The entire extract below is from Nancy Guthrie’s ‘The Wisdom of God’, which I cannot recommend enough.
The book of Job, for its ancient as well as modern readers, challenges our assumptions about how we think this life with God in regard to suffering ought to work. Perhaps the book of Job is in the Bible not to answer all our questions about suffering but to reframe our questions with its profound wisdom.
In the first verse and paragraph of the book of Job, we learn that Job is a good man, a great man in fact, and more than that a godly man. He is a great man morally; he turns away from evil. He is a great man personally with what appears to be the perfect family. He is a great man financially with tremendous wealth and holdings. And he is a great man spiritually, evidenced by his great sensitivity to sin against a holy God.
What differences does it make that Job was a great man? Why does the writer want us to know that? Because he knows it will prompt us to say, ‘He doesn’t deserve this.‘
So many suffering people get stuck demanding an answer they can understand and articulate to the question ‘Why?’. The problem is that God does not promise to provide us with a specific reason for the suffering in our lives (assuming we could understand it if He did) other than that He intends to conform us to the image of His Son (Rom 8:28-29). He has promised that He has a purpose in it, and He calls us to trust Him with that purpose – to believe in what we can’t see, which is the essence of faith (Jn 20:29; Heb 11:1).
Throughout most of the chapters of Job, Job is waiting for some answers. He listened to all of the arguments and explanations from his friends as to why he was suffering and argued his case with them. But he wanted to argue his case before God and to hear from God. He wanted God to show up and testify on his behalf, making it clear that he did not have some secret sin that had brought all this calamity upon him. ‘Let the Almighty answer me,’ he says in Job 31:35.
And finally, after all the questioning and struggle, in a voice out of a storm, God spoke.
Now, what we might expect, when God finally spoke, is that God would set everyone straight on the fine points of why this has happened and what he is doing. We might think God would tell Job all about Satan’s scheme to diminish Him by exposing that Job was only interested in God for what he could get from Him. But when God finally spoke, rather than revealing all of the answers to Job’s questions or explaining the spiritual battle going on behind the scenes, God revealed Himself. Rather than telling Job what he might have wanted most to hear, he told Job what he needed most to hear.
God began by asking where Job was when God began the work of creation, revealing himself as Creator. His phrases are ‘Where were you when…? Can you do this? Do you know how?’ As God revealed Himself, the message became clear to Job: God is Creator and I am the created. He can do anything He wants with me.
These questions go on for two chapters until, at the beginning of chapter 40, it’s as if God took a breath and started again. Job had suggested that he had been treated unfairly, and in God’s questions, God responded to Job’s complaint about the lack of justice in his suffering somewhat indirectly, challenging Job to take on the characteristics of deity to administer justice in the universe.
We like to think we are the experts on justice – that we have the ability to determine what is fair and right in this world. But when God reveals Himself to us, when we truly see Him, we see the true, perfect, pure justice of God, and we realise that we don’t begin to have the wisdom and perspective to judge what is right. Instead we see that God in His innate nature is the plumb line of justice that all justice is judged. As God reveals Himself, Job realises: God is a righteous judge, and I have limited understanding. He will always do what is right with me.
You may feel that you have questions that need to be answered about the reason for your pain or what purpose God has in it. But what you need even more is for God to reveal Himself to you in an umistakable, unavoidable way so that you can see Him as He is, not as a religion has portrayed Him or as a non-Bible book has described Him, but as He truly is in all His wisdom and glory and power and perfection. What you really need is for Him to change the course of the conversation.
This is what happened to Job. And when God revealed Himself to Job, Job came to realise that the more he knew about who God is, the more he could accept what God gave – even when he didn’t understand it.
I think Job would say that, in the storms of his life, he finally realised that there was something he needed more than having his questions answered and his suffering relieved and even his reputation restored. He needed to see the character and glory of God more clearly and powerfully. He needed to see God’s glory at the centre of everything, not his own comfort. He needed to see that God does not settle for our small ideas of what He should be doing in our world.
The wisdom of God, the revelation of God that thunders from out of the whirlwind, quiets our questions; it humbles our great claims of expertise in regard to what is fair and right. It moves us from demanding from God what we think we deserve to thanking God for all that we’ve received that we do not deserve.
As the wisdom and perspective we discover in the book of Job begins to sink in, instead of telling God, ‘I don’t deserve this!’ when hard things happen, we begin to say, ‘I don’t deserve anything good you’ve ever given me. I don’t deserve to have you in my life. Every drop of goodness I’ve known and experienced in my life flows out of your goodness. You know better than I what is right and good for me.’
On the surface, a perfectly fair world appeals to us. But it is not really fairness we need from God. In a completely fair world, there would be no room for the grace that is ours in Jesus Christ – receiving what we don’t deserve. And there would be no room for mercy either – being spared from getting the punishment we do deserve. We deserve punishment but receive forgiveness; we deserve rejection but experience love; we deserve judgment but are showered with God’s mercy; we deserve to die but are given unending life. It’s simply not fair, but it is so very, very good.
‘We often suffer. We sometimes understand. And by God’s grace, we can always trust.’ – Mark Dever
‘I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth.’ – Job 19:25