“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” – Romans 8:22-25
Published in the early weeks of 2017, “The Lost City of the Monkey God” (discovered in 2015, less than two years ago) is the true story of a lost city in the impenetrable jungle of eastern Honduras, lost for 500+ years when its inhabitants suddenly disappeared. It is an exciting, page-turning story of the history of a people who built a truly magnificent, ancient Mayan-type city bordered by mountains, where the outside world had to work hard to even get there. The city, which had a sister city (still unexplored) in a valley close by, had been reclaimed by an indefatigable jungle, so much so that the only way it was found was using Lidar, a recently invented radar-type machine used from a low flying small plane which can capture images below the thick jungle canopy, images in this case of a vastly overgrown large city which the human eye could not detect. It is a mystery why the “White City,” as it is also known, was abandoned over 500 years ago, though there are promising theories, such as devastating disease.
The team of archaeologists, scientists, photographers, and support staff who heartily braved the dangers of this impenetrable jungle, swarming with deadly snakes, wild animals, and especially myriads of biting sand gnats, mosquitos, and other blood-sucking bugs, were beset with a deadly, disfiguring disease (not unlike leprosy in its disfiguration) known in many variating strains as leishmania; a parasitic disease implanted in one’s blood by swarming gnats, impossible to avoid. Many of the team contracted the disease which took months of painful treatment at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with denigrating weakness to overcome.
Leishmaniasis may sound new or unknown to you, but it has plagued humankind for all its recorded history, even evidence of the parasite being found in Burmese amber, allegedly tens of millions of years old, probably infecting dinosaurs. Just as the Black Plague, Dengue Fever, Small Pox, Ebola, etc. has in the past decimated human populations in the tens of millions, so leishmania could and did destroy entire populations; and there is still no developed vaccination to ward off parasitic diseases. Leish, as it is called by some, is a global disease, affecting and infecting parts of the whole earth.
Yes, as the diagnosis of the results of the Fall reveals, all mankind and their home, the earth, fell under the judgment of sin and its consequences. You may think it unfair, or unworthy of a “good God,” a horrific result from the disobedience of only two people, but so it is, whether you or I like it. It is the condition of the whole earth and of everyone created and born into it. The world is inhospitable, even though there are many oases of delightful living in the midst of troubles, misery, and difficult conditions. There are no individuals, however, who have escaped the grievous affects of the Fall. After all, every human being dies.
Pain, thorns, weeds, thistles of Genesis 3 represent the difficulties of all of life thrust upon Adam and Eve as a consequence of their sin. Banishment from the Garden, a perfect creation in which to live, represented the loss of a life of constant beauty and sinlessness; and not restored until the renewal of a new heavens and new earth as a reward of redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus, and upon his promised return in glory and majesty. Pie in the sky? A fairy tale of unsustainable imagination? You can think so, but the antiquity of God’s Word, its reliability through centuries of testing, its verified truth down through the annals of history says differently. Still it is faith which believes that God is, and that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him, which is the real difference maker.
Faith, despite the inhospitable manner of human life; sickness, disease, death, accidents, failure, disappointments, tears, depression, addictions, murder, robbery, you name it; anything which well describes the human condition. Faith is the distinguishing factor of hope and promise. It is the substance of what is not yet, but will be. What is the alternative? Those who have no faith have absolutely nothing. I once asked an older neighbor who was near death what he thought happened at the time of his last breath. He responded, “Nothing! It is all over. I will pass into nothingness.” I asked, “What if that is not the case? What if there really is a judgment and life or punishment beyond the grave?” He shrugged. Nothing to say.
Faith is the only answer to unbelief. But it is anything but “pie in the sky.” Sincere faith is always attended by the reality and affirmation of a relationship with the invisible God and His Son who has taken on flesh. There are countless affirmations to the genuine believer of the existence and love of God; affirmations which have no other explanation, because, there is no other explanation than that God is.
The world is not hospitable. Life is a spiritual battle, and physically and psychologically painful. But faith overcomes this world because God is, and Jesus lives.
“In our weary hours of sickness, in our times of grief and pain, when we feel our mortal weakness, when the creatures help is vain, by thy mercy, O deliver us, good Lord.”
(5th verse of James Cummins’ hymn, “Jesus, Lord of Life and Glory,” 1839)