"Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion?" (Job 38.31)
Humanity has a nagging question: Why? Why are things as they are? Why did they do that? Et cetera. While the question is not wrong by itself, it can indicate that we have an improper attitude towards God. Consider Job. He was a faithful God worshiper in the Old Testament, but he loses everything. In losing all of his children and possessions, he does not curse God. Instead he curses his own life, the day he was born. Throughout the rest of the book of Job, he searches for answers. Although we know why things have happened, Job does not. He didn’t have chapters 1 and 2 to explain his calamity. Instead, he had his trust in Yahweh God and his friends providing proverbial wisdom.
They say, “It is the wicked who suffer and are punished by God.” Yet their explanation falls short. This is true that the wicked will be punished by God, yet things are not completely as they seem on the earth. For one thing, Yahweh is a patient God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. So inasmuch as the wicked deserve to receive punishment, Yahweh is patient even with them. Job’s comforters also neglect the depravity of man. They see the wicked man swindling people of money and are talking about him, but they are blind to their own sin. So in a sense they are correct that the wicked will receive punishment from Yahweh, but because they don’t see their own wickedness they don’t see their own need for a savior.
This is where Job comes in. Although he was blameless, he still saw his own need for salvation. He offered sacrifice regularly according to God’s design at that time. He claims in his speech in chapter 19.25, “For I know that my redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my flesh has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” Job knew that there would come a day when his pain would be resolved. He anticipated that day, yet the question why still lingered in his dialogue. He wants to know the reason for his suffering, for the loss of his beloved children. He pleads for a hearing with the Almighty even if only for a short while just to know why this has happened to him.
God’s response is totally unexpected. He does not reveal to Job that Satan wanted to test Job’s faithfulness. Instead, God reveals himself to Job. Look at the stars in the heavens, do you string them like a necklace? God’s answer to our why is to reveal himself to us. On the one hand we respond with humility, but on the other hand, we also can respond with gratitude. Through all of this testing and trial, God is the one who holds creation in his hand. As we behold the wonders of his creation, we stand in awe of his handiwork; it cannot be shaken.
Because Christ became a man, there is another response. Jesus Christ lived life on this earth and experienced suffering to the point of death. For those who are Christians, our suffering follows after Jesus’ suffering. Unlike Job we have someone greater who has gone before us. Although the answer to our why questions can be answered by explaining humanity’s depravity, that doesn’t help us have resolution. Ok, so we’re sinful and part of a broken world, that is the reason for my suffering.
But it is only through Jesus that we have a resolution. It is like two countries who have warred for hundreds of years. The two countries’ people grow up to hate each other as a fact of life. Where will the resolution come from? In the history of the world, it is rare for there to be a resolution. They will continue to hate each other until someone wins.
So in Christ, we have a resolution to sin and suffering. Although we still are a part of the broken world, we have become a part of the body of Christ and now any suffering we experience produces joy (James 1.2) which will in the end make us complete. As we look to gather this Sunday, let us consider our trials a joy and worship our Lord who has resolved the problem of our suffering.
--J. Andersen 4/15/16