Jason graduated university at the top of his class. He double-majored in History & Economics and was particularly interested in helping create developmental prescriptions for underdeveloped regions. He knew that there was a possibility that he wouldn’t get his dream job straight out of university, but two years in, he wasn’t expecting to be unemployed and concerned for what he would eat every day. This was a season of trouble and he was dreading it.
Most people, like Jason, are faced with a sense of dread when they hear the word, “trouble”. Trouble is not something that we embrace or want. These are hard times. These are uncomfortable times. These are times where our children are not doing well in school. These are times where we’re insecure about the way we look. These are times when our loved ones die. These are times when we can’t pay off our debts. These are times when everyone deserts us. These are troubling times.
But why do we so despise trouble? Is it because it is a bad thing?
A couple of weeks ago, I was doing my laundry downstairs our house. I was alone and my surroundings were quiet so I took the time as an opportunity to sit with my thoughts. I reflected on some of the difficulties that I was facing and had been facing since my exodus from university life in 2013. And I was like, “Man, I am so tired of this God. When does this end?”
The voice of God swiftly responded to my complaints. It said, “I want you to change your perspective of trouble.”
At the word “trouble”, my mind’s eye was given an animation of a square-headed little nuisance. He jumped from place to place, gracing any and everyone with his unwanted presence. A woman was pouring ingredients into a bowl getting ready to whisk it into a beautiful consistency and before she could finish pour in all of her eggs, he hopped unto the spoon and “troubled” the contents of the bowl. He stirred fiercely.
He jumped off the spoon and run out of the house. He was looking to impose his presence on some other unsuspecting people. As he run towards a car with a couple discussing what they were going to have for supper, he saw a puddle of water and kicked it with joy. He wouldn’t be trouble if had not troubled that water. He then run towards the car with that unsuspecting couple. He shook the car with all of his might, leaving the couple startled and the car displaced.
The animation ended but by the end of that little episode where I crazily chuckled and smiled to no one or anything, my understanding of trouble had been redefined. Still, as if to cement what he was bringing to my attention, God brought to my remembrance a passage of Scripture: John 5:1-4.
1After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. 3 In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.
I was familiar with the passage and the reminder added clarity to what had been provided by the animation, but I felt like I needed to read it. I rushed upstairs to my room to grab my Bible. And there it was…
At the risk of having this read or sound like a typed out sermon, turn your attention to verse 3 with me. Note the state of people before the troubled thing; in this case, water. They were impotent, blind, halt and withered. And they were anticipating a move: a move of water; a move in the water.
By this point I was near speaking in tongues. I kid. But I was bubbling with excitement. I still didn’t want trouble and would take a pass on it if it was offered to me politely but I was beginning to understand it’s significance.
It’s significance was further heightened when God brought to my attention the significance of what was being troubled: water. I want you to think of water and its symbolism in the Bible. Water, even in secular circles is symbolic of life. Hold on to that symbolism. You’ll need it.
At this point, I was like, “Ok God. I hear you. I get you. My perspective is changing. I’m definitely expecting a great move or shift in my life. I want to go from poor to rich. I want to go from proud to humble. So I’m definitely like these people at the pool waiting for a move.” And then I hit verse 4.
Verse 4: Something happened which created the movement of water. The angel troubled the water. What? I said, the angel troubled the water. Now, remember that symbolism that you were holding onto? Let’s make the conversion: The angel troubled life. The angel troubled your life.
At that point I wasn’t so excited anymore. I was like, “Ok God. I hear you. This trouble that I am experiencing is here to create that movement or shift in my life that I’m desiring and asking of you”. My face literally looked like a frowning smiley. But then he wasn’t done. He said, “One more thing. Look at what happened after the water – your life – is troubled.”
“…whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.”
Yup. After the water was troubled and the sick embraced it for what it was, they rushed to step into it, and there was a conversion. Those who were impotent became powerful. Those who were blind gained vision, those who were halt gained movement and those who were withered became upright and alive again.
My excitement peaked again.
In applying this understanding of trouble to my life, I was encouraged to embrace troubled times. I was encouraged to see them for what they really are. I was encouraged to see them as moments that would provide clarity in my vision and fuel for my movement. I was encouraged to see them as moments that would provide a surge of power in my life; moments that would see me upright in my faith where I had withered. I learnt that there was virtue in trouble.