Tag Archives: Genesis 3

Sunday Devotional: On suffering, the human condition

Hebrews 4:14-16

Brothers and sisters:
Since we have a great high priest
who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus, the Son of God,
let us hold fast to our confession.
For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who has similarly been tested in every way,
yet without sin.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace
to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

To suffer is to be human — suffering is the human condition.

If you find that unacceptable and demand an explanation, it’s right there in Genesis 3 — in the account of our first parents’ deliberate defiance of God’s explicit instruction, imagining in their preening grandiosity that they can become “like gods”.

But the exercise of free will is not free of consequences. As God had forewarned Adam and Eve, the issues of disobedience were dire indeed. By their fall, a door was opened to chaos; henceforth a price must be paid for being human. Where once was joy and ease, there would be suffering, hardship, and pain. The control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered, and humanity becomes vulnerable to the ravages of sickness and disease, and eventual death.

And yet, narcissists that we are, when we are in the throes of suffering, we lament and wail “Why me?,” as if we alone should be spared from the universal human condition.

Millions of Americans suffer from chronic pain. In 2010, a poll by the American Osteopathic Association found that nearly 70% of Americans said they or someone they cared for had experienced pain. The same poll found that, perversely, 34% of Americans found that the side effects of pain medications are worse than the pain itself.

But researchers have found pain reducers that are not opiates or pharmaceuticals. The website Cracked has an article on six things other than drugs which temporarily reduced pain. Beginning with the least, the six are money, eating, music, imagination, touch, and religious faith.

Researchers found that religious, specifically Christian, faith is the most powerful non-pharmaceutical pain reducer.

As reported by Gary L. Wenk, Ph. D., in Psychology Today:

In a recently published study in the journal Pain, scientists (Wiech and colleagues) measured pain perception in two groups of people, devout practicing Catholics and professed atheists and agnostics, while they viewed an image of the Virgin Mary or the painting of Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci. Devout Catholics reported feeling more peaceful and compassionate when gazing upon a picture of the Virgin Mother. The devout Catholics also perceived electrical pulses to their hand as being less painful when they looked at Mary than when they looked at the lady in the painting by da Vinci. In contrast, the atheists and agnostics derived no pain relief while viewing either picture.… MRI scans demonstrated that the Catholics’ pain relief was associated with greatly increased brain activity in a small area located on the bottom left of their right prefrontal cortex. In contrasts, the atheists and agnostics demonstrated no response in this brain area. There was already ample evidence to suggest that this brain region is involved in controlling our emotional response to sensory stimuli, such as pain. Perhaps this study has, in fact, now shown us the location of the placebo effect.

Much has been written about the value of the placebo effect in the practice of medicine, but how this effect emerges and whether it can be controlled are issues that not yet understood…. Numerous meta-analyses (which are later analyses of other researchers’ data) have shown that only the perception of pain can be statistically demonstrated to be influenced by our minds, which scientists refer to as the emergent property of our brains. The impressive influence of our thoughts and expectations on how we experience pain is a true placebo effect.

If gazing upon a painting of the mother of Jesus reduces pain, how much more powerful would fixing our eyes and minds on the suffering Christ on the cross. As St. Paul reminds us in Hebrews 4:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way.

In other words, no one better understands and empathizes with our suffering than Jesus. So, when you are wracked with pain, physical or emotional, look to our Lord on the cross and ask for His help.

He always answers. Really.

I leave you with the very wise words written more than 5 years ago by Joan, a contributor to Fellowship of the Minds who doesn’t write anymore because her body is broken, with constant excruciating pain from hereditary osteoarthritis, notwithstanding spinal and two knee-replacement surgeries:

All of us suffer and in different ways according to our individual situations. That is the human condition….

One of the effects I have experienced is that suffering helps us to become “Little”, and I say this with a capital “L” to emphasize that I have found it has brought me closer to Our Lord in that I come to Him as a little child most dependent upon Him.

One needs only to look at a Crucifix and embrace Jesus completely because of the greatest act of love ever given — His horrible suffering and death upon the Cross to save us from our sins and to open the gates of heaven for everyone. We need not be morbid for each of our individual experiences with suffering, because then our suffering is offered to Jesus with a poor attitude. I have also found that a sense of humor really helps, because sometimes, when it rains, it pours, and we cannot figure out what is happening. The otherwise little things and chores we try to do become trying and monumental….

