Banned from the Garden: Why God's Withholding is Sometimes His Greatest Mercy

Do you ever feel like God is withholding something from you?  I know I do.  I can make up all of these plans for myself and when they fail to see light in my own timing or in my own way its easy to blame Him for the falling short.  Frustration looks different for everyone but here's what it looks like for me:  if it were up to me, by now I would probably have a few more stamps on my passport, I would live in a cute cottage style home with white walls and charming open cabinets in the kitchen, I would quadruple my savings account, I'd have several thousand people following along my blog, and most of all I would actually be getting paid to write.  That sounds like a lot of complaining but in this space, we are honest and I carry a fair share of weaknesses.  I want to talk about these things because I know I can't be the only one who feels frustrated or in some way left behind and unseen by God.

Sometimes my heart just wants to scream:  "God why are you withholding from me?!" 
Doesn't He see me too?  Doesn't He see my dreams and desires too? 

Of course He does and if you are sitting in the same boat as me, He sees you too.  The reality is that He holds it all in His hands but while we can only glimpse the fleeting moment right in front of us, He is able to see all our days stretched out before Him and He knows better.  So, let me share with you what God has been sharing with me.  

Let's go back to the garden.

"The Lord God said, 'Since the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not reach out, take from the tree of life, eat, and live forever.'  So the Lord God sent him away from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.  He drove the man out and stationed the cherubim and the flaming, whirling sword east of the garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life." - Genesis 3:22-24

I don't know how many times I have read over this passage and missed the heart of it.  Okay, Adam and Eve sinned and their punishment was to be banned from the garden and no longer able to partake in eating from the tree of life.  I get it.  But is that really what this is about?  Is it about an angry God who fears that man may become a rival should he live forever?  

But our Creator has no rival and sin brought on the penalty of death, not God so could this really be a story about grace?  It's all too easy to conclude that death is physical when in reality, death is spiritual.  Death is shame and guilt, death calls us filthy and unworthy, death pollutes all in its path and ultimately isolates us from our source of life, which is so much more than just breath in our lungs.

Imagine then, Adam and Eve in their new state of sin reaching out once again and eating from the tree of life.  They would have lived forever but in a tainted garden.  There's another name for it:  hell.  So God lifted His finger, pointed onward, and drove them out.  With great sorrow, I imagine.  But not without a plan to nail His Son to a cross.  The greatest mercy extended in the history of mankind started with an exile.  Condemnation would have said, "You did this to yourself, go ahead and build for yourselves an eternal living hell" while instead, grace said, "Let me send you away for a time so that I can fix this!"

And that's just it, because of His great love God didn't just merely send man away to rot.  He has been in the midst of restoring this world since it fractured and just look at the beautiful truth that we have to look forward to: 

"Then he showed me the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing form the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the city's main street.  The tree of life was on each side of the river, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month.  The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations, and there will no longer be any curse."  - Revelation 22:1-3

Did you catch that?  In the new Jerusalem the tree of life will once again be in the center of the garden, it will be for the healing of the nations.  And this time there will be no curse!  It's amazing!
Once restoration is finally complete, God is going to return to us something that He once had to hide away.  This isn't the most lyrical thing I have ever said, but honestly, it just blows my mind!  Psalms 84:11 says that God withholds no good thing so if He has to withhold something we can know that it is for our good and that He is still in the midst of preparing the very best for us.  

If you feel frustrated or put off by God, let me encourage you with my whole heart, dig deeper!  God's character is worth searching and if we commit to the searching we will find that His number one priority is to lead us to a new garden where we will be restored to our fullest in His presence.

Let's rest in that reality.  We need not shake our fist at God for keeping us from the things we think we need.  He is for us and in His own timing He withholds no good thing.

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