Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it.Genesis 3:17b
We must struggle so hard to make a living because the ground has been cursed. Man is reduced to unending toil and sorrow. Work is not the curse given to humans. It is toil that is the curse. If you do not have work to do, you are of all people most miserable. Work is a blessing from God; but hard, grinding, toiling work is the result of the fall. It is sweat, anxiety, and pressure coming constantly upon us to create the endless rat race of life.
The second factor that resulted from Adam's failure is death. God said,
For dust you are and to dust you will return (Genesis 3:19). Isn't it this sense of death, lurking at the boundaries of life, that gives us a feeling of futility about life? Remember the rich man who built barns and filled them up and then said to himself,
Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry. But God said to him,
You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you... (Luke 12:19-20). Then he asked this question:
Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? (Luke 12:20).
Yes, that is the question death forces us to face. You struggle to amass property, all the good things of life, and then what a sense of futility there is in having to pass them along to somebody else, someone who didn't turn a finger to gain them.
Naked we came into the world, and naked we shall leave it. We have nothing that we can take with us but must leave it all behind. We are dust, and to dust we shall return. There is the sentence of God—pain, subjection, toil, and death.
Is this the result of our folly for which we must grind our teeth and struggle with all our life, a curse for what Adam did? No, it is not. It only appears to be punishment when we refuse it and resist it or rebel against it. But these things were never intended to be any kind of punishment. They are instead intended to be helps to us, means by which we are reminded of truth, means intended to counteract the subtle pride that the enemy has planted in our race that keeps us imagining all kinds of illusory things—that we are the captain of our fate and the master of our soul; that we are capable of handling and solving all the problems of life—these arrogant pretensions we make.
But we are constantly being reminded that these things are not true. Death, pain, toil, and subjection are limits that we cannot escape. They are there constantly to cancel out our egocentric dreams and reduce us to seeing ourselves as we really are. We are dust. We are only human. We are limited, dependent. We cannot go it alone—we desperately need other people, and we desperately need God. The hour of greatest hope in our lives is when our eyes are opened to this basic fact and we say,
Lord, I can't make it without you. I need you desperately.
Thank You, Lord, for those trials and limitations of life that keep me dependent on You.
Work is meant by God to bless us. How has the fall of man infected everything we do to make all our efforts result in futility? What are we learning from life's problems?