Have you ever been tempted to ask that question? Why me? Why is this happening to me? Last week, Americans celebrated our dichotomous and slightly illogical tradition of setting aside two calendar days to stop and give thanks to God for everything that we have in our lives, then getting up from the table of thanksgiving to maul one another in stores to spend the abundance of our savings buying gifts and holiday decorations for Christmas. We are a bit confused. And even though we quote the mantra, “money cannot buy happiness” many of us continue to live as such: keeping up with the Jones’s, hoping for that one next toy and being never fully satisfied. Then when crises hit we are leveled because we are spiritually and emotionally unprepared to handle them.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.”
– Rom 8.18-23
Three times in this passage Paul notes the fact that the whole of creation – the world, trees, the animals, the created order – is suffering and groaning because of futility.
“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher,
“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”
– Ecc 1.2
Solomon, the smartest, richest, wisest man ever to walk the face of the Earth – after experimenting with every kind of pleasure – came to the conclusion that all of life is vain. Meaningless. Fleeting. Of no true pleasure. Apart from God, that is.
But Paul, in Romans, states that creation was subjected to futility. That means there had to be a power that did the cursing. And Paul explains that it God who subjected it. Us. The worldwide situation politically, morally, environmentally has not been a downward spiral of natural degradation. God subjected it and us to this. Why? Because of one sin. One small act of disobedience: eating a piece of fruit.
Are you a pretty good person? God is so holy, so perfect and so just that He justly had to submit all of creation to futility – suffering – groaning because of that one little sin. All death, disease, exhaustion, earthquakes, savage animals, war and natural disasters are the consequence of that one sin (Rom 5, 1 Cor 5). The weight of the sin is not measured in and of itself, it is measured by the value of the one sinned against. And because God’s value is infinite, the punishment for that which we would consider the least of sins is infinite. Therefore, if you have less sin than Adam and Eve when they fell, then you alone deserve to not suffer.
But look closely at how Paul words our futile position:
“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”
– Rom 8.20
God subjected us to futility in hope! He wrote redemption’s plan before he ever said “Let there be light” (Gen 1.3). God enslaved creation and humanity to slavery to corruption so that He could redeem us and set us free. He exemplifies His glory and majesty by offering Himself as the punishment for our sins and Paul says here that we will have glory in the age to come. Glory.
Life is futile. You do not need me to tell you that. We have all longed for happiness, pleasure, fulfillment and meaning here on Earth, and we have all been left wanting. And that is how God organized it. He subjected us to it because of one little sin. But there is hope, and our hope is eternity in Christ.
But there is one essential truth that we all must remember. If you are in Christ, God is no longer angry at you for your sin. That force from which we need saving is indeed God’s wrath, but if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, confessing your sins and trusting Him for the forgiveness of your sins, there is no longer any condemnation (Rom 8.1). The futility that you experience is no longer judgment for your sins, only consequence. I once had a friend who lost a baby before it was born, and there was much grief around the death wondering if it was punishment for a sin. The answer is a resounding No! God has poured out His wrath on Jesus Christ for the punishment of the sins of all who would believe. Nothing we experience in this life, thence, is God’s judgement.
Now, there are times that there are consequences for our sins, and there are social laws by which we live and are punished in our bodies. But if repentance is present, you can be confident that your life’s futility is the futility of hope that you will one day be glorified from this life and body of death. You will be made whole and pure in the presence of Jesus Christ for eternity.
Why me? Because we all deserve Hell, death and damnation. The simple fact of God’s restraining the fulness of His wrath is grace. We, in our futile state, are receiving infinitely more than we deserve. But let us understand that the true mystery is, “Why would God save me?” Why me? An orphaned child in the slums of India, taken in by a loving family that nourishes and provides for him would rightly think, “Wow. Why me?” Let us humbly remember that which we deserve and acknowledge the grace poured out on us and in honest thankfulness seeing the mire from which we have been purchased. By blood. And be amazed.
Wow. Why me?