Often, the most difficult part of suffering for Christians is not knowing why it is happening, but trying to see God’s character reflected in the crisis. Our theology tells us that God is gracious, loving, powerful, and wise. However, prolonged periods of intense suffering can cause believers to question these attributes. It is not until the end of the book of Job that these characteristics of God are affirmed. This occurs when God finally speaks in Chapters 38-41 and acts to reverse Job’s situation in Chapter 42.
The challenging part of God’s speeches is that He does not answer Job’s primary concern, which is why he is suffering. As readers, we know the answer, since there is a prologue that identifies the setting of Job’s suffering. Instead of telling Job the reason for his suffering, God launches into a series of questions for Job — all of which focus on God’s wisdom and sovereignty over creation. This almost seems like a diversion on God’s part, because He is under no obligation to give Job the information that we are given at the beginning of the story. He bombards Job with other issues and questions that he cannot answer.
While this seems to be the case at first glance, there is another larger purpose for this section. It is to instil faith in the God who is wiser and more powerful than Job and to demand trust in His character. God reveals Himself as good and gracious but also just. This is most clearly seen in God’s revelation to Moses in Exodus 34:6-7, where God hides Moses in the cleft of the rock and passes before him while stating God’s characteristics of being both kind and just.
The problem for us is that God reveals these truths about Himself but He does not prove that they are true. We accept them by faith. What God does for Job is to begin with His wisdom and sovereignty, which are evident in creation, and to use them to demonstrate that the other attributes are true as well. If Job recognises that God is wiser and more powerful than anything in creation, then trusting Him is the only answer that a faithful follower of God can have. Job’s words in Chapter 42:2 show this when he says, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”
If Job recognises that God is wiser and more powerful than anything in creation, then trusting Him is the only answer that a faithful follower of God can have
A second purpose of God’s answers to Job is that God answered Job’s prayer and showed up when Job wanted to talk with Him. In other words, God’s revelation to Job brought an answer to the underlying question, ‘Why is this happening to me?” The fact that God would take the time and show Himself to Job in order for Job to know Him better demonstrates that God is concerned about Job’s situation and pays attention to him in his time of need. It cannot be overemphasised that this is one of the most profound points in the book. God cares enough to demonstrate that He is there and that He pays attention to Job, His faithful follower.
It is important to note that this revelation took place before Job was restored. If God would have restored Job before revealing Himself, it would not have had the same impact. Acts 42:5-6 tell us the impact this had on Job: “I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” The encounter with God reveals not only who God is, but also who Job is. Job learns about himself through the encounter as much as he does about God.
When suffering comes into our lives as Christians, it is important that we not attempt to arrive at simple reasons for the suffering, unless they are evident. In most cases, we cannot know the reasons, but this should not deter us from seeking God and trusting in His sovereignty and wisdom in every situation. He is indeed in control of all things and so, He is in control of our situation too, however bad it might be.
We meet Him through prayer and reading His Word, so these are the best disciplines we can follow in times of suffering. We must trust that He knows what He is doing and that we should take the suffering as an opportunity to grow in our relationship with Him. We will not only learn more about Him, but we will also learn so much more about ourselves in the process. And this is a major part of our sanctification.
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