From Brokenness to Blessedness
It wasn't so in the beginning. In the beginning God had fashioned a perfect world, and when it was all done He announced His satisfaction with all that He had made: "behold, it was very good" (Genesis 1:31). The creatures God made knew, experienced, felt that there was no brokenness in the world of Paradise; Adam knew no tears, no death, no mourning nor crying nor pain.
It was a world we can't really imagine. No aches, no loneliness, no depression, no fear of cancer, no pollution, no financial strain: we can only dream of how it might have been.
And dream we do. Ours is a world of so much brokenness. Countless hunger, die of starvation. Countless struggle with the frailties of old age, sigh with the pains of arthritis, the fear of breaking bones. Countless endure the anguish of cancer, the horrors of Alzheimer's disease, the pains of a heart condition. Countless pine away in hostels and hospitals because of physical and/or mental handicaps. For what purpose it all! Brokenness.
But brokenness is displayed not just by sickness. There is the anguish of loneliness, of feeling friendless. There is the frustration of feeling inadequate, the dashed hopes of a happy marriage, the disappointment of business failure, the dismay of seeing one's offspring disregarding God's Word of life. And there is our own continuing sinfulness, that inner urge to do time and again what the Lord would not want us to do, the recurring disillusionment when we find ourselves doing what we do not want. Brokenness: life is so full of it. Small wonder people dream, dream of how it used to be, dream of how it ought to be..
It was not so in the beginning.
God created man good ... so that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love Him, and live with Him in eternal blessedness..." (LD 3).
Ah, that eternal blessedness! How we long for it in this world of tears!
But that blessedness is no more; ours is a world of tears. The Church confesses it soberly: "man ... in deliberate disobedience robbed himself and all his descendants of these gifts" (LD 4). The reference is to the fall, to man's horrid response to the temptations put forward by the devil. Man — our fathers and we — sinned. In cold words Holy God spelled out the bitter fruits of that disobedience: "pain", "cursed", "toil", "thorns and thistles", "sweat", "return to the ground" (Genesis 3). And precisely these are the acid realities we experience as we go through life: pain, toil, frustration, death. Ours is a world of tears; that blessedness is no more...
Or shall we strive to overcome the brokenness manifested in the pain, the toil, the frustration, the death? Will education do it? Or science? Or government assistance? Will individual will power get one beyond the frustrations? Or team spirit beyond the toil? Will alcohol squash the pain? Or drugs? Or music? In the course of time all the above have been tried by men and women in their pursuit of a happy world, and all will be tried again. But none have overcome the brokenness we experience. And no such effort will overcome this brokenness either.
The reason none will ultimately triumph over the brokenness of this life? The reason is that this brokenness is itself not the root problem; the brokenness we see and experience is a symptom, is a result of something deeper. For the brokenness of this life is rooted in sin. It is sin that must be removed if the bitter fruits of that fall in Paradise are to be undone.
Behold now the marvel of God's grace: He was pleased to give up His only Son in order that this Son might pay for sin! In the words of the Lord's Supper Form: "by His death (Christ) has removed the cause of our eternal hunger and misery, which is sin." That's the sweet triumph of Calvary: the cause of life's brokenness is taken away; sinners are reconciled to God so that the Holy One is again our Father!
No, God's people have not yet inherited the full wealth of Christ's victory. With our naked eye we do not yet see Paradise restored; God's people still see so much brokenness around and in themselves. We still struggle against temptations, still find ourselves committing the sins we hate — frustration; we're still burdened by the infirmities of old age, the aches of worn out bones, the debilitating effects of sickness — disappointment; there is still misunderstanding, unfaithfulness, loneliness, disobedience — irritation. But Paradise shall soon be restored, that day when all things shall be made new, that day when God "shall wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21:4). In that New Jerusalem "I shall ... possess perfect blessedness, such as no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived — a blessedness in which to praise God forever" (LD22). Eternal blessedness — RESTORED! How glorious shall tomorrow be!
The brokenness of this life remains, for now. But its sting is broken. God, after all, is no longer angry with us such that He curses us with pain; in Christ we have instead been forgiven and therefore receive from God grace alone. Meanwhile, that brokenness serves a purpose: it prepares us for the life to come.
From brokenness to blessedness. Such is the travel of the Christian. The brokenness remains, though its sting is gone. The blessedness comes, is here in part already because God is today my Father in Jesus Christ. How true is the confession I've received:
I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy (LD 22).
Aches and pains remain. But this I know: life isn't really broken anymore. Already there is so much blessedness.