Sometimes when my young daughter would complain about a difficult challenge, I would tease her, saying, “Hey, Life’s hard, then you die.” That was my witty attempt at reminding her how easy it is to lose our focus on God’s promises amid a world full of obstacles. A lot of people think the Bible teaches that Work became cursed when Sin entered the world. The Bible never says that, but it sure can feel like it when mountains of frustrations and difficulties are in front of us.
Genesis 3:1-12 describes one of the most significant events in recorded history, often called “The Fall.” Adam and Eve had been experiencing the perfection of the world God had created, and were in personal, daily relationship with him . . . until they were deceived into rebelling against their Creator.
Their disobedience created a break in that relationship–a chasm—between holy God and sinful Man. That day, God pronounced a righteous judgment on the serpent (Satan), the Woman and the Man (Genesis 3:14-19). Before then their work was joyful and fruitful, but now they were confronted with a whole new dynamic:
“. . . Cursed is the ground because of you
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground, for out it you were taken;
for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Notice that Work was not cursed, the ground was. God had placed Adam in a garden in Eden “to work it and keep it.” (Genesis 2: 15) Work was not only an essential part of creation, it is a fundamental dimension of being human. For Adam, the ground was his workplace, and it had changed from being care-free and abundantly productive to a place of struggle, pain and an endless array of obstacles. That sounds like what Work looks like today for so many people.
“Thorns and thistles it will bring forth for you.” Thorns are sharp, pointed stems at the base of a leaf or at the ends of twigs, to deter animals and insects from getting to them. Thorns are an ancient symbol of sorrow and hardship—we may experience them as fear, frustration, insecurity or disappointment in our professional life. Thistles are a wild plant with prickles all over the leaves and stems—they can also be translated “thorns.” They symbolize adversity and pain— like weeds that choke out what we are trying to cultivate in our business or personal life. Our “thorns and thistles” may appear in the form of relational conflicts, a lack of capital, stressful deadlines or corporate politics that interfere with our productivity.
“Behold I am making all things new.” This is the tension in our marketplace today, but I have some good news. The Old and New Testaments are full of reoccurring promises that God is at work redeeming and restoring all that was lost in the Fall; and that all things will ultimately regain their original design. Isaiah 43:18-19 commands, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Many centuries later, Paul declared, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (see also Ephesians 1: 3-14 and Revelation 21:1-6).
As you Work today, under the gaze of God, don’t be surprised at the thorns and thistles, and don’t miss all the unfolding treasures that he intends for your Work—things like purpose, joy, distinction and fulfillment. May this be our prayer as we go to work today.
Serving Him with you in the marketplace,
Lord, some days I find myself floating in a sea of frustration in my business. I am so blessed to be involved in many great projects and activities, but at times I can’t see around the obstacles keeping me from reaching the productivity I long for. Teach me to accept and embrace the thorns and thistles in the workplace and strengthen me to look for opportunities to be part of your work of renewal in my life and those of my colleagues.
“Be thankful for the thorns and thistles, which keep you from being in love with this world, and from becoming an idolater.”