Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”
The serpent appears here at the beginning, but is not identified with Satan until the last book of the Bible. He pops up without explanation or precedent, but is clearly a supernatural presence. He comes to humanity here as a pretend friend who wants only our happiness. That is how evil entices us, posing as a good, a benefit, and we seem forever gullible, repeatedly falling for the same tricks.
To win our trust, temptation must first poke holes in our faith in God’s goodness. When his path is hard or painful or frightening or disappointing, we start to doubt his intentions, considering every side trail we pass to see if it looks better. We lose sight of the final good and focus more on our present suffering or shortage till it grows in our minds. The whole garden is a “yes!” but that one small “no” swallows up every other good in our mind until we only see a forest of denial. The one thing we cannot have is the only thing that will now make us happy. Or so it seems.
Unlike this first test, some temptations to doubt God’s love are intense and prolonged and truly overshadow our life’s experience–the death of a child, chronic depression, chemotherapy, abuse—and none of us can measure the suffering of another. Sometimes the best we can do is hold on to hope by our fingertips, knowing that to lose trust in God is to sink into a far deeper pit, for without his love there is no remedy.
On what can we build such hope since we do not have an Eden of pleasure as proof of his love for us? We have something far greater—the suffering of God himself on our behalf in his Son. He did not simply give us gifts, but gave us himself. “No greater love has anyone than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Except there is a greater love still when he lays down his life for rebels. This is the unshakeable proof on which we cling to hope through the greatest storms. There is a God who loves us, who will go to any length to bring us through to his place of rest and joy.