Origins of… Struggle

Genesis 3:14-24

In this passage, the man, the woman and serpent face the judgment of God for what they have done. This is commonly known as the curse and it has a profound shaping effect on the way we experience life today.

First to receive judgment was the serpent. He was cast down to crawl on his belly and to eat the dust of the earth. There was also a declaration that there would be enmity between him and the woman, and the offspring of the woman would be ultimately victorious (though would be wounded in the process). This judgment on the serpent explains why we experience spiritual struggle to this day.

Secondly, the woman. Her judgment involved pain in childbirth and a distortion in her relationship with her husband. Her desire being contrary to his suggests a desire to undermine him and to work against him, and his desire to rule over her suggests a harsh and domineering attitude that is very different to the relationship between Christ and the church that a marriage is supposed to reflect. This judgment on the woman explains why we experience struggle in relationships to this day.

Finally, the man. For him, the judgment was that the ground would be cursed. No longer would his working life be easy, but work would become toil and only through pain and sweat would he be able to bring forth food from the ground and put bread on the table. It was confirmed that death would be part of the judgment and that the man made from dust (and all who came after him) would return to the dust once more. This judgment on the man explains why we experience struggle in work to this day.

Having issued the judgment, God then banished the man and woman from the Garden of Eden. They no longer had free access to his presence and to the tree of life. This sets up the narrative arc of the rest of Scripture. How would these fallen and cursed humans get back to the presence of God? How would the struggle end? The hope given in this passage is that there would be an offspring of the woman who crushes the serpent’s head, and it is to him that we must look.

Some Key Points:

  • Sin leads to God’s judgement.
  • The consequences of the sin of Adam and Eve profoundly shape the world we live in – struggle in the spiritual realm, in our relationships and in our work, death and alienation from the presence of God.
  • We have a hint of a solution – the promised offspring of the woman who will bruise the serpent’s head. This was fulfilled in Christ.

Following the Threads:

  • Romans 8:19-21 describes the whole creation under the curse, longing for a liberation that will happen at the ‘revealing of the sons of God’ (the end of the age).
  • Through the Old Testament, the promised one is narrowed down, first to a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and then to a descendant of David.
  • Revelation 12 is a prophetic picture showing Jesus as the serpent crusher and highlighting how through his blood and the testimony of the suffering saints about it, the devil is thrown down.
  • Romans 16:20 picks up on our part in this. Satan will be crushed under the feet of believers through our lives of faith and obedience.

Potential Applications:

  • Empathy For Struggle – Struggle is a normal part of human existence. For those experiencing spiritual, relational or vocational struggle, strike a tone of empathy and help them see why this is how the world is.
  • Undoing of the Curse – Through the kingdom of God, the curse is being undone. This has both ‘now’ and ‘not yet’ elements to it. The enemy has been defeated at the cross but not yet fully vanquished. Relationships between believers are transformed by the work of the spirit but sanctification is incomplete in this age and there will still be conflict. With new purpose and miraculous provisions, a believer’s experience of work is different to that of a non-believer, and yet the world is still groaning. We have been given new spiritual life and a promise of physical resurrection, but death is still part of our experience. We have the presence of God with us, and we long for the day when the whole earth is filled with his manifest presence.
  • A Call to Hope – We have seen clearly that there is only one hope for this world of struggles, and that is the saviour who the Lord promised and sent. This is a call to hope where we experience struggle and to place that hope firmly in Jesus.