Go after Who, not Why
Text: Job 1:8-22 | Listen to Message
When we undergo trials, hardships, or painful periods of waiting, we instinctively ask God “why?” “Why did this happen? Why is this taking so long? Why me?”
Why, why, WHY?!
It’s a question, but it’s also a demand for information. For an explanation. We want to know the reason for our suffering – something, anything, that’ll convince us our suffering isn’t pointless.
Some of the most famous suffering in human history happened to a man named Job. The Bible takes 42 excruciating chapters to tell his story. It all begins when he loses his flocks, herds, crops, servants, and children all on a single day. Job was plunged into shock: he collapsed to the ground in grief and worship (1:20-21). Then he immediately began asking why (3:11, 12, 16, 20, 23).
But God never gives Job an answer. He never pulls back the curtain and gives him a glimpse of the conversations that were taking place in heaven. He never comforts him with the hope that his story will later serve as an inspiration to millions of other sufferers. Instead of giving Job an explanation, God gives Job himself.
And thus, Job gives us a roadmap for how to handle suffering and waiting in the absence of answers.
1. Recognize God’s sovereignty.
One of the first things that hits you when you read the book of Job is the unequivocal assertion of God’s sovereignty. He holds asymmetrical power and authority over Satan. This is not yin and yang, light vs. dark, the Galactic Empire vs. the Rebel Alliance, or Ford vs. Ferrari. There’s no doubt here who has the superior strength and who’s ultimately going to have his way: God.
In the midst of our own pain and waiting, we have a tendency to try to “get God off the hook” by telling ourselves (and others) that God isn’t responsible. He brings good things into our lives, not bad. He wouldn’t do that. But that’s not what Job says, is it? “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Shall we receive good and pleasant things from God, and shall we not also receive evil and misery?” (1:21; 2:10)
By limiting God’s control to good and pleasant things, we simply create a host of new problems, theologically and practically. If God isn’t sovereign over our pain, then what’s your hope that there’s an ultimate purpose to it? What’s your hope that someone who cares about you is able to bring something good out of this – and also bring you out of this? Don’t limit his power, friends. God is in control even when life hurts.
2. Refute Satan’s accusation.
In 1:9-10, Satan claims that Job only serves God because God has surrounded him with protection and prosperity. “Take away all his stuff, and he’ll curse you to your face, God!”
Satan’s accusation is a double-edged sword, attacking both humanity and God. On the one hand, he’s claiming that “worshipers” are really just mercenaries, gold diggers. People don’t serve God to get God; they serve God to get the things they want out of God. So this accusation is simultaneously a claim that God is not worthy in and of himself. He has to play Cosmic Santa and buy his friends and followers.
Satan’s not entirely wrong. Many people think they love and trust God . . . but when he doesn’t deliver what they ordered, they have no use for God.
But Job proves Satan wrong – and so can you. You can live this truth by faith: “God is God, and he’s worthy of my worship and praise, even when I don’t understand what he’s up to – even when life really hurts.”
3. Resist pat answers.
In short order, Job’s friends are going to come along with the pat answer of moralism: “Bad things happen to bad people. If you don’t want bad things happening to you, then repent, and God will stop punishing you.”
Job’s wife represents the pat answer of pragmatism: “What’s the point of integrity if it doesn’t get you anywhere? Your walk with God was pointless in the end, since it didn’t work to keep you out of harm’s way.”
Postmodern culture gravitates toward the pat answer of nihilism: “There’s no ultimate purpose or meaning to any suffering. No lesson to learn. No trajectory. No value. It’s all absurd. We might as well eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”
The Christian answer to pain and suffering is actually for more nuanced and complex, and far less reductionist, than any of these pat answers. Just because something is a mystery to us doesn’t mean God can’t have good reasons for suffering. God often allows something he hates in order to accomplish something he loves. In fact, that last statement is at the heart of the Gospel.
So, finally, we’ve got learn to . . .
4. Rest in God’s grace.
Job was innocent, yet he suffered terribly, all the while entrusting himself to the will of the Father. We learn in chapter 19 that Job ultimately believed that God would set all things right in the resurrection.
Job points us to the True Job, Jesus Christ. He was truly and completely innocent, yet he suffered terribly, all the while entrusting himself to the will of the Father. Jesus believed he would die for the sins of others, but he also believed the Father would raise him from the dead – and put death to death once and for all.
The Cross shows us that God is not some petty, pathetically needy dictator of the cosmos, desperately manipulating us for our worship and affection. He is the sovereign-yet-suffering Savior who entered our brokenness and pain, took our sin and guilt on himself, and paid the price to purchase our forgiveness and freedom. The Cross declares that he is worthy of our worship . . . just because.
Because of the Cross, and by faith, we don’t get what we deserve; we get undeserved favor instead. We get the assurance that God is bringing triumph out of tragedy, beauty out of ashes, healing out of brokenness, life out of death.
Rest in this God. He, not answers and explanations, is all you need.