Man Is Born to Trouble!
George Mylne, 1871
Yes, "man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward" — the one is as inevitable as the other (Job 5:7), and why? The saying is correct, we may be sure, seeing whose Word it is that says it. "Affliction," it tells us, "comes not forth of the dust, neither does trouble spring out of the ground" (verse 6). All crops have their seasons — and when the time is come, we look for harvest.
Just so, man, through sin, has sown the seeds of his own afflictions, sown to the flesh, and of the flesh has reaped corruption (Galatians 6:8.) In this respect, afflictions spring immediately from earthly causes, the sure result of sin, which strikes its roots, and yields its fruit accordingly.
Yet, in another aspect, it springs at once from God's command. No matter-of-course procedure brings it to pass. God's sovereign will disposes it. The time and form of the affliction hang on God's sovereign will alone, and that, on principles unknown to man, and unintelligible. Some pass their days with little trouble; others are in the furnace constantly. "Known unto God are all His ways," and "He gives no account of any of His matters" (Acts 15:18; Job 33:13).
But this we know: He does all things well, though we are apt to charge His ways with inequality (Ezekiel 18:25) because they beggar human explanation. Yet He acts on special grounds, and not in caprice, nor upon arbitrary principles, apart from our deserts. Thus various reasons may be given why man is born to trouble, and why bereavement stalks abroad, spreading its desolations far and near. God helping us, let us try and seek them out.
Has it ever struck you, reader, how the number of man's days has been ordered by God in Heaven? At first, men lived to nearly a thousand years; and Enoch seemed to die scarcely in the prime of life, though he had numbered three centuries and more. So it continued to the Flood, and Noah died almost as old as Adam and Methuselah (Genesis 5:23; 9:29). But then a rapid fall took place in man's earthly life. Look how persistently it fell (see Genesis 10.), until, in Moses' time, it had reached its present limit of "threescore years and ten," varied to fourscore years (or even more), according to God's good pleasure (Psalm 90:10). In this we see the immediate hand of God, and impress of His power! Why did man live so long at first? Because God willed it. Why, then, did length of days decrease so rapidly? Simply, because God willed it. And having so far descended the scale of diminution, why did it stop at its present limits, and not go on to plain extinction? Because God willed it.
The bodily machine, so "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14), was, doubtless, qualified to work as long as at the first, If He had willed it so; and had its decline resulted from inevitable causes, no reason was there why it should not wear out altogether. Oh no, at every stage we see God's all-directing hand ordering the ratio of life's decline as long as so He willed it; and when the appointed limit was attained, He stayed the wave of diminution.
Life is a dream — a span — a vapor that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away (James 4:14). And yet it is a wonder that it lasts so long, seeing the risks it is exposed to. And the wonder is, not that we hear of death so often — but that it comes not oftener. This does not rob bereavement of its hurt and pain; yet it is truth, and worthy to be considered. When rightly viewed, it tends to resignation, and may make us thankful that bereavement did not come before.
Yes, "Man is born to trouble." He inherits trouble by his very birth. His sinful nature calls for it; bodily frailty predisposes for it; liability to trouble is inbred in his bones. You mourn your relative or friend, and you do well. Yet, while you mourn, do justice to God's laws. Do justice to the principles inherent in your sinful nature, and to the consequences involved in it.
Consider, then, your trouble in the view of native sin. As a sinner, you were born to trouble — and born to bereavements. You are as naturally born to trouble — as to inhale air to breathe. What moment is there that you breathe not? But how many, many moments have you had exempt from trouble? Thank God on this behalf, for every moment free from trouble is a blessing we had no right to look for.
Do you mourn on your friend's account, that he was taken from his family, and his life so soon cut short? But was he free from sin? Could he plead exemption from the universal rule? Was he not born to trouble — born to death? He came into the world — to die. Who can dispute the justice of his doom, or who can impugn God's season of its execution? God has a right to take His creatures at His will. He ordains the time that each man has to live, and acts accordingly.
Could you but search the Divine register — the register of births, ordained and settled; and the register of deaths, as accurately ordained — you would find that your departed one was not defrauded of a single moment of the time allotted to him in God's Doomsday Book. You would find that he had had his share of earthly joys, also the time of preparation for eternity, with the helps and privileges suited to the same. You would fine that an all-wise God saw fit to give — all that was consistent with His holy will.
I beg you, take this thought to God, and ponder it before Him. He alone can enable you rightly to view, and meekly to receive it. To hide yourself in God through faith in Jesus; to lose your will in His; to resign all wisdom of your own — this is the only path to sure and true resignation.
But is it for yourself you mourn? Do you think that you are harshly dealt with — that your pleasure is unjustly interfered with? And, though you would not say it — do you feel that God had dealt more kindly with you, had He spared your friend? Do not think me harsh. Question not my sympathy. Deeply I feel for you — indeed I do. I reverence your tears, and gladly would enter the inner chamber of your sorrows, if haply I might comfort you. But, my friend, can you rebel — when God appoints it? Can you say, "I do not deserve it?" Were you not born to trouble — born to lose your friend?
