Far From Eden

“So the lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.” Genesis 3:23

The fire in the Black Forest breaks my heart. I can’t imagine what it would be like to receive an evacuation notice. I heard one woman on the news the other night saying that when the notice came, she thought they had an hour to leave. It turned out they only had 20 minutes, so all she’d been able to pack were their linens and socks.
And as the flames rage just miles away from our houses, I can’t help but think of another city I have come to call home. After living in Prague for the past four months, and having only been back in the states for 72 hours, I occasionally refer the capital of Bohemia as “home” when discussing it in conversation. In many ways, across the pond still feels very much like home.

And when I left the Golden City of a Thousand Spires, I left it in sort of a dismal state. In the four months I was there, I can probably count the number of times I saw blue sky. It rained almost every day! The last evening I was there, the Vltava River burst its bank, flooding many of the suburban neighborhoods North of Prague. Hundreds of homes were evacuated and destroyed.

The flooding in Prague was but a sound bite in American news, and—after speaking to some of my Czech friends—the Colorado wildfires have been mentioned in a 30 second clip of their news. I don’t bring this up to belittle either tragedy, but point out a striking paradox in our world.

Take April 15th for example.

On April 15, 2013, two brothers bombed the city of Boston killing several civilians and severely injuring dozens more. On April 15, 2013, a series of gang rapes occurred in the metro system of Stockholm; among the victims was an epileptic woman in mid-seizure.

Or take the past two weeks during which there have been an un-countable number of tornados in Oklahoma and an unexpected number of riots in Turkey.

Rather its wildfires, floods, bombings, assaults, tornados, or riots…bad stuff seems to happen everywhere. Beyond just disasters, other bad stuff also happens all over the world. Jobs are lost. Houses are foreclosed. Relationships break-up. Loved ones pass away. Unexpected, surprising, life-altering changes happen without warning and sometimes we are left not knowing what to do next.

And as we look around the world, we realize that pain is pain. We appear to live a long way from Eden.
I think a lot of the time we get this notion that we can escape pain. We pray for things like “world peace.” We send missionaries into the field to help make a difference. We do collections, drives, and fundraisers to try and make a difference. But when sparks turn to flames, and rivers break their banks, and the budget calls for cut backs, and doctors don’t know what else to do…there isn’t much we can do to stop it.

The reality is, the best prayers, the greatest healers, the most devout missionaries cannot stop pain. And I’m not sure that stopping pain was ever the point. All we can do is offer peace and healing. We can remind the world that love is real, that good does win, that death is powerless, and that there is always hope. Jesus told us these things when he said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33)

And the greater reality is that we all need to hear this message. No one is immune to the stress of our ever-changing, pain-filled world. No one is alone. As Paul reminds us in Thessalonians, one of the greatest impacts we can have on the world is to “encourage one another and build each other up.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Whatever pain you may be feeling today, may you know that love is real, that good does win, that death is powerless, and that there is always hope.

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.”                                                                                                                                                                                                         ~Gilda Radner Wilder

Zach Herzog

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