Sparks Flying Upward

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I’m reading through the book of Job, and it’s not an easy read. Job’s raw honesty makes me self-consciously uncomfortable, and the insensitivity of his “friends” painfully reminds me of my propensity to self-righteous callousness toward those facing calamity. But in addition to this, Job reminds me that I live in a sin-cursed world and, therefore, “man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (5:7). And though I prefer to not face this fact, it is a fact. Life in this world can be deeply troublesome. Painfully so. These discomforts are among the many reasons why I, and I assume you, need the book of Job.

Being confronted with the holiness of God in a troubled world, as Job was, humbles us, changes us, and equips us to help others, who, like ourselves, feel hurt by the hard realities of life—a life ordained by the wise providence of God.

It has often been observed that Job’s counsellors were excellent until they opened their mouths. Eliphaz was among the “gifted.” He truthfully but heartlessly counselled Job, “For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (5:6–7). In other words, Eliphaz was saying, “Job, your troubles have a cause, and that cause is you. For just as sparks are the result of a fiery source, so you are the source, you are the fire that has produced all these calamitous sparks. Job, if you put out the fire of your sin, the sparks of sorrow will cease.” As the saying goes, with friends like these, who needs enemies?

Eliphaz, in one sense, was speaking truth, but he was applying it in the wrong way and at the wrong time. Though it istrue that troubles in this world arise because sin has entered the world (Romans 5:12), it is not true that each of our troubles is necessarily the outcome of our personal sin. The “sparks” of trouble are often our lot, such as busted relationships, social upheaval, poverty, physical suffering—even a virus—because of mankind’s millennia of rebellion against holy God. But that does not mean that our troubles are always caused by our own personal sin. Of course, in some cases this is true, but even righteous men, like Job and Noah, endured hardships (Job 1:1; Genesis 6:9). And so it is with many in our church. Through no fault of their own, they are suffering. Let’s be there for them, weeping with them as they weep, helping them to shoulder their burdens (Romans 12:15; Galatians 6:2, 10).

In the past 24 hours, several of our church members have experienced great hardship and suffering, troubles arising from living in sin-cursed world. Troubles such a death.

Dalene Butterworth died yesterday morning and our brother Ryan and his family grieves. His father Fraser is widowed. They have comfort in Christ, but they may feel at times like the world is on fire and the flames of heartache is sucking the oxygen of faith from them. Pray for them. Message them. Love them.

Sylvia King’s brother, Les, unexpectantly died yesterday. You will recall that, late last year, Sylvia had a brother who died and then two days later her sister died. Brothers and sisters, the sparks of sorrow are intense. But by our prayers and by our kindness and by sharing God’s word, perhaps the Lord will use us to douse some of these flames in the life our dear sister in Christ.

There are many other church members who have faced and who are facing painful troubles. May the flame of our love rise higher than the sparks of their troubles.

Loving with you,

Doug