For those of us who are teachers or students, a new school year signifies a fresh start after a time of renewal and refreshment over the summer. Sometimes over the summer, I pull out old ideas that have been forgotten or disused and remind myself of things that I would like to be doing but that have been neglected amidst the daily distractions of life and work. The need for renewal and refocus is not so much a need to learn something new, but to regain perspective and be reminded of what is truly important.
I recently had the opportunity to go to a ladies retreat with some women from my church, appropriately called a “Renew Conference.” This year the sessions centered around the character of God, and we focused on His ability, knowledge, and goodness through the lives of Sarah, Job, and Joseph.
In the life of Job, we get an inside look at why Job was suffering as he was, and we are told that God was sovereignly using it for His own purposes. We are shown the dialogue in heaven between Satan and God and learn that Job was entrusted with this suffering by God Himself in order to prove the genuineness of Job’s faith and ultimately to bring great glory to Himself.
Job, however, was not made aware of this, and nowhere in the book do we see that God ever revealed to Him why he was suffering. In fact all throughout the book we see evidence that Job is asking the question “Why?” and never does receive an answer to this question. In fact, for 37 chapters God is silent while Job’s friends accuse him without cause and while he pours out his anguish and questions to God.
At the end of the book, when God finally speaks, it is not to answer Job’s questions or to vindicate him, but to redirect his focus away from his situation and his own righteousness to God’s presence, power, and infinite knowledge. He had heard about God and had knowledge about God, even fear of God, but now his understanding of and faith in God was being tested. Through his suffering, he was not learning any knew theology about God, but God was bringing him back to the fundamental truths of who He is and the fact that He cannot be neatly fit inside the box that we try to put Him in according to our finite understanding. He is so much bigger than that and is beyond any comprehension that we think we have of Him.
There are times in life when our circumstances do not seem to match with our view of God, and that can lead to confusion, discouragement, and even anger. Sometimes we don’t ever get an answer to why God is allowing something hard in our lives, but when we are consumed with WHO, rather than WHY, we have truth we can cling to in order to take our focus away from ourselves and the situation and towards the One who has perfect knowledge and sovereign control over it all. Even more than that, He is the One who has promised to work all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Rom. 8:28-29), and this should be enough for us to trust Him even when we don’t understand.
A very interesting passage that has many similarities to the book of Job is Psalm 44. This psalm starts off with the psalmist declaring that he has heard about God (similar to what Job said in Job 42:5), about all that God had done for His people in the past, and His mighty works on their behalf. But then we see the psalmist struggling to reconcile what he knows about God with what he sees currently in his own life and the lives of his people, much like Job struggled to make sense of what was happening in his life in light of what he knew about God. God appeared not to be keeping His promises, to be silent, even to be asleep (Ps. 44:23)!Through the confusion and the questions, Job was able to persevere as he waited for God’s answer, because he was clinging to the hope of seeing God (Job 19:25) and of knowing that God was at work in his life to bring about a beautiful end result (Job 23:10). As I wait, I should be consumed with knowing Him better and finding out what He wants to do in my life through the circumstances He has wisely and lovingly brought into my life. As I spend time in His presence, I can claim His promises and expectantly wait for Him to work!