Let us talk just a little bit about trials, difficulties, hardships—those things that we would naturally think of as unfortunate circumstances, or consider negative, things we would choose, in our human thinking and nature, to avoid. In studying this topic, we find many seeming dichotomies in Christianity, and herein is another. What looks good or right through human eyes is not good at all, and what looks unpleasant or distasteful or bad to human eyes, is the very thing that God, in His love and mercy, ordains.
We will begin our study right at the very beginning of the history of these dichotomies; the entrance of sin. Genesis 3:17: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.” [Emphasis supplied.] This curse is a blessing.
We know that God is speaking to Adam and Eve after their fall, and in addressing them, He is addressing all humanity, caught in the net of sin. How is it that He pronounces a curse for our sake? What does the phrase mean “for your sake”? What do we mean when we say something is for your sake? It means that something is done or said for your good, your help, your benefit or blessing. In this Scripture God is telling us that He is pronouncing a curse for our good, our help, our benefit or blessing.
Let’s turn to a passage of inspiration to help us understand this seeming dichotomy. “It was not the will of God that the sinless pair should know aught of evil. He had freely given them the good, and had withheld the evil. But, contrary to His command, they had eaten of the forbidden tree, and now they would continue to eat of it—they would have the knowledge of evil—all the days of their life. From that time the race would be afflicted by Satan’s temptations. Instead of the happy labor heretofore appointed them, anxiety and toil were to be their lot. They would be subject to disappointment, grief, and pain, and finally to death.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 59.
Oh, friends, our God of love and mercy gave freely and abundantly all that was good, that was lovely, that was pleasant, that would produce joy and happiness, and an eternal life of bliss. But man, seeing another choice and deeming it better, distrusted and disobeyed God’s explicit instructions and took that which seemed better in his own eyes. And this opened the floodgates of woe and misery and death. It brought “the knowledge of evil” to all mankind.
This is the lot in which Adam and Eve found themselves after eating the forbidden fruit. But the full consequences were hidden from their initial vision and understanding. Therefore these consequences of sin “disappointment, anxiety, and toil” were, in God’s merciful, gracious, and loving plan, “appointed” [prearranged, selected, employed or allotted] them, and were intended for their good—their eternal good.
It seems possible, and maybe even likely, that Adam and Eve would have raised the very questions we so often ask when we undergo trial, difficulty, hardship, pain, or sorrow: Why?
Before we continue, I would like to consider for just a moment the greatest danger that threatens our well-being the most. It is sin—the loss of a connection with God—the Life-giver. His whole purpose in this world—after the entrance of sin—is the redemption of man. Therefore, everything He does in relation to this world is in relation to His plan of redemption and that one issue—sin, and rectifying that problem in our lives.
We are going to continue reading our passage in Patriarchs and Prophets that indicates God’s thoughts and intentions in regard to suffering, sorrow, trials, and difficulties that come our way. “Under the curse of sin all nature was to witness to man of the character and results of rebellion against God.” Ibid.
When Adam and Eve sinned they did not understand or comprehend the nature of sin—of rebellion against God, and the severity of the consequences. God saw that they needed to be taught these things and what we read next is God’s method to teach them this truth.
“When God made man He made him rule over the earth and all living creatures. So long as Adam remained loyal to Heaven, all nature was in subjection to him. But when he rebelled against the divine law, the inferior creatures were in rebellion against his rule. Thus the Lord, in His great mercy, would show men the sacredness of His law, and lead them, by their own experience, to see the danger of setting it aside, even in the slightest degree.” Ibid., 59, 60.
It is very painful to experience rebellion, but God saw that in order for man to comprehend the significance of his own rebellion to God, man must himself experience what it was like. There is not the least hint or shred of vindictiveness in this lesson that God has ordained. Rather it is given in the depths of Divine love. God knew we needed this lesson for our eternal salvation. This curse then, is really a blessing—a blessing for our eternal life.
God continues, “And the life of toil and care which was henceforth to be man’s lot was appointed in love. It was a discipline rendered needful by his sin … .” Ibid., 60. What is the sin that stands at the head of all sin? “Under the general heading of selfishness came every other sin.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 384.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “selfish” as “Having or showing concern only for yourself and not for the needs or feelings of other people.” So what does this have to do with “the life of toil and care … being a discipline rendered needful by his sin [selfishness]?”
“And the life of toil and care which was henceforth to be man’s lot was appointed in love. It was a discipline rendered needful by his sin, to place a check upon the indulgence of appetite and passion, to develop habits of self-control.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 60.
With what or whom does the “indulgence of appetite and passion” have to do? With self. It has to do with what gratifies “self.” What do I want, regardless of what is good for me, or my family, or my friends, or my God. What do I feel like? Will this kind of thinking ever bring happiness? “Simplicity of character and lowliness of heart will give happiness, while self-conceit will bring discontent, repining, and continual disappointment. It is learning to think less of ourselves and more of making others happy that will bring to us divine strength.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 476.
So, God ordained “the life of toil and care” to protect us against selfishness, the “indulgence of appetite and passion.” Is that a blessing, or a curse?
No sin or selfishness will be allowed in heaven. “Never will evil again be manifest. Says the word of God: ‘Affliction shall not rise up the second time’ (Nahum 1:9).” The Great Controversy, 504.
God, in His mercy and love, wants to teach us the consequences of sin and rebellion, and the best way is to experience it for ourselves. This can never take place in a situation of ease, a lack of trial and tribulation. So as we continue to read from Patriarchs and Prophets, 60, it says, “It [that is, “the life of toil and care”] was a part of God’s great plan of man’s recovery from the ruin and degradation of sin.”
Let’s look at this briefly from another angle. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6). To please God, we must have faith. Now what does this have to do with trials, tribulations, the “curse” of sin?
“But ‘we know that all things work together for good to them that love God’ (Romans 8:28). ‘All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution’ (2 Timothy 3:12). It is good for me to tread a hard and humble path, to encounter difficulties, to experience disappointments, to suffer afflictions and bereavements. The Saviour knows what is best. Faith grows by conflict with doubt and difficulty and trial.” The Review and Herald, August 28, 1883.
Faith grows through difficulty and trial. If you want your faith to grow then welcome trials. Know that they are ordained of God for your blessing. “Faith grows by conflict with doubt and difficulty and trial.”
We have seen that trial and difficulty under the “curse of sin” has been allowed by God as a blessing—to show us, to teach us the reality of the consequences of sin so that we will flee from it.
When you experience what in your view is a trial or difficulty, remember, it is given through the hand of Omnipotent love—for your eternal salvation. The key is—how do you accept it? Do you mumble and grumble and complain, or receive it in gratitude for what it really is—a messenger from God for your salvation—a curse that is a blessing. It is God Himself that said, “Cursed is the ground for your sake.” [Emphasis supplied.]
All Bible quotes NKJV unless otherwise noted.
Brenda Douay is a staff member at Steps to Life. She may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.