“Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” Job 13:15a (ESV)
I frequently ponder these nine words of Job, a man of heroic endurance and acquainted with affliction in a way that few have known or ever will know. Is this my testimony when the wheels fall off the cart of my life? So captivated have I been with this passage that I wrote it on the enormous cast my son wore after one of his many surgeries for osteosarcoma, the disease which took his life in September 2008. It was the cause for him to bear witness to Christ on many occasions. And he used this passage in his entry in his high school year book the year he graduated. That my son trusted fully in God’s goodness despite his circumstances is cause for my joy.
The ancient book of Job deals with the age-old question of evil & suffering. But the book of Job never answers the question—it left Job with God’s reminder of His creative powers and sovereign majesty, and the simple implication that He was great enough to be trusted. Why did God allow my son Andrew to be afflicted with cancer & die? I will never be able to give an answer in this life. Although we know we are not supposed to question God, I cannot help but ask, “why”? The omnipotence of God is unquestionable. I believe that God is always right, but I do not know why my son died at age 21. We are left without an explanation—there are no words. We can only place ourselves in God’s hands and await His eternal explanation. Remember the words of Jesus in John 13:7, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” I suspect that our Father prefers that we set as our goal obedience without asking for a reason.
We must be very careful in interpreting God’s purposes in suffering–our own or someone else’s. We rarely see any redeeming reason for it. God’s purposes are very different, even opposite from ours. And this is not a form of triumphalism, which I abhor. But when Jesus finally reveals the real purposes we will find them more glorious than we ever imagined and His reward so overwhelming that there will be no trace of bitterness, only overflowing gratitude.
Faith Requires God’s Enabling Power
Far from faith being a crutch for the weak, when someone steps out to walk on the path of faith, they need a strength beyond themselves, they need to rely on the power of God (2 Corinthians 1:9). Biblical faith puts great demands on all who are prepared to embrace it. If you do not believe this statement, consider Genesis 22, the story of Abraham and Isaac ascending Mount Moriah. What a chilling challenge we have here. Indeed, it is unprecedented in the Bible. Look at what God is asking Abraham to do—to kill his son; this has to be a test of faith! It was vital that Isaac made it to fatherhood. With this in mind, look at what God is asking Abraham to do. God tested Abraham—is that like God? Would God do that? Is this the God whose direction I seek to follow? It is! Remember, events square with God’s notion of God not our notion of God. In situations like this, reason attempts to explain it away, while faith confronts the impossibility. This is why apart from Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5c). God wants men to come to salvation on the basis of faith in His Word of truth. Suffering is more than a punishment in this life; it is a crucible in which the believer is perfected into the image of Christ.
The prologue of Job takes us into the heavenly realm to view Satan, the father of cynicism, accusing Job before God. Satan’s implication was that God was not worthy enough in His own essence to receive man’s allegiance (Job 1:9, 11). Satan implied that God is not good enough in His being that, were His favors removed, He still would be worthy of man’s worship. But God is not deserving of such cynicism. We must not exhibit Satan’s cynical response to God. I will continue to trust Him, even though I do not understand my own adversity, pain, & grief. For all that I know about God supersedes my own human plight and declares to my soul that He is worthy of all glory and I can trust Him.
Answering Job out of the whirlwind, God laid claim to being the only One present at the beginning of creation. He is the Creator of the sea and of time. He is the Master of the deep, light, darkness, snow, hail, lightning, constellations. His strength & counsel are infinitely higher than man’s. And man cannot find fault with the Almighty or reprove Him. In the longest single speech of God recorded in Scripture (Job 38-41), He illustrated to Job His omnipotence and omniscience. Instead of revealing His grand design, God revealed Himself to Job. Seeing God as the sovereign Creator & Sustainer of the universe, as he had never seen before, Job declares, “My ears had heard of You, but now my eyes have seen You” (Job 42:5). God’s creation has spoken to me in the days following Andrew’s death in striking ways. I hear His tender, caring, creative voice in nature as I never did before. Not an audible voice, but in the beauty of a Fall day, or a Montana sky.
Faith Commands Complete Trust in God
The book of Job proclaims that we live by faith, and faith is surrounded by mystery. Reason gropes in the dark for answers. Faith reaches beyond the darkness to God. God did not give Job the answer to the problem of suffering. But He taught Job the proper attitude—that of complete trust in God despite of all the incentives to the contrary. There is no facile answer to the problem of unmerited suffering in a world created & presided over by righteous & just God.
God could have created another kind of universe, one in which He would not permit evil. But He chose to create the particular world order in which we find ourselves. Somehow this way brings the most glory to His name. Until God’s plan is complete, we live with the mystery of human pain & suffering. The final resolution of the problems of this world lies beyond death. Human suffering, for which there is not satisfactory explanation, has been shared by our Redeemer in His atoning death on the cross (Isaiah 53:4, 5). And that Redeemer has promised to wipe away every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21:1-4). It is well with my soul, and though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.
Yours in Christ,
This posting is dedicated to the memory of Taylor Ann Benton, May 7, 1991-December 23, 2015.
“Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” Revelation 8:10c