Life can be difficult. We make choices that produce unintended and difficult circumstances, and people make decisions that work against us and bring us pain. When we enter into these difficult times, the pain tends to draw our eyes downward, away from God and toward ourselves. Our pain, understandably, becomes large, and as a result our perspective is that God becomes small, ineffective, unable to save. While that’s certainly not true, our personal pain can overwhelm us to the point of believing that to be true.
It is at times like these that certain stories in the Bible are especially helpful, and none more so than the story of creation. Although there are many controversies connected with Genesis 1, we can all agree that the theology of the passage teaches us critical and central truths about God. As we focus on his power and his loving nature, perhaps the pains of our lives can move into the background.
Genesis 1—God the Creator
Genesis 1:1–2 begins by affirming that God is the sole creator of everything. He stands above creation, is separate from creation, and is sovereign over all he has made. The stage is set.
In the first three days, God takes what is chaotic and makes it inhabitable, and he does this merely by his spoken word. We need to stop and let that bounce around in our heads for a while. From Genesis 1 we understand that God creates and controls matter at the subatomic and molecular level, and even in the face of that knowledge, our temptation at times is to think that God cannot help us in our pain. Sounds almost silly when one puts it that way.
God makes light without the sun and stars, in contrast to the pagan myths that saw the sun as the ultimate power. To God, the sun and stars are incidental in creation.
He makes water that can exist in three states — liquid, solid, and gas — knowing that thousands of years later he will change the molecular structure of water to something else so that his Son can walk on it. (At least, that is one possibility.) Just stop and think about that: The God whom we love and worship, the God who pursues us, this all-powerful God merely speaks, and reality, time, atoms, and molecules come into existence. Since the beginning of creation, these have always been under his control so he can perform the miracles we read about in the Gospels: he turns water into wine, heals physical and mental illness, and merely speaks to give life to the dead.
And remember, he is as loving as he is powerful.
The second half of creation week is about inhabiting what is now inhabitable. He makes the stars and places them in the heavens, puts fish in the seas, releases birds into the skies, and creates animals and, finally, humans to fill the earth. The earth does not have the innate ability to produce life; it is a gift from God.
What’s the point? There is only one God who creates all and is sovereign over all he has made; he will not share his glory with another (Isaiah 42:8).
Let’s allow Genesis 1 to enlarge our vision of God so that we can begin to see the immensity of who he is. How big is our God? Have the pains of life become so large that they control our attention? Has the God of Genesis 1 become so unsatisfying that the gods of this world compete for our affection — pleasure, absence of pain, power, independence?
Or is our God the God of Genesis 1, the One who speaks all things into existence? The One who is sovereign over absolutely everything? The One who is wise beyond anything we can understand? Is he the God who is worthy of being pursued with every ounce of passion in our body and spirit; the one to whom we cry out in our pain, to whom hang on in times of trouble, whom we serve, and whom we glorify in our obedience?
That’s the question of life. Is pain teaching us the lessons we need to learn to grow up and be like Christ, or has it successfully averted our eyes and limited our ability to believe in God’s power?
Finally, in the midst of all the pain, let us never forget that God is as loving as he is powerful.
By Dr. Bill Mounce
Bill is the founder and President of BiblicalTraining.org, serves on the Committee for Bible Translation (which is responsible for the NIV translation of the Bible) and has written numerous Greek resources including the best-selling biblical Greek textbook, Basics of Biblical Greek. He speaks and blogs regularly on issues relating to trusting the Bible, the Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus), Greek and issues of spiritual growth.