Suffering Started in the Garden

John Perkins  and Karen Waddles
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When I read my Bible, I see God creating a perfect world for the first man and the first woman. Life in the Garden of Eden must have been awesome. It was full of happiness and joy every day. The garden was abundant with trees that they could eat from. “The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food” (Gen. 2:9a). I imagine it was God’s intention for people to live like that always, enjoying life and having fellowship with Him. But Genesis 3 records a conversation between Eve and the serpent that changed everything. He tempted her to question God’s goodness and God’s heart for her. She gave in to the temptation, drawing Adam along.

The First Consquence

The first sign that something was wrong was when God came into the garden after they had eaten of the forbidden fruit. He had been coming into the garden in the cool of the day and having fellowship with them. Now the Lord returns, and they’ve gone into hiding. He calls out to Adam, “Where are you, Adam?” Adam was hiding because he was afraid. He realized that he was naked. Fear was the first consequence of the fall, and it is deadly.

I think fear is like psychological torture. That’s a special kind of suffering. It has had me in its grips so many times. I’ve found that only one or two percent of my fears ever come to pass—but the soul damage is done still.

“Fear was the first consequence of the fall, and it is deadly.”

Fear damages our trust and challenges what we really believe. During the Great Depression the whole nation was overcome with fear—just like so many of us are today. Many ran to the banks and withdrew all their money. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s response has become a classic: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” He went on to challenge everyone to stay away from “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes.” Fear does paralyze. And it can get the best of us, especially when we suffer. And it all started in the garden . . . and so did death.

Death followed close on the heels of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God. He had commanded them not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil: “but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Gen. 2:17).They did not die right away, but the process of death began. Adam lived for 930 years—but he died. And their immediate suffering took on a variety of forms. Eve would endure pain when giving birth; Adam would have to toil to produce food after God cursed the ground; and men and women would work against each other rather than with each other. The hardest consequence was that they lost the face-to-face fellowship with God when they were put out of the perfect garden that He had prepared for them.

Rooted in Sin

That’s a lot of suffering. The very first suffering known to mankind was because of sin. The first suffering came from knowing that they were broken. And from that brokenness—that all of us are born into—all manner of sin and suffering has come forth. I want to rush to say that a whole lot of the suffering has nothing to do with our own sin, but in the beginning that’s what got it all started. They disobeyed God’s command, sin came into the world, and suffering was the consequence. All of sin is represented by “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16 KJV). And I think we can pretty much say that when we disobey God’s command we may suffer as a consequence.

The suffering that began in the Garden of Eden has been multiplied over and over again throughout the generations. God told Adam and Eve about how they would suffer because of their disobedience. There had to be consequences for sin. But He also spoke about how He intended to fix things. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen. 3:15).

For Further Reading:

Count It All Joy

by John Perkins with Karen Waddles

Can joy come from suffering? We think of suffering as the worst of all evils. Our culture tells us to avoid it at all costs. But can suffering...

book cover for Count It All Joy