“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Rom. 1:21).
- Romans 1:18–23
Your thinking has been corrupted by your sin.
Consider that for a moment.
All your sins, cumulative over time, daily in the mental sins we self-talk about (which God completely knows) or the overt sins we act out, all of that has an affect on your thinking process. Now if does not take much of a leap to arrive at how evil can come about in our world and life.
God put the natural world under a curse so that the physical horrors of that curse — of that futility manifest in disease and death — became a vivid reminder, a parable of the horrors of moral evil and sin. The reality is natural evil exists in the world as an expression of the horrors of moral evil.
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God
Futility means things fall part. What begins new, thrilling in the beginning of life and love and new ventures fades and withers in its evening (Psalm 90:5-6). People we love die, families fall apart, churches split, love is betrayed, faith becomes nominal, revolutions turn into corrupt establishments, and universities founded to preserve doctrinal orthodoxy decline into bastions of godlessness.
Sin has affected our minds and causes our thinking to become futile apart from Christ. This effect of sin upon our minds is known in theology as the “noetic effects of sin.”
Futility runs rampant in our lives from birth until death, we are its subjects and live under its rules. Futility is a tyrant, and no hope comes with it. Out of futility comes anger, resignation, and despair.
Of course God’s ways are not our ways and often he uses futility in his plan or plans.
Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
God does the unexpected things like using death as a means to life.
Hebrews 2:14-15 14Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.
God also shames the wise. 1 Corinthians 1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.
God also makes us humble. 1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.
And God also uses suffering and both physical and spiritual poverty to our benefit.
2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
Today right in front of us all these things are being played out in our lives and the world around us.
In God’s sovereignty he is using futility to serve you. It may not feel or seem like it, but we are finite, our reasoning and thoughts are so clouded by our sin that we see the world through a glass darkly.
So how do we stop futility and sin from effecting our thinking? We do so through faith, through dying unto ourselves, to repenting daily of our sins, by reading scripture and pray without ceasing.
Therefore we groan with all of creation in this age of futility (Romans 8:20). But we find peace that surpasses our limited understanding (Philippians 4:7) by not leaning on our own understanding but trusting in the Lord with all our heart (Proverbs 3:5).