Search your own sinful nature through. Investigate your life from first to last. Let actions, thoughts, and words, be scrutinized. Are you an exception to the universal rule of sin? Has there been a moment you could say, "I am not a sinner?" Then, could you claim exemption from the consequences? You are born to trouble, entitled to it by your very nature, that title more than strengthened by your acts and deeds. Acknowledge it, my friend — to God acknowledge it, and not to me. To humble self before Him — is the way to happiness, the road to consolation. Take, then, the looking-glass of faith — the looking-glass of calm investigation — the looking-glass of accurate perception — and, by its means, endeavor to read your heart aright. Turn up the soil thereof, and you shall find therein a seed deposited, the seed of trouble, destined to spring up and bear its bitter fruit.
And say, is there not mercy in the divine rule — in God's universal law? Would it be mercy to leave sin unrequited here — to leave the sinner unreminded of his eternal destiny — unwarned by trial, sharp and solemn, of what awaits him if he does not repent and believe in Jesus? Freedom from trial is inconsistent with a fallen and sinful world — a violence to principle divinely ordered.
Thank God, my friend, thank God that He afflicts you, to bring to mind your sinful condition, your duty towards God, and your just deserts. It is His way of blessing, by bringing you to see — your sin, your need of Jesus, and His precious Blood. What would it profit you — to go unchastened all your days; never to have to weep; never to lose a friend; never to experience the aching void of separation; and, after all, to perish eternally in your sins! What would it profit you, to have had the company of friends on earth — and lose the company of God himself in Heaven? Then, is there not mercy in affliction — unbounded mercy, that men be weaned from earthly vanities, and seek a better heritage to come?
"Source of my life's refreshing springs,
Whose presence in my heart sustains me!
Your love appoints me pleasant things,
Your mercy orders all that pains me!
Well may Your own beloved, who see
In all their lot, their Father's pleasure,
Bear loss of all they love, save Thee,
Their living, everlasting treasure!"
— A.L. Waring.
There is another view of it — another side of the truth that man is born to trouble, which it were not wise to disregard. I mean the perishable nature of our mortal frame. Life is a wondrous thing. How it goes on from day to day, as long as nothing happens to arrest its course! And yet on what a slender thread it hangs! How frail its tenure, as regards either ourselves or those we value! Ten thousand causes are abroad at any time, to injure or destroy it! A breath suffices to blow the candle of life out. The smallest trifle (as we call it) of an accident may fatal prove, when least expected. Our every organ is confronted with what at any time might prove destructive. Our every element of life is exposed to influences as subtle as themselves. At any moment, some trifle may snuff out the vital principle irrevocably.
What binds these instruments of evil, that they do not hurt us at every moment? What stays the wind of fatal influences, that it passes not over us with blight upon its wings? Nothing but the wise and omnipotent Hand of God — nothing but that thing inscrutable, called Divine Providence.
But, could our eyes be opened to see the threatening dangers all around, and trace the divine agencies employed to shield us from the evils — the hair-breadth escapes from the liabilities which beset our path — we might well be lost in wonder and adoring praise. It is divine mercy that we see them not — that the veil is on our eyes. We could not otherwise take a step or draw a breath, exempt from anxious care and dread forebodings. We could not part with friends but for a moment, or send our children for their daily walk, without some sad presentiment of evil. And, awful as is the visitation of fatal accidents or sudden death, it is a lesser trial, in the end, than to have the mind racked by the probabilities of every impending evil.
Then, Mourner, Think! Your friend was born to all those agencies of which we speak — born to the shock of baleful influences let loose upon a fallen world. God lent him to you for a season. It was a loan, to be revoked at any moment in God's good pleasure. And, seeing how frail the tenure of his days is, the tenure of your hold upon him — can you wonder that his life is gone, that God employed one or another of those agencies to take him from the earth?
Men call it accident, because it comes at times unlooked for, and in ways unknown — now by some casual form of violence, now by infection caught imperceptibly, yet in its effects too evident. But God rides in the chariot of uncertainties (to man uncertain, yet not so to Him) to effect His purpose settled long before. Long, did I say? Devised from all eternity-planned before the world began! And thus no man can die before his time is come, and these uncertainties of harrowing events and startling pain, do but embody the settled will, and infallible calculations of the sovereign Lord of providence.
Weep for your friend. It is not forbidden. Jesus wept for His friend Lazarus. Give him his share of sorrow. Give him the recompense of affection still. Pay him the tribute of a heart that feels his loss. Yet, in your grief, forget not the higher claims of Him with whom you have to do, lest in your sorrow you kick against the mandate of unerring wisdom, and of sovereign love.
Pray for the Spirit's consolation. He can open vistas of perception that you know nothing of, and give you grace to acquiesce in this painful illustration of the truth that, "Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward!"