Once again, I find myself trying to make sense of suffering. Watching several people who are dear to me experience some huge heartaches recently, just brings it all to the surface.
It doesn’t matter that I have been in this place before. I know that God provides and gets people to the other side. I struggle with wanting God’s inside scoop and what He is thinking. I wrestle with why He and I don’t operate in the same way. If He would only lay out the road map when people suffer and what the plan is, I would say, “oh…I get it!”
Or would I?
For a person who likes to figure things out and tries to make sense of suffering in the world, especially in my own life, the thought that God doesn’t always give me reasons for what He does, is a hard pill to swallow sometimes.
Somehow, I feel much like a child who asks his parent “why do I have to do this?” Only to hear the parental reply, “because, I said so”. There will be no explanation given because the parent has reasons for giving instructions that exceeds the child’s ability to understand.
It seems that God, much like parents, desires more that we trust Him than that we understand Him.
I have been reading through the book of Job in the Old Testament. It is a fascinating read and spells out in great detail the extent of Job’s suffering as well as the responses of his friends.
Job was known to be upright and righteous, fearing God and shunning evil. He was very blessed and extremely prosperous. Even God declared of Job, “there is none like him on all the earth”. Now, that is the compliment of all compliments!
One day Satan shows up in God’s presence and God happens to point out to him whether he has noticed His servant Job. He extols Job’s faithful character and Satan decides it might be interesting to test it.
So test it he did and if you know the story, Job suffers loss of his family, his resources, and is afflicted with great physical pain.
While we get to read the beginning narrative and conversation between Satan and God, It is obvious that Job didn’t get the memo.
Job is going along in life being his righteous self and gets hit right between the eyes with sudden and crushing disaster. Bad news upon bad news. He is so devastated that he rips his clothes, shaves his head and sits in the ashes to grieve and scrape his sores. He is beyond consolable.
Job’s friends begin to show up and sympathize with him. It is all well and good until they decide that there must be some sort of an understandable explanation for Job’s suffering. In their worldview, if you prosper then it is because you are good, if you suffer then you must have done something wrong.
Now the friends who should bring comfort have become the accusers. They begin fault finding to see what sort of sin was lurking around in Job to cause God to bail on him like this. On top of physical loss and spiritual anguish, his emotional pain plunges to a deeper level as he begins to feel betrayed by his closest friends.
Job responds by staunchly defending his innocence while agonizing over God’s silence and why he has caused this to happen to him. Satan is hoping Job will turn his back on God and leave his faith, but Job holds fast to it as he continues to make his case before the Almighty.
Finally God responds. As I get to chapter 38, I am hopeful that God will tell Job all about Satan’s visit and His divine purpose in making Job as an example of a faithful follower. Surely God is going to clear up all the confusion right?
It doesn’t end that way. God shows up in a powerful discourse of questions that He puts to Job about His character. He has indeed heard Job’s complaints and now He wants to know if Job has answers to the questions God will put to him! Job 40:2 “Shall a fault finder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God let him answer it.”
When it is all said and done, Job repents as one who realizes he is not in a position to question God or His motives. The friends get in trouble for misrepresenting God and the reason for Job’s suffering. God doubly blesses Job and all is above and beyond restored.
However, we never see where God gives an explanation to Job for why he had been suffering. He only pointed out His own character and that He is trustworthy and all powerful. He reveals that He is a limitless, infinite God who operates in ways that the human mind cannot even begin to understand.
I see in Job that often we will not be given reasons for why we suffer. I see that I can agonize, question, mourn and weep and I still may not have an answer. God will listen, He will patiently hear my lament but He will answer on His terms, for His own good reasons and in my best interests. Even if I do not understand.
I am humbled by reading Job. I am in awe of God and His vastness. I realize in myself that I need to do more trusting of God and less trying to out-think Him.
Towards the middle of the book, Job hangs on to his faith and responds with:
“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Job 13:15
Maybe the real question in suffering isn’t in the ‘why?’ but in the ‘who’? Can He be trusted?
At the end of the book, Job gets the bigger picture:
“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You ask, ‘who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” Job 42:2,3