Whence does it come?
(Francis Bourdillon, "Man is Born to Trouble!" 1864)
"Affliction does not come from the dust — nor does trouble sprout from the ground. For man is born unto trouble — as surely as sparks fly upward." Job 5:6-7
Affliction does not come of itself; it does not spring up from the dust of the earth, nor grow naturally from the ground, as plants do; nor has chance anything whatever to do with it. As common as it is — affliction does not come without a cause, or without being sent on purpose by God.
Yet affliction does fall to the lot of all. No one, however prosperous, is without sorrow and trial. Sooner or later: "Man is born unto trouble — as surely as sparks fly upward." As surely as sparks go up from anything burning, or from iron beaten on the anvil — so surely does trouble in some shape befall every man who is born into the world.
Whence does it come? God sends it — or at least allows it to come. But it is not saying too much, to say that He sends it.
When Adam fell and sin and death entered into the world — then trouble came too. This was God's appointment. He said to Adam, "Because you have listened unto the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you — cursed is the ground for your sake; in sorrow shall you eat of it all the days of your life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to you; in the sweat of your face shall you eat bread, until you return unto the ground; for out of it were you taken — for dust you are, and unto dust shall you return."
And not only is trouble in general appointed to man by God — but each man's particular trouble is of God's appointment as well. Your troubles and mine do not come forth of the dust or spring out of the ground. They do not arise by chance or accident. God sends them! Sickness and sorrow are ordained for us by Him — each sickness and each sorrow as it comes. We do not see the hand that sends them, but a hand there is — the hand of God!
Job's troubles were many and great — yet let him not despair. Everything was in God's hand. All that happened was ordered by Him — all was subject to His control. "At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave — and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised." Job 1:20-21
To all who truly know God — it is a most comforting thought that their affliction comes from Him. It seems to take away the strangeness and the bitterness of it. When once they can realize His hand, then in all their sorrowful thoughts about their afflictions — they think about God too, and this comforts them. It is no longer mere trouble — but trouble which God has sent. If He has sent it — then it is wisely and kindly sent. Is there not a hidden blessing in it? Then the heart goes in search of the blessing and begins to ask why the trouble was sent, what it was meant to do, and how far it has done what it was sent for. And this is the very way to find the blessing.
Besides, when the sufferer thus sees the hand of God in trouble — he reasons that God will never let the trouble be too great. If He sends it — He will not send it too sharply, nor too heavily. There is no chance about it. All is measured and dealt out by an omnipotent hand of wisdom and love! The affliction, therefore, cannot become too sore. When the right point has been reached, when the fit time has come — then He who sent it will say, "Hitherto shall you come, but no further!"