As Sparks Fly Upward

“Man was born for trouble as sparks fly upward (Job 5:7).”

I was reminded of this verse recently when I listened to a talk by one of my favorite writers and speakers, N.D. Wilson. He reminded listeners that trouble in life is certain, just as certain as sparks fly upward.

What I had not thought about was the insight he gave me about trouble. He said there are two kinds of trouble–God trouble and man trouble. What he meant was this: sometimes we experience trouble produced by our own sinful acts (i.e. man trouble). This is trouble for which we must repent.

The second kind of trouble–what he calls God trouble–is the trouble God brings or allows to come into our lives for the purpose of growing our faith.

It is the second kind of trouble that we often do not think about. If you are anything like me, the first thought you have when trouble comes is: what did I do wrong? Sometimes we forget that some trouble comes our way precisely because we have done some things right.

Whatever the case, we can take comfort in the fact that God is working in us through our trouble. That is, after all, what James 1:4-6 plainly teachers. Hence, the startling introduction: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trails of various kinds.” The word “various” literally means multi-colored. It is fitting when you think about how we often describe our days. Black Monday is notoriously bad. We feel blue when we are sad. We are red hot when we are mad.

We get that. But joy? Consider it joy? How can he say such a thing? You can count all of it joy, “because you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness or patience. Ah, patience. The ability to endure under a heavy load and keep going. It is the rare ability to keep going when going is hard; when everything in us wants to quite; or when the grass looks greener.

When need more endurance. We need more patience. We need more people who can see something through. But where does this come from? It comes as God works in us during trails to form our character. And that formation does not stop with patience.

Thus he says, “And let steadfastness have is full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (v. 4).” In other words, we become mature. We want to be mature. We need to be mature. But how do we become mature? We grow toward maturity when God work thorough as we face trouble.

We all need maturity. But as one noted bible teacher once said, “We all want the product but hate the process.” Yet, the process is necessary. After all, “man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward.”