We could debate this question for hours on end. Does our God let bad things happen? If He is almighty and all-powerful, why can’t He stop all the pain, all the suffering?
When this question arises for me, I often turn to my friend Job. Job was a man who lived many years ago in the land of Uz. The bible tells us that he was an honest man, and devoted to doing what was good. In essence, Job was as pure of heart as a human can get.
The story goes that God gave Satan permission to test Job’s goodness of heart. And so the devil destroyed Job’s home, his children, his livestock, and all of his servants. Upon hearing the news, Job ripped his robe, and shaved his head in agony, and then he said,
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I’ll return to the womb of the earth. God gives, God takes. God’s name be ever blessed. Job 1:21 MSG
Seeing this, Satan insisted on testing Job further. God allowed Satan to take away Job’s health as long as he was not killed. And so Job became covered in painful ulcers and scabs. His wife scoffed at him, urged him to turn away from God, but Job would not. He said,
We take the good days from God-why not also the bad days? Job 2:10 MSG
Job continues to suffer. His friends, who blame him for his own misery, poorly counsel him. Finally Job goes to God and says,
Please, God, I have two requests; grant them so I’ll know I count with you: First, lay off the afflictions; the terror is too much for me. Second, address me directly so I can answer you. Job 13:20-22 MSG
His friends continue to mock him and lecture him purely on their own wisdom.
Then finally, The Lord answers his servant Job and says,
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth. Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! On what were it’s footings set, or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? Job 38:4-7 NIV
Job responds to God saying,
I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. Job 42;1-2 NIV
The Lord then tells Job to pray over his friends, and then restores his fortunes and gives him twice as much as he had before.
Don’t we all wonder? When a loved one dies of cancer. When abuse claims the life of a child. When we are plagued with depression that won’t cease. When people everywhere are starving and we can’t fix it. Don’t we wonder about God’s goodness? Sometimes it feels like he is absent. Job writhed in agony through many lamenting monologues before he received his answer. And the Lord basically told him that he didn’t understand all that was happening (see Job 38-41). Our God is too big for us to fathom. He loves us so deeply, and hates to see us suffer, but the pain all around us is so much bigger than just us.
We have to accept that so many things in this world are beyond our understanding. And that is where our faith comes in. Can we trust that God is good? That is the key. If we can trust His goodness, and His insane love for us, then we must rest in the truth that He holds the universe in His hands.
I encourage you all, in some free moments during your holiday break, to take the time to really read the story of Job. I have found solace in Job’s laments in times of agony, and I have been encouraged of God’s sovereignty. Through all of Job’s suffering he presses into God, he questions God. And when God answers him, Job is reminded that God is trustworthy, that He is steadfast despite our doubts.
I want to leave you all with this verse to cling to:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your way acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5 NIV