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The Heart of Misery

10 June 2011 by Daniel

Q. 21. Did man continue in that estate wherein God at first created him?
A. Our first parents being left to the freedom of their own will, through the temptation of Satan, transgressed the commandment of God in eating the forbidden fruit; and thereby fell from the estate of innocency wherein they were created.

Q. 22. Did all mankind fall in that first transgression?
A. The covenant being made with Adam as a public person, not for himself only, but for his posterity, all mankind descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him in that first transgression.

Q. 23. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A. The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.

Because Adam set aside the command of God, taking to eat the fruit from the Tree Of The Knowledge Of Good And Evil, God drove him out of the Garden of Eden, and cursed him to boot.

One noteworthy effect of this fall is not defined so much by what we see but rather what we no longer are able to see. Consider this: in the garden Adam and Eve could sense the presence of God, not as some airy-fairy feeling, but through their natural senses - they knew where God was and could "see" Him in some sense (I say in some sense lest we forget that God is Spirit). They communicated with God directly and not merely through prayer. The moment Adam forsook the command of God he made forfeit his "right" to be experientially aware of God.

That isn't to say that there weren't moments throughout history where God spoke to men; He did speak to individuals occasionally throughout redemptive history, and in a variety of ways, but mankind as a whole was cut off from God by Adam's sin. By and large (second to such things as sin and death of course) the misery of God's absence (or more properly the fact that we are unable to see God experientially) is the most penetrating reality of our existence.

Do we have to work for our food? Yes. Do we get sick in this world? Yes. Is there corruption and violence? Yes. Fear? Hate? Suffering? Yes, yes, all of those things. Are these things the cause of our misery? The thoughtful answer is that these are all expressions of the misery of God's absence. Not that God is actually absent, but rather that God withholds (from our awareness) His presence from us. This is the very heart of our misery.

You see: hunger, thirst, sickness, and death all came upon us because of Adam's sin, but what defines the nature of our misery is not these things, it is the absence of an awareness of God. The most horrible thing about the curse was not what God added, but what God took away. Just as death is defined as the absence of life, and isn't a thing itself, but is the word we use to describe a lacking of life. Just as darkness is a non-thing: the absence of light; so also the misery that is in this world is defined by what we lack: the awareness of God.

The fall introduced many things: pain, suffering, death, sickness; but it's what the fall took away that brought misery.