Posted By MSH on January 31, 2010
This will be brief (I know, you’re amazed).
Basically, the message of Job is fairly simple, but some would say not very comforting. When Job and God have their conversation at the end of the book, God’s answer to his (and the reader’s) implicit question of why the righteous have suffered is that “I don’t owe you an answer, Job.” And, frankly, God doesn’t owe us answers. People are fond of calling the first two chapters of the book a “wager” between God and the satan. I disagree. One could very well view it as a vindication of Job — after all, we find out that God was RIGHT when he told the satan that Job would not curse him. Job never does. As to why God didn’t just tell the satan to get lost, in one sense the satan was just doing his job (you have to understand that the satan is *not* the cosmic evil enemy of God in Job 1-2).1 In another sense, God could have told him he was done for the day, but he doesn’t — and that goes back to God not owing humans an answer.† That is where faith comes in. We (with Job!) need to believe that God is as sovereign as he is good as he is wise. In other words, we aren’t at the pay grade that allows us to know this kind of information. Some things belong to the province of deity, not to us. More broadly, we of course know God honored Job’s faith and restored his health and what he had lost. But the text doesn’t say Job forgot the anguish of what happened to him. How could he if he’s human?
So how does this fit with my Haiti piece? On one hand, it has nothing to do with it, in that the “why” question is often inscrutable to us. God may steer circumstances through the exertion of his influence and power so that we can “figure out” why things happened the way they did. But even if that is the case, our grasp of how the events of our suffering really ripple outward are vast and beyond our vision. One person’s suffering, if responded to in faith, can influence hundreds, thousands, or perhaps millions. We can’t possible see that. And if they influence no one, if we believe the gospel, God will reward and bless that sufferer (to quote Paul) beyond anything that eye hath seen or ear heard in the next life. Finally, on the other hand, the question is relevant if by it we mean, “what can Job teach us about the suffering in Haiti?” It can teach us that God doesn’t owe us answer and we should trust him, opening ourselves to suffering as an opportunity for him to use it to influence others away from evil and toward the gospel. In other words, while it is a human thing to want to know why, and I’m sure from scriptural examples that God doesn’t mind asking (and venting — think of David!), the spiritual thing to do is submit to the future that God is working toward, which includes his ability to take suffering and turn it on its head.
- I can’t recall if I’ve blogged on that before, but it’s one of the things many people learn after taking a few weeks of Hebrew once you hit the definite article.† If some of you want a post on that, let me know. ↩