into new life with our blessed Savior. Therefore, let us await with anticipation and hope that day when the world shall be remade and the glory of God will shine forth as the sun to bring all men to judgment. Let us place our faith in the One true and living God and in His Son, Jesus Christ, who alone is the instrument of the salvation of the world and all men.
Holy Father God, so great is our wonder at all You have done, and yet we still suffer from worry and doubt. Teach us to seek You, to rejoice in You, no matter what happens in our lives. Guide our hearts to the blessed Savior, so that our faith is renewed every day. Restore to us the joy of Your salvation. Father, we look forward to that day when the world shall be reborn from fire into glory. Until that day, O Lord, be our strength and our song, so that regardless of our troubles, we shall yet have joy in hope. Amen.