As we make our way through Job, God proves to be sovereign over Satan, sinners, storms, and sickness. God is not surprised by Job’s suffering. He is not frustrated by the work of the Evil One. Easily, God can vanquish his foes. With a blink of his eye all things can be made beautiful again. God’s got this!
However, Job’s return to health, wealth, and prosperity is not first on God’s agenda. This sweet reversal of fortune is not what God wills at the present moment. The Sovereign Lord really is the one who “gives and takes away,” and at this point he is doing more subtracting than adding.
As readers of Job’s story, we see behind the scenes, and we see God’s sovereignty in suffering quite clearly.
Job did as well. Hear his theology of suffering in his own words:
Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind … With God are wisdom and might … If he tears down, none can rebuild. If he shuts a man in, none can open. If he withholds the waters, they dry up. If he sends them out, they overwhelm the land. With him are strength and sound wisdom; the deceived and the deceiver are his. He leads counselors away stripped … He looses the bonds of kings … He leads priests away stripped. He overthrows the mighty. He deprives of speech those who are trusted. He takes away the discernment of the elders. He pours contempt on princes and loosens the belt of the strong. He uncovers the deeps out of darkness and brings deep darkness to light. He makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and leads them away. He takes away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth and makes them wander in a trackless waste. They grope in the dark without light, and he makes them stagger like a drunken man. (Job 12:9-25)
In his statement, Job pulls no punches. He does not act as God’s deflecting defense attorney; he makes no excuses. No, Job calls a spade a “spade.” He knows God is omnipresent and omniscient. He knows God is sovereignly active over and throughout his creation. All beings and all things fall out in accordance with his will. Job knows Satan is God’s devil. Job knows sinners only thrive when God allows such. Storms are God’s instruments. Sickness is completely under his control.
Therefore, Job reminds us of David who respectfully screamed for God in the cave. He reminds us of Jesus who prayed in the Garden and on the cross. Gut-wrenching prayer or respectful screaming is the trait of God’s suffering servants. So, Job screams. Like Jacob, he is ready to wrestle with his Heavenly Father:
Yet I will argue my ways to his face. This will be my salvation, that the godless shall not come before him. Keep listening to my words, and let my declaration be in your ears. Behold, I have prepared my case; I know that I shall be in the right. Who is there who will contend with me? For then I would be silent and die. Only grant me two things, then I will not hide myself from your face: Withdraw your hand far from me, and let not dread of you terrify me. Then call, and I will answer; or let me speak, and you reply to me. How many are my iniquities and my sins? Make me know my transgression and my sin. Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy? Will you frighten a driven leaf and pursue dry chaff? For you write bitter things against me and make me inherit the iniquities of my youth. You put my feet in the stocks and watch all my paths; you set a limit for the soles of my feet. Man wastes away like a rotten thing, like a garment that is moth-eaten. (Job 13:15b-28)
Job knows the what. Hell on earth is that which he experiences.
Job knows the who. The Sovereign Lord is the one allowing such trouble.
Job does not know the why. He has not been given insight into the divine reason for this hellish season.
Job does not know the how long. He has no clue when this storm will subside; it if ever will subside.
Job does not know the what next. Whatever might be the next right move, he has no clue.
All this uncertainty troubles our brother, but what troubles him most is the where – as in, “Where are you?” You see, from Job’s perspective, God seems to be hiding his face and counting him as an enemy. It is like Job is imprisoned in stocks in the dungeon of God. And oh, how longs to have conversation, dialogue, debate, instruction, and renewed communion with the God who troubles him so. Yes, the suffering is bad, but the silence is unbearable.
But notice his faith:
Though he slay me, I will hope in him. (Job 13:15a)
While he waits to learn the why, how long, what next, and where, he will never give up on the who. He will wrestle, question, accuse, blame, beg, cry, scream, and die. And he will hope. Wow! What faith! What hope! What love! What commitment! What a testimony to the sovereign work of God in the heart, mind, and mouth of a severely suffering brother!
Therefore friends, amid our suffering …
Let us safeguard the sovereign attributes of God. He really is the Almighty Lord of heaven and earth. He really is totally responsible for all that happens in his regime.
Let us not be bashful in our prayers. Boldly, as his crying children, let us come into his throne with confidence. Let us ask our questions and be honest about our feelings. There is no need to put up a false front. There is no need to hide our sin. Before a thought is in our head or a word on our tongue, God knows the truth. Come boldly and be ready to both repent and be encouraged.
Let us pray for more faith. Oh, that we might really believe and proclaim, “Though he impoverish me; though he imprison me; though he disease me; though he allow me to be divorced; though he allow me to be addicted; though he allow me to see my children harmed; though he take down my nation; though he take my spouse; though he slay me, etc … yet will I hope in him!
Let us find great comfort in the faith we discover we still have. Faith in such hellish circumstances is not normal. Faith in such circumstances is a gift of God. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is a mark of one beloved of God. It is a trait of one who will one day see the Who face to face and enjoy the reversal of fortune he is preparing for us.