As per usual in my Old Testament class, I had my mind blown this week. Prior to class about all I knew about the book of Job was that Job got dealt a bad hand by God, but in his suffering he didn’t sin. By bad deal, I mean that God allowed Satan to destroy all of Job’s property, kill all of his children, and then infect Job with a horrific skin disease. Job went from living the Hebrew version of the American Dream to playing the lead role in a Hebrew Horror Story. [Fun fact: According to my textbook, there is no evidence in the text indicating that Job is actually an Israelite] Yet Job did not sin and turn from God. (Job 1:22)
“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21
Other than that, I knew that the book lasted for some 40 chapters with monologues from Job, his three friends, some other dude who randomly shows up, and from God. I considered these monologues to be long and wordy and thought perhaps they should be shorter…you know, if it were up to me. Which it obviously isn’t. Actually that is kind of the whole point of the book of Job – it is not up to us and our understanding. We are not God. And we are not privy to know the mind of God. And if we only trust what we can understand then we don’t truly trust Him.
In the book of Job, God openly states that he afflicted Job with suffering for no reason (2:3). No reason that we know of or that we can see. Job was blameless, yet God allowed, perhaps even encouraged, his suffering (1:8, 2:3). That’s rough.
In the midst of all of his suffering, Job’s friends did a great job of offering sage advice and sound wisdom and talking all about God. Job is the only one, however, who talks to God. Actually, Job talks pretty freely to God. In return, Job gets a literal come to Jesus meeting from God regarding the words he had spoken (38-41). Despite this, Job is never considered to have sinned and in the end he is the one who must offer a sacrifice on behalf of his friends – a definite implication that his friends sinned and that he was clean enough to act as priest before God on their behalf (42:7-9).
As Westerners, heck perhaps just as humans, we like to know the why behind everything. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Yet, in our walk as Christians, we must be willing to submit to the fact that we aren’t God and he doesn’t owe us an explanation. Job never got an explanation. Nothing. God never justified or defended his actions to Job. What Job did get was an encounter with God and after he “sees” God as opposed to “hearing” about Him, he is moved from mourning back into the land of the living (42:5).
“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see you.” Job 42:5
As a sign that his mourning is over, he is able to feast (42:11), have sex (assumedly since he had more kids) (42:13), and worship (he offered a sacrifice for his friends) (42:9) – three things that those in mourning in the Jewish culture could not do. For 30 something chapters his friends had gone on and on with seminary-like discourses about who God is and the ways of God and Job was left just as distraught as when the rambling began (16:2-4). All it took was one true encounter with the God of the universe and Job was comforted and restored back to life.
Sometimes I look at seasons of my life and I want an answer. But we don’t always get an answer to our questions do we? I don’t always know why certain things happen in my life and in the lives of loved ones. I don’t have to know why. I simply have to trust God. And like Job, sometimes my trusting might involve a little heated discussion beforehand. Job made it pretty clear to God that he didn’t feel like his lot in life. He even told God that he had been wronged (19:6). And then he brought that anger and frustration and put it at the feet of God…where it belonged. Only then did God open his eyes and change his heart.
We see this often in the Psalms as David and the other Psalmists cry out to God passionately as is the case with “My God my God why have you forsaken me?” in Psalm 22:1. Jesus himself cried this out to God the Father in Matthew as he hung on the cross. But what we don’t see is them shaking their fists at the heavens and then turning and walking away. They come in anguish and hurt and frustration and ask “why” and then sit with their face turned towards God and wait for an answer. They don’t always get one and they are not owed one, but what they do get is a heart turned towards the Lord saying,
“Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 42:5-6
The Bible never tells us that this approach to God is wrong. We are often very uncomfortable with it and therefore imply that you can’t speak to God that way. But, time and time again the Old Testament, specifically Psalms, shows examples of people rightly crying out to God, pleading their case and not hiding their distress. It shows human beings with feelings attempting to rightly come to terms with the mystery of the divine will.
I want to wrap up this past season of my life and tie a pretty little bow on it and present it to the world as finished and complete and oh so righteous. But I am a human and not a robot. I may never know the whys of some of the things in my life, but what I do know is that as I cried out in anguish over and over again, I was eventually met by the God of the universe and that all it took was one meeting with Him for me to turn from mourning into life again. (Psalm 40)