The pat Christian answer as to why we face misery in this life is that sin is to blame. We are all born into it, ever since Adam and Eve. Now, those two had a great life in the Garden of Eden. Naked and unashamed, they had good work to do that was satisfying and not terribly exerting. Naming animals and looking after a garden that pretty much watered itself sounds pretty good to me. God even showed up regularly, putting aside his terrifying awesomeness and taking on human form to walk and talk with them, so the Garden of Eden days were about as good as life could get.
God didn’t make humans because He was bored or lonely. The good qualities we see in people, He possesses in infinite measure. His love and generosity make life with Him a possibility, and God doesn’t need us because He has perfect fellowship with Himself. CS Lewis likened the Holy Trinity to a dance that we are invited to join. Adam and Eve were part of this dance, sharing fellowship with God Himself and enjoying the blessings He had so abundantly chosen to bestow on them.
Without a choice, though, there is no real love. God could have done anything He wanted, but He chose to share Himself with humans. If loving God were the only option available to us, it wouldn’t be love at all, so Adam and Eve were given the ability to choose something other than Him, and they had the audacity to do the one thing God told them not to do.
They could do pretty much what they wanted, except eat fruit from one tree, but that’s just what they did. Afterwards, they covered themselves up with fig leaves, in essence hiding from one another, and then they tried to hide from God Himself, which never works. He knows all our secret places and won’t leave us alone.
I believe in inherited sin, which means we are all born sinners because of what Adam and Eve did in that garden. You can say what you want about the innocence of babies, but I was amazed at how strong-willed and defiant my infant children could be, twitching and fighting against me when all I wanted to do was change their nasty, stinking diapers. (Don’t we act that way with God, too? He’s trying to break in and clean us up, but we would rather sit in the crap of our own misspent lives.)
Even if I didn’t believe in inherited sin, I’d still have to say we’re all guilty because we all have had our little garden of relative innocence way back when we were kids, and at some point—usually at a surprisingly tender age—we do one thing we know is wrong, follow up with other actions we know to be morally incorrect, and then we cover ourselves with our own feeble fig leaves of self-justification, or we blame-shift like Adam, who insinuated that God was responsible for giving him a wife who tempted him, and then his wife blamed the serpent. The serpent offered no defense and slithered off, at least for a while.
Fortunately, God is always seeking us out and exposing our misguided attempts to justify ourselves, so He can generously redeem us. I finally let God clothe me in His righteousness, way back on the day of my conversion, but then I had to stake out a life far from Eden, just like the rest of us.
Adapted from Keeping It Between the Ditches