WHY? – A reflection on the book of Job (@revpamsmith)

Victim by xymonau via RGBstock

Victim by xymonau via RGBstock

At the start of the book of Job, he is a happy and righteous man. Yet God allows Satan to take away Job’s children, wealth and health to be taken away from him to test out his faith that Job will remain righteous even if he loses everything that makes him happy. Job passes the test and at the end of the story we are told that more was given to him: more children, more property, and more years of life.


When Job is in the depths of despair – grieving, and afflicted with physical illness – three friends approach him and try to help him deal with his situation. They do this by suggesting it must be some flaw or sin in him that has caused his suffering. This brings little comfort to Job and he sends them away.


Job then dares to question God about why he is suffering, and God answers by pointing out the power he holds over the whole of creation, asking how Job can expect his small human intellect to understand God’s mind the reasons for his actions.


We may find it harder that Job does to accept that the answer to ‘Why does God allow suffering?’ is simply ‘That’s God’s business’. Suffering is a very strong deterrent to belief in contemporary culture. We live in an age of information and explanations and being told God’s ways are too mysterious to understand does not satisfy our intellectual curiosity. The beauty and complexity of creation may offer a convincing argument for the existence of a Creator, but suffering seems to present an unanswerable objection to the idea of a God who is all loving and all powerful by posing the question, if he is all loving, why does he allow suffering to happen to those he loves? Surely this can only be because he is not all powerful?


God tells us through Job that it is pointless trying to understand suffering, but it is not pointless asking the question. In turning to God to try and understand his suffering, Job comes into God’s presence and is ultimately comforted and renewed by that.


The story of Job should make us think about the Christian spaces we create and the dialogues with non-believers that we enter into. Do we, like God, allow people to voice their objections and grievances or do we, like Job’s friends, offer a solution to suffering which is neat but unhelpful?


God does not mind us voicing our questions and complaints – he wants us to be honest with him, and can use any prayer, even an angry one, to bring us closer to his comforting presence.


There can be no reconciliation without honesty. As the body of Christ online, let us not be too quick to defend God or blame those who are doubting his goodness or power. Let us, instead, create spaces where genuine feelings can be spoken out and expectation that God will answer people as he answers Job.

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