From Toil to Truth

As the first Adam’s sweat surrounds my face,

May the last Adam’s blood my soul embrace.

Famous for his lines “No man is an island” and “For whom does the bell toll?”, John Donne wrote the lines above in his poem Hymn to God My God, in My Sickness. Donne had seen his fair share of death. His father died when the poet was only four. Growing up in 16th Century England, Donne saw several close relatives executed for being Catholic. Three of his children died before the age of ten. Donne and his wife, Anne, lost two more to stillbirth – the second of which claimed Anne’s life as well. …And now, Donne is facing his own death in the mirror. He can see it in the sweat dripping from his face.

In Donne’s moment of distress and anguish, he turns to Christ. As Donne suffers under the weight of Adam’s curse, he embraces the curse-breaker. He moves from toil to truth. We would do well to apply the same strategy to our lives.

Life is hard. We can’t get away from that. We toil in our gardens, at our jobs, in our relationships, with our bodies and with our minds. Losing a loved one is hard. Dying is hard. Divorce is hard. Parenting is hard. Honoring your parents is hard. Making ends meet is hard. Our temptation is to focus on how hard we have it. The enemy wants you to feel sorry for yourself. He wants you to focus on the curse – not the curse-breaker.

But here is the liberating truth. Our hardships are like big arrows pointing us to Christ. Creation groans. We groan. But the things that bring us pain can actually remind us of redemption and the truth that God will make all things new.

Some folks use rubber bands to break bad habits. They’ll put them on their wrists. And when they’re tempted, they’ll pop the rubber bands on their wrists rather than continue the bad habit. I want to encourage you to let the pain of this life direct your attention to Christ.