That’s the first sentence in the psychiatrist Scott Peck’s book The Road Less Travelled, and he then goes on to talk about how we humans moan about our problems “as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy.”
I think there’s truth there, but there’s also a very important point being missed.
It’s true that it’s unreasonable to talk “as if life were generally easy”. Life isn’t generally easy. Life is, as his first sentence stated, difficult. When things go wrong, that’s not hugely surprising. The amazing thing is when things go smoothly for a change, and then some people exclaim “how lucky you were” (and others, like me, say “thank God”). Most of the time, life includes pain and suffering and difficulty. That’s the norm. The type of difficulty varies, as does the level, but difficulty is so much part of life that we find it hard to imagine it otherwise.
And yet… as he points out, we do have this seemingly irrational tendency to talk “as if life should be easy” – where does that come from?
We read Genesis 3 in church last night and there it was, the moment when life changed and suddenly, drastically, became difficult. When our forefathers in the Garden of Eden chose to rebel against God and we lost that utterly blissful existence which was ours from the beginning – of course we’re longing for it, of course we moan about life being difficult, because life wasn’t meant to be like this, life really was meant to be easy!
Looking at that chapter again, I find myself wondering what would have happened if Adam, when God confronted him about what he had done, had not tried passing the buck but instead just fessed up and asked God for help there and then. I’m sure instant repentance would have had very different results. But he didn’t, and there we are – in a world that is cursed because of our rebellion, the ground sprouting thorns, animals eating one another, humans being nasty to each other, and so on and so on. Life with all the pain and suffering and difficulty that, on one level, we regard as the norm – but on another level, somewhere deep down, we have this feeling that it isn’t how life was meant to be.
And that feeling isn’t some irrational thing that you need to learn to ignore. That feeling is based on truth, and I believe it is there for a purpose: to niggle us and remind us that we need to repent and turn back to God.
Because even though he threw us out of the Garden of Eden that day, he immediately started paving the way back, and the way back is through repentance and putting our faith in Jesus. That verse there when God is talking to the serpent and promising that one day the seed of a woman would crush his head? That’s the very first promise about the Messiah coming to die as atonement for our sins. (The incarnate Jesus was the seed of a woman – not of a man and a woman as most of us are.) (Seed being a term for offspring, or descendants.)
God didn’t stop loving us when we rebelled. He showed this tangibly by making us clothes, sending us out of Paradise with a token of his love and care and protection. (And also another hint about the atonement to come – blood being shed for our covering.) (Yes, those clothes were made from animal skin. The first sacrifice for us – a foreshadowing of the ultimate sacrifice to come.)
God never stopped loving us. The distance we feel between us and him? That’s the distance we put there by rebelling and choosing to live as though we know better. God has provided a way back: his name is Jesus.
Jesus said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”