“Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth,
and no one will even think about the old ones anymore.
Be glad; rejoice forever in my creation!
And look! I will create Jerusalem as a place of happiness.
Her people will be a source of joy.
I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and delight in my people.
And the sound of weeping and crying
will be heard in it no more.

“No longer will babies die when only a few days old.
No longer will adults die before they have lived a full life.
No longer will people be considered old at one hundred!
Only the cursed will die that young!
In those days people will live in the houses they build
and eat the fruit of their own vineyards.” (Isaiah 65:17–21 NLT)

All of us have grown up and lived in a broken and fallen world. Since the first man and woman, every generation has been immersed in this flawed and sin-soaked reality. From Genesis 3 onward, all of creation has been cursed (vs. 17). Invariably, we have been shaped by our broken and fallen environment. We are like saplings planted in polluted soil, suffering through periods of drought and flooding, and breathing skies filled with smoke and smog; the very environment that should have allowed us to grow and flourish into our true and best selves has instead caused us to grow up with weak roots, gnarled bark, and sparse foliage.

To be sure, humanity has also been cursed by sin. No person, alive or dead, has been free of sin, excepting the God–man Jesus. We are a people who have been malformed. This is what sin does. Even after we accept Jesus as Lord of our lives, after all our sins have been washed away by the blood of the Lamb, we still suffer under the effects of sin, in ourselves and in our world.

Thankfully, through Christ, there is a solution. We need not continue in our malformation – flawed thought patterns; bad habits; skewed perceptions of ourselves, God, and others. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we can find wholeness and completeness – the shalom of Christ. Unfortunately, like a broken bone that needs reset, correcting the brokenness within ourselves is very often not a pain-free journey.

Too often when we read passages such as this one – descriptions of the world as God intends it to be, without the curse of sin and death marring all of creation – we are so captivated by the end result that we gloss over the necessary path to get there. Yet, the path toward a life that manifests the peace of Christ is rarely a leisurely stroll through the park. The path toward wholeness is full of suffering, of the best kind – that of a weak muscle that is straining itself to the breaking point so that it might become stronger. There may be pain in the journey, but it is the pain of malformation being excised from our hearts, minds, and souls.

This is what Jesus meant when he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it” (Matthew 16:24–25).

Spend time in solitude today with the Holy Spirit, inviting him to illuminate the areas of your life that have been malformed by sin, areas where you need God to enter into and reset the broken bone so that it might heal properly and fully. Then, devote yourself to working on it, with the help of the Spirit and others.
Michael Benson is the NAB communications director.