God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:32
Did you ever paint something beautiful, only to have someone else destroy it? Maybe you crafted a wooden patio chair, then your neighbor borrowed and trashed it. Or as a child, did your younger sibling crumple up a drawing you just made for your mom? Did you accidently drop your carefully crafted pottery?
The resulting ruin was not part of your original design; you did not plan it. But your original work became marred, if not destroyed.
When we look on the beauty and design in God’s creation, we also see things that just don’t fit. Often the ugliness is obviously a direct result of our own actions or inactions — open pit mining, polluted water, crumbling inner city dwellings, a forest burned by an careless fire. The cause of other damage is not so apparent.
God originally created a perfect universe. In Genesis 1, after each step of making the natural world, God says, “and it was good.” On the last day of creation, after He fashioned our first parents, God said it was “very good.”
But the natural world is now damaged. So what happened?
All choices have consequences, which usually affect those around us. Our first parents were given the choice to love and obey God, or not. They were stewards of God’s creation. When they chose to disobey, the resulting universe no longer functioned as God originally designed it. In Genesis 3 we read that not only did the choice bring death into their own lives, but also impacted the world they lived on:
The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat of the plants of the field. You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground, since you were taken from it. For you are dust and you will return to dust. Genesis 3:17-19.
Why should the earth be affected because two people thousands of years ago ate the forbidden fruit?
What happens when you entrust your Honda Accord to your 16-year-old child who gets drunk and crashes the car? The wreck isn’t the fault of the vehicle, but it suffers the consequences, as do you as the owner. You may be able to make repairs, but that costs time and money, and it will never really be the same (especially if the wreck shows up on CarFax).
The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:19-22 that:
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
As hinted in this passage, this present situation will not last forever. God promises that in the future He will create a new and perfect Heaven and Earth (Revelation 21:1). In the meantime, the beauty of even this imperfect world reveals the traces of God’s hand.