“Then Job replied to the Lord: I know that you can do anything and no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this who conceals my counsel with ignorance?’ Surely I spoke about things I did not understand, things too wondrous for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak. When I question you, you will inform me.’ I had heard reports about you, but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore, I reject my words and am sorry for them; I am dust and ashes.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Sometimes when we are making breakfast in the morning we like to make scrambled eggs. And sometimes when we get the eggs out to crack, our 5-year-old happens to be in the kitchen. Do you know what he unfailingly requests in these moments? Can I crack the eggs? Now, don’t get me wrong: It’s cute that he wants to help. I definitely don’t want to discourage him from it. That’ll blow up in my face later. But by the time I’ve cleaned up gooey egg mess from the counter and the floor and spent five minutes chasing minute pieces of egg shell around the bowl before I scramble everything up to put them in the pan, there’s a small part of me thinking, “Thanks for nothing.” As I read the tail end of the book of Job here, I feel a bit like he’s got to be thinking the same thing about God.
If you haven’t read it before or in a while, you should take a minute to at least skim through the book of Job. It is a truly remarkable record of one man wrestling with the problem of pain and suffering in the world. The story is hard on a number of different levels, but it presents the tragedy of suffering in the most raw and real language you’ll find just about anywhere and in any kind of literature.
Throughout the book, one thing has been on Job’s heart and mind more than any other: Why is this happening to me? And the longer he talks to some friends about it, the more desperate he becomes for an answer. He finally begins to point in God’s direction, running right up to and even a bit over the line of accusing Him of his misery.
When God finally shows up at the end of book, we, with Job, are ready for Him to explain or at least defend Himself. But He doesn’t. Instead, He asks Job a whole series of questions that amount to this: Could you handle running the whole world? If not, what makes you think you could even handle an answer to your question? What God gives Job out of his suffering is not an answer to the question of “why,” but rather to the question of “who.”
The fact is: God doesn’t often answer the why question we so frequently cast His way when we are facing a season of suffering, whether personally or vicariously. Instead, like He did with Job and if we will pay enough attention to catch it, He reveals more of Himself to us somehow. If we will let Him, He will show Himself faithful. He will show Himself kind. He will show Himself loving and just. He will show Himself healer. He will show Himself in a way we can get our mind and heart around just a bit more fully than we could before if only we will go to Him and see it.
And if this seems unsatisfying to you–after all, the question we went asking was why–then ask yourself this question: Would getting an answer to the why question really satisfy you?
Now, on the one hand, of course you’re going to insist that, yes, of course it will satisfy you. It is what you were asking after all. But, let’s say you’re a parent who has lost a child in a tragic car accident. And let’s say further that when you cry out to God asking why this awful thing happened, He responded with a full and detailed answer. He took you back to the Garden of Eden and unpacked the slow unrolling of sin across the annals of human history to the point that it took hold in the life of the driver of the car resulting finally in the death of your child. Then, He goes on to show you the possible futures that would have occurred had the accident not happened. Would you be satisfied then?
Perhaps changing the question up a bit will make the point clearer: Would you be less heartbroken then? No. No, you wouldn’t. I wouldn’t be either.
Knowing why we face the hard things we do doesn’t change a single thing about the situations. This is because, at the end of the day, why something happened is not nearly as important as who is there when it does. Think about it: When you are suffering and your best friend in the world comes to just sit and cry with you, you feel some better, don’t you? Maybe only a modicum, but better is better. Why? Because she answered all your questions for you? No. It’s simply because she’s there with you, loving you through it.
When we are in the midst of suffering, what we need more than answers is the God who is big enough to carry us through the suffering. He is the answer to our pain.
If you are hurting, then, go ahead and ask your hardest questions. Agonize over the question of why this awful thing has happened. But know well that those questions are only going to bring you any kind of meaningful relief if they lead you to the God who is wise enough to give you, not the answers you think you are seeking, but rather the ministry of presence you actually need. Go to Him and find the beginning of your healing.