I just finished reading the book of Job recently. I know that it’s probably not on anyone’s top ten list of favorite books of the Bible, but when you step back from the simple narrative, it actually teaches us a lot about how to navigate the disappointments, pain and suffering in our world today.
To briefly summarize the story: Job was a righteous man who trusted in God and was blessed with wealth and prosperity. Satan challenged his integrity, supposing that Job would curse God if he was allowed to suffer. When the Lord removed His divine protection, the devil orchestrated quadruple disasters that erased all of Job’s vast wealth, killed his servants and all ten of his children. Imagine the loss! The pain and confusion would be overwhelming!! And as if that wasn’t enough, the enemy eventually attacked Job’s health, causing painful sores to break out all over his body. But even with the immense emotional and physical suffering, he didn’t curse God as a result.
Throughout most of the rest of the book, Job asks a lot of questions about his situation, wondering why the righteous are punished while the wicked prosper. After much discussion with his less that helpful friends, in chapter 38, God shows up personally to address Job. Though modern readers may have preferred it, God doesn’t get into debate with this mortal, or even begin to answer his questions.
The first thing the Lord says is “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?” (Job 38:1) My more modern (unofficial) translation of that verse is, “Job, you have no idea what’s going on here.” And, if you’ll indulge a little more from the ‘Revised Karen Translation’ of this passage, the Almighty goes on to essentially say, “Job, I’m God. I do what I please, for reasons you don’t understand.”
And, interestingly, that’s enough for Job.
In that respect, believers would do well to be a little more like this ancient patriarch. There’s a point in our spiritual journey we have to come to the realization that there are some things God doesn’t tell us. (Deut 29:29) But, just because a situation doesn’t make sense to us doesn’t mean that it’s, indeed, senseless.
If we go back to Job, he had no idea about the spiritual interaction between Satan and God that preceded his predicaments. Nor did he understand that his story would be recorded and preserved in the pages of scripture to stand as a source of encouragement for countless generations. There was purpose to the tragedy he endured. Job just didn’t see it.
You know, people face crazy stuff in this world, and there will continue to be pain, suffering and trauma that we can’t explain. But attempting to define God through our flawed analysis of the events of our lives will always lead to bewilderment. A life of faith requires us to look at our situations differently. We need to learn to interpret disappointments and frustrations through what we know about God, and not interpret God, through the flawed filter of our circumstances.
We have plenty of evidence -in the Bible and in our lives every day- that proves God is trustworthy. As a result, we can -and must- be confidant in His love and grace, even when our experiences defy explanation.