God’s Kindness in Our Pain

11 “Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 16 So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.  (Genesis 4:11-16)

7 We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body … 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  (2 Corinthians 4:7-18)
If we skim-read too quickly through these verses, then we will miss the big encouragement that God wants to speak into our own difficulties today. We will see God cursing sinful Cain, as he cursed Cain’s sinful parents before him, but we will miss what these verses reveal to us about the loving character of God towards us when we sin.

When we read a bit more slowly, we suddenly notice that the curse which the Lord places upon Cain is, in fact, an act of great kindness towards him. Cain’s problem was that he wanted to bring vegetables to God, instead of a blood sacrifice. He wanted to appease God’s anger over his sin through the work of his own hands and through the sweat of his own brow, rather than allowing the Lord to be his Saviour. It is therefore an act of kindness when God curses Cain with an inability to farm the earth for food. His days of growing vegetables are over. The only way he can survive is by living as a nomad and rearing flocks of sheep, like his dead brother Abel. For the rest of his life, in other words, he will be forced to slaughter sheep and goats for his food. Every day he does so, he will be reminded of the Gospel message that there is a God-given Saviour who can deliver us from sin.

The Lord puts a mark on Cain’s face so that nobody will put him to death prematurely for his sin. He sends Cain out from his presence, as he sent Cain’s parents out from his presence at the end of Genesis 3, but even as he does so, he invites Cain to come back to him. The bleating of his flocks of sheep will be a constant call to come back home.
The Apostle Paul encourages us to take the time to spot God’s kindness towards us in our own pain too. This may be difficult for us to hear in this coronavirus year of 2020, but it is more important than ever that we see this now. We were quite content in our comfortable lives before the coronavirus hit us. Hard though it has been, through the discomfort of this year the Lord has given us an opportunity to take a fresh look at our lives and to come back to him with all our hearts. The Apostle Paul encourages us that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Let’s be aware of God’s kindness towards us, even in our pain.

1)   What have been the hardest aspects of 2020 for you? How much are you tempted to blame God for it all?

2)   How much do you imagine Cain understood of what the Lord was trying to achieve for him through his temporary pain? What does that tell us about our own ability to see what God is achieving through our own pain?

3)   What good can you already see coming into your life through the pain and upheaval of this year? From the eternal perspective of 2 Corinthians 4, how might God be arranging things for your good, amidst the pain?
Father God, I thank you that you know what you are doing. I thank you that your curse on Cain was calculated to work for his blessing, and that what is happening in the world this year is also calculated to work for our blessing in the end. I embrace your path of temporary suffering because I believe that it is working for my eternal glory. Amen.
If you have time, consider carrying on your conversation with God using one of our helpful Prayer Pathways.

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