Vanity, meaninglessness, purposelessness, emptiness, frailty, instability, ineffectiveness…all possible translations of the Greek mataiotés translated futility in this passage of the ESV.
Adam and Eve’s sin, the fall plunged humankind into darkness. Sin’s consequence is death and destruction. It creates a meaninglessness, futility, and emptiness in life. Sin is real, as you know and it leaves the world frail. Futility equals a lack of hope, without reason to hope, and hope is perhaps our greatest human need. Without God’s intervention, by means of the curse, humankind would still be there, without hope, trapped in meaninglessness.
God had another plan.
He always does…for our good. God transforms futility into life filled with meaning and purpose. He subjects creation, all of creation to the curse, for a purpose. We go kicking and screaming. We hate the results of sin in the form of this curse. We despise hard labor and pains of childbearing and the headship of the husband, while helpful, is a challenge for many a household. God subjects us to the curse in order to save us. God created a solution, so that we would not be lost forever in condemnation. The curse, however difficult and seemingly harsh to the world, makes a way for redemption, makes a way for Christ. The serpent nips at the heel, we feel it as sin in our lives and in the world around us, but the Savior crushes his head. Christ’s redemption makes even the things of the curse, good in this life.
Hard labor, the work of the church, the work of running the home often seems monotonous and futile in the daily living of life, but look around you. See what God has done in your work, in your family. He makes the hard labor a thing with purpose and meaning and beauty. Worth the toil. Mundane planning meals, cleaning bathrooms, toiling over sermons, double checking bulletins, and finding 30 minutes for exercise in a day become moments to proclaim hope and community with the Father and one another, and purpose.
Submission isn’t always easy, but we find the truth that it is always to our benefit. God’s order, even in the curse mirrors our submission to our Savior as the head of our families and our churches.
Hope is what God gives us, even in the darkest moments, even in curses and struggles. He has a plan and a purpose.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11