Bad things happen to good people. There, I said it. It’s something many don’t want to admit, but a fact of life nonetheless. The world is full of unwarranted suffering and pain and tragedy and sorrow. If you don’t believe me, just turn on the news or browse the web for a few minutes and you will be inundated with images and stories of heartbreaking events taking place in people’s lives that haven’t done anything to deserve it. You may even be going through a season in your own life right now that is painful and difficult to deal with. It may cause you to question why, if God is great and God is good, innocent people suffer.
That’s something Job wanted to know. As a matter of fact, that’s the story of Job, isn’t it? A righteous man suffering from tragedy upon tragedy, none of which he deserved. His friends tried to help him in his quest for an explanation. They assumed he’d done something to anger God and somehow deserved everything that was taking place. They even told him he needed to repent and get straight with God. For 35 chapters Job and his friends went back and forth on this topic. Job is left with the one question that haunts so many of us when tragedy strikes and when sorrow is our constant companion: Why?
Have you ever asked the “why” question before? Have you ever wondered what God’s role is in the midst of suffering and pain and tragedy? If we’re honest with ourselves, I think we’ll find that God usually doesn’t give us a direct answer to our questions. That’s what happened in Job’s case. Job sought an audience with God. He wanted to put God on the stand and make Him answer questions about the suffering he was going through. But when God appears, He doesn’t give Job the kind of answer that was expected.
After a long silence, God speaks to Job. It wasn’t a compassionate response either. God actually switches the tables up on him. No longer is God the one on trial, it’s Job that has been put on the stand. God begins to question Job with one question after another. Questions that Job has absolutely no answer for. Here are just a few of them:
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.” (Job 38:4)
“Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?” (Job 38:5)
“What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings? Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years!” (Job 38:19-21)
“Can you raise your voice to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water? Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?” (Job 38: 34-35)
In the end, God doesn’t answer Job’s questions, at least not the way we would expect. So what can we learn from God’s response?
He doesn’t give an explanation of the origin and cause of pain. He doesn’t reveal some grand plan behind Job’s suffering. But He does reveal Himself. God takes us on a tour of the world and He says, “See all this. I made it. It’s mine and I am in control. You are looking at things from your own tiny, minuscule perspective. You can’t possibly make a judgment regarding life and suffering based on your limited, finite knowledge.”
There is so much that we can’t possibly comprehend. If we can’t comprehend how the stars were put in place one by one, if we are unable to command the sun to rise and set, if we can’t claim credit for making the hawk able to fly or the fish to swim, how can we possibly begin to probe the mind of God?
God’s answer to Job helps us understand how little we really do understand. His response doesn’t explain suffering, but it does show us who God is. It points us to a God who is intimately involved with the world. A God who doesn’t let one detail go unnoticed. A God who is full of power and might. A God who is greater than the combination of all our sufferings. There is nothing we can face that has the ability to stop God’s power and purpose in the world.
Does God have to answer your every question and justify everything that comes your way? Or is it enough simply to know that God is?
God comes to us. He stands in the middle of our suffering along with us. In Jesus Christ, God has experienced the greatest pain any person could ever suffer. And in Jesus Christ, God has shown us that He has the power to transform our pain and our sorrow and make us into a new creation. He wants us to rest in the knowledge of His love and power and faithfulness. He is right here with us, and He offers Himself to us, to be for us a refuge and strength in times of trouble.
God may not give us every answer we demand, but He does give Himself to us. Is that enough for you?