The other day, I heard a story that troubled me. A woman, whom I didn’t know, was going through life saying that we’re only here for a little while, we’ll suffer a lot, we’ll die, and then things will be better. While that’s true, a key element is missing. Something about the tone of that was too negative for me to accept.
It always makes me uncomfortable when I hear things that I know are true but don’t sound right. I don’t want to deny truth, but I also don’t want to accept a partial truth. Usually, I find something to be missing, even if it takes me a little while to find it.
I was discussing this story with my friend over at Mere Ponderizations, and we concluded that she had somehow skipped over the doctrine of common grace, the grace given to all, and had simply accepted the doctrine of specific grace, the grace given in salvation. Understanding that this earth was good before the Fall is key; there are still elements of good. Blessings are all around, but they don’t happen sometimes as a consequence of the Fall.
Madeleine L’Engle addresses the effects of the Fall and its relation to fairness better than I could:
The idea of fairness and unfairness didn’t come into being until after the Fall. In Eden there was no need to think about such things, because life was the joy of at-one-ment with the Creator. It is after the fracture of this union, this separation, that we begin to get caught up in the shoulds and oughts, and fair and unfair.
I’m saddened by this woman’s glum outlook, because there’s a lot here on earth that is good for enjoyment that is a result of blessing and common grace. There is also eternal work here that can be done, simple work that anyone can do, which makes existence here meaningful.
‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to me.’
Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? When did we see a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
Life isn’t simply something to get through in anticipation of what’s on the other side. It’s something that can be enjoyed with vigor and lived in productivity.
I don’t believe in salvation by works, but I believe that there is a redemptive effect on our hearts when we accomplish work on Jesus’ behalf, a holy sanctifying effect that softens. Choices and beliefs we accept can either soften or harden our hearts, and a lack of acknowledgment of common grace only hardens.