The book of Job is one of the most profound books in the bible. It focuses on questions like – “Can God be trusted?” and “Is God good and just in his rule of the world?”
It was written to those of us who might struggle with the justice of a sovereign, loving, and all powerful God in a world filled with trouble and suffering.
Job, one of the main characters, falls upon incredibly difficult times. All nine of his children are killed. He loses his wealth. He loses his health. It gets so bad that even his own wife tells him to curse God and die.
Three religious friends come to comfort him. But they tell him that his troubles are the result of his own doing. They assume bad things don’t happen to good people. They tell him all of this is happening because of his sin. Job calls them miserable comforters. Listen to some of the things they say to him.
After all nine of his children are dead. One of his so called friends has the audacity to tell him, “When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.”
Maggots are under Job’s skin from his disease and another one of his so called friends tells him, “how much less a mortal, who is but a maggot— a human being, who is only a worm!” Not the things you want to receive on a Hallmark card while you are sick and grieving.
As they continue to bring more misery to Job, it is a stark reminder to us not to do similar things to people in distress. The reasons for human suffering often remain a secret to us. There is much that we are unaware of when it comes to understanding other people’s problems. It reminds us to be compassionate and humble with trying to help others going through difficult times.
Job cursed the day of his birth. Then he began to ask God a series of questions.
“Why did I not die at birth?”
“Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul?”
“Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?”
Why are you allowing these bad things to happen to me?
After a long period of silence, God answers Job.
He doesn’t answer Job’s questions however. Rather he responds by asking him many questions. This is a reminder to all of us that while God loves us dearly, he doesn’t always answer our most agonizing questions. Rather he may ask us some questions prompting us to trust him more.
God responds to Job’s questions. “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.”
God’s questions start with words like “Who? Where? When? Have you? Can you? Do you know?” He asks Job if he knows how creation and its creatures are governed. He asks Job particularly about power in relation to himself and other creatures he has made. He ask Job who controls the weather. He asks him to explain the mysteries of our universe. “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orion’s belt? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs?”
God does not ask questions because He doesn’t know the answers. He asks Job and us penetrating questions because He wants us to think about our place in the universe and how much power we really have. He invites us to ponder his wisdom, his greatness, and his power.
Adam and Eve’s original sin involved them wanting to be like God. As their descendants we still struggle with the same God complex. We want to rule. We want the world to be about us. We think we can rule and manage the world better than God.
God has to remind us often, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways”. Many of our afflictions and losses are hidden in the knowledge and purposes of God alone. God is God and we are not. We are not the main point. We are dependent on God. God is not dependent on us.
Job responds to God’s questions. “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘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. “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
Thankfully, God is a good God who has our best interests in mind. We are reminded from the story of Job to continue to trust and obey God in the midst of life’s perplexities and uncertainties. Jesus told us that we would have trouble in this world. The Apostle Paul tells us that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
The truth is we may go through tough times in which God doesn’t answer many of our questions. Especially the question of “Why?” In these times we need to trust him. We can trust his character and his promise that, “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
God restored what was lost to Job. As Job’s fortunes turned around, we have the same promise. We have the promise that God has a future and a plan for us. He has an eternal plan that goes beyond our current momentary problems. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”