But really, we simply must say, “Jesus, I Trust In You,” in every juncture of our lives. Remember what Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.”

It is no secret that I love the angels and the saints, members of the Church Triumphant. Below are some thoughts about suffering from your family in heaven which might assist you in your individual suffering:

“To suffer much, yet badly, is to suffer like reprobates. To suffer much, even bravely, but for a wicked cause, is to suffer as a martyr of the devil. To suffer much or little for the sake of God is to suffer like saints.” – St. Louis-Marie de Montfort

“An unpitied pain wins greater merit beofre God. Never say to God: ‘Enough’; simply say, ‘I am ready!’” -Bl. Sebastian Valfre

“Christ tells us that if we want to join Him, we shall travel the way He took. It is surely not right that the Son of God should go His way on the path of shame while the sons of men walk the way of worldly honor.” – St. John of Avila

“Reason should dominate pain, for our Redeemer has sanctified pain and by so doing has given us Christians a right way of facing it. For us, pain does not come to hurt and destroy but to raise to the heights.” –Bl. Placid Riccardi

“I shall remind myself of the labors He undertook in preaching, of his weariness while traveling, of the temptations He suffered while fasting, of His vigils while praying, and of the tears He shed out of compassion. I will remember, moreover, His sorrows, and the insults, spittle, blows, ridicule, rebukes, nails, and all the rest that rained down upon Him in abundance.” -St. Bernard of Clairvaux

“Say always, ‘My beloved and despised Redeemer, how sweet it is to suffer for you.’” -St. Alphonsus Liguori

Jesus, the Second Person of the Triune Godhead, willingly suffered and died for us as reparation for the terrible sin of our first parents, because sin — every sin — requires atonement to make things right again.

But the sin of Adam and Eve must have been so monumentally catastrophic that it tore the very fabric of the Universe. No man (human) can atone for this monumental sin. Only God can — and did.

We, too, can make our suffering redemptive for our sins and those of others. Offer it to Jesus — join your suffering to Him. And don’t compare your suffering to others because each person has a Cross to bear. But if we join our suffering to Jesus in sincerity, with a contrite heart, our suffering will become sanctity and joy.

Isaiah 53:11

Because of his affliction
he shall see the light in fullness of days;
through his suffering, my servant shall justify many,
and their guilt he shall bear.

May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,

~Eowyn

See also:

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How Things Got So Messed Up

 

It all started with lies

Genesis 3:1-5

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

(Lie #1. Did you know that a question can be a lie? )

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

(Lie #2. A direct accusation that God was cheating Adam and Eve. )

The serpent was projecting his own motivations onto Eve

“…and you will be like God.” The devil was giving us window into what was driving him crazy, the fact the the serpent was not God, not the boss. Satan was looking at God’s most important creation, the beings that were made in the image and likeness of God Himself. He was likely thinking, “If I don’t wreck this thing, God will surely put these new creatures over me. Then, not only will I not be ‘the Most High,’ but I’ll even be unde the rule of these new upstarts!”
So what was the serpent’s strategy? It was to trick the humans into doing what he had done: to disobey and rebel against God.

Treason (verse 6)

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.

Eve! you idiot!

She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Adam! You were with her the whole time!
You are without excuse!

About that new wisdom (verse 7)

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Well, Adam and Eve, hows that “gaining wisdom” thing working out. You became to “smart” that you realized you were naked. 

Running from God instead of running to Him (verse 8)

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Enter Fear (verse 9-10)

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

The first Blame Game (verses 11-13)

And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Yup Adam not only blamed his wife, he blamed God. Smooth move, Adam.

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

The Consequences (verses 14-19)

So the Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your headand you will strike his heel.”

Did anyone notice the first Messianic prophecy in the Bible? 

To the woman he said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

To Adam he said,
“Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

Life After The Fall (verses 21-24)

Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.
The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

A sad day for animals. An indication that blood would have to be shed for redemption.

And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”

Expulsion! The tree of life out of reach (verses 23-24)

So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east sidee of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Expulsion from the Garden of Eden by Thomas Cole


 

That, boys and girls, is how things got this way.

But wait, there’s more…

Eden Restored (Revelation 22:1-3)

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse.

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