The Old Testament book of Job starts with a conversation between God and Satan in which the Lord calls attention to his servant Job.
“Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8)
In what follows, Satan accuses Job of only worshipping God because of all the good things God has given him. God has blessed him, giving him a beautiful family, status, wealth, and health. If not for these blessings, Satan says Job would curse God openly.
God next grants permission to Satan to take everything from Job so long as he does not touch his person directly.
Before the first chapter is concluded, Job loses his livestock, his servants, and his children. He is distraught, and he mourns.
Grief and Worship
When Job gets the news from three servants in rapid succession that they alone escaped to tell him of these disasters, Job stands up and proceeds to tear his robe and shave his head. But then he falls to the ground and worships God.
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will return.
Yahweh gave, and Yahweh has taken away.
Blessed be the name of Yahweh.” (Job 1:21)
In the second chapter, Satan attacks Job’s health. And we see a repeat of the scene from the first chapter. God again highlights the righteousness of Job. And again, Satan claims Job will curse God to his face if God removes his blessings – this time keying in on the hypothetical of taking Job’s health away.
As with the first time around, God gives Satan permission to test the genuineness of the faith of the Lord’s servant. The only limitation is that Satan is not allowed to kill Job.
So Job is struck with sores from head to foot.
Curse God and Die
Next thing you know, Job’s wife is bitterly challenging him.
“Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.”
But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:9-10)
As a point of speculation more than revelation, I wonder if Job’s wife thought to herself that her husband cursing God and dying would bring an end to their troubles. Maybe she wanted the easy way out.
And on that note, I think it is important for us to address the question of whether we are asking or being asked this question of The Problem of Evil in good faith.
In the advice Job gets from his wife we see a snapshot into the temptation that can creep in with questions about the problem of evil – taking the easy way out.
Rather than grappling with the character of God, or what the plans and purposes of the Lord are for us in the midst of trials and tests and even persecution, we might be tempted to conclude that God is unjust. We might even be tempted to conclude that God is not good. But we have to press on and resist that temptation because God is good and just.
Summary of Job
Back to Job again, he has three friends. And at first, these friends are doing really great. They are with Job while he is hurting. They don’t want to leave him alone. Good job, friends.
But as the days go on, they start talking. And this is where they get into trouble because some of the things they say are not so helpful. For instance, Job’s friends start really focusing in on what Job has done wrong to deserve this punishment from God. That’s how it works, right?
Surely Job must have done something wrong to be suffering the way he is. And if Job will just confess his sin and repent of it, God will ease up. God will stop punishing him.
Cry ‘Uncle’ already, Job!
Only Job cannot for the life of him think of what he has done wrong to be punished. And moreover, he starts talking too. And the things Job starts saying have a lot to do with questioning why God has allowed things to happen in his life the way they have.
To be fair to Job, God does start out the book saying that Job is “a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil.”
But just look at an example of what Job for his part says.
“Or why was I not as a hidden stillborn child,
as infants who never see the light?”
God Reframes The Question
As the verses and chapters of this back and forth of Job questioning God and Job’s three friends pressing Job continue on, a fantastic thing happens. God answers.
“Then Yahweh answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
What God does here is reframe the question. And far from being a harsh or severe or punitive response, God is actually showing a tremendous amount of grace and mercy to Job to answer this way.
In the midst of Job hurting and grieving, Job seems to have forgotten a simple truth.
God is God, and Job is not God.
At the risk of seeming to oversimplify things, the resounding message from God’s Word is clear: the Lord is God, and we are not God.
Part of what comes with the territory of being God is the privilege of getting to do what you want. That includes, but is not limited to, having rights over the clay. And that’s us – you and me and everyone who is human and made in God’s image out of the dust of the ground. We are the clay Paul is talking about in Romans.
When we seek and ask in good faith like Job did for reasons regarding why God did what he did instead of some other thing, God answers clearly. And sometimes the answer is as simple as reframing the question.
The trouble with us asking in bad faith – not because we really want to know, but because we are finding fault with God as if we sit in judgment over him – is that we get our roles confused.
Moreover, we do not get answers that way.
As James 4:6 tells us,
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
It behooves us to be humble rather than proud in asking the question, then. Moreover, it behooves us to search the Scriptures and seek God in prayer for the honest answer to the question.
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