by William Nicholson, "Afflictions!" 1862
"Affliction does not come from the dust, neither does trouble spring out of the ground. Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward." Job 5:6-7
Man is born in sin, and therefore born to trouble. There is nothing in this world we are born to, and can truly call our own—but sin and trouble!
Actual transgressions are the sparks which fly out of the furnace of original corruption.
Why then should we be surprised at our afflictions as strange, or object to them as severe--when they are the effects of sin, and under God's divine superintendence?
Afflictions are the common lot of man. "Man is born to trouble!" These afflictions are . . .
None are exempt from afflictions. For wherever there is sin, there is trouble. "Man is born to trouble!"
The poor endure it—the rich are not exempt.
To the pious, a bitter cup is assigned—and the wicked too have aching heads and hearts.
Grandeur, nobility, and royalty—are also associated with trouble.
The heart of the peasant, and that of the monarch—are alike smitten with anguish.
In youth, in middle age, in later life—there is trouble.
In health, in wealth, in honor, in elevation—there is trouble.
In successful enterprise,
in vast financial accumulation,
in places of nobility,
in beautiful mansions, and splendid palaces
—there is no exemption from trouble!
Go where you will, you will find trouble! Take the wings of the morning, and fly to the uttermost parts of the earth, and even there you will find it. Enter the deep shades of solitude, and it is there.
Crown yourselves with royalty;
take the exhilarating wine;
engage in the giddy dance;
listen to entrancing music and convivial songs;
visit the drama, and other theatric performances
—and you may for a season drown your sorrow.
But the clouds of trouble are sure to gather over your heads!
You are born to trouble.
It is your inevitable lot.
You will yet have to sicken, to suffer, and die!
Brethren, you know that, "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows!" John 16:33
Afflictions are designed for chastisement. Afflictions are designed to awaken—correct, reform, divert from sin and the world—and to transfer the affections to Heaven. They "are for our profit." Hebrews 12:10
By affliction, God separates the sin which He hates—from the soul which He loves!
Two things should comfort believers under afflictions:
- That what they suffer is not Hell.
- That it is all the Hell they shall suffer.
Our enjoyments are greater than our afflictions.
And our afflictions are much less than our sins.
The source of affliction is not chance or mere natural causes. "Affliction does not come from the dust, neither does trouble spring out of the ground." If afflictions came from chance, there would be nothing wise, intelligent, reasonable, or good, in them—they would be dark, confused, and miserable.
Afflictions are Divinely appointed.
Job could say, "He performs the thing that is appointed for me."
David rejoiced to say, "All my times are in Your hand."
And Paul comforted the Christians at Thessalonica by the doctrine of Divine appointment: "No man should be moved by these afflictions, for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto." 1 Thessalonians 3:3.
That afflictions are appointed by God, is comforting, for it indicates that:
- Our afflictions will be mingled with mercy. They are appointed by our gracious Father, who knows our frame, etc. They are sent by the God of love. To one who loves God, it is a great comfort to see His hand in everything that befalls us. It is enough, and ought to be enough, that it is the Lord's doing—let Him do what seems good unto Him. "I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for You are the one who has done this!" Psalm 39:9
When Job was deprived of all his substance by the Chaldeans and Sabeans, he said, "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised!" To have everything ordered and arranged by God, is all that we can desire!
- Our afflictions are sent in wisdom. It is highly conciliating to view every separate event, as a part of God's one all-wise scheme; and to know that when our plans are frustrated, God's plans remain unalterably wise. He knows what is best for us, and His plans never fail!
- Afflictions are designed to produce glorious results. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!" Romans 8:28
All our present ills are the seeds of future bliss, and will be followed by a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory in the kingdom of God's dear Son.
When such sublime results shall be realized, we shall perceive that "Affliction does not come from the dust, neither does trouble spring out of the ground." Be submissive. God's design for afflictions is our sanctification, and eventual glorification. "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it!" Hebrews 12:11
Afflictions are but blessings in disguise!