The scripture was read earlier: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” I heard this verse preached as a funeral message many years ago, when a friend of mine lost her mother far too soon to cancer as well. And the verse has always appealed to me, because it’s such a great statement of faith.
“Though He slay me…” That’s a fairly strong word. Slay. It means to cut off, or to put to death. Assassinate. And it sounds pretty violent too. Now, of course Job didn’t mean it literally. He was alive when he said it. But he was fairly strong in his language because that’s how he felt. He felt as though God had struck him dead. After all, within one day, Job lost all his oxen, all his donkeys, all his sheep, all his camels, all his children, and all his servants except the 4 who came to tell him all this news. That’s quite a day. Job certainly had good reason to feel that God was cutting him off.
The only thing he didn’t lose was his wife. But seeing as how she told Job to curse God and die, perhaps Job would have been better off if he had lost her. Truly, Job was a broken man, and had very good reason to feel that God had hit him hard.
You know, Job wasn’t the first person to suffer, and he certainly wasn’t the last. Critics of the Bible think that it doesn’t paint a realistic view of life, but I tend to disagree. I think the Bible does a pretty good job of showing that sometimes life is hard. Life involves suffering.
Ruby did some suffering. Even though she didn’t have much through her bout of cancer, she certainly asked the big question: “Why?” Why is this happening to me? Why do I have this disease? Why, why, why? It’s a pretty common question. Job certainly asked it. If you read the whole book of Job, you’ll see that he really wanted to know why. But even at the end, when the presence of God showed up, Job never did get his questions answered. He got more children and more livestock, but he never did get answers to his questions.
So if God chooses not to answer the “why” question, then I won’t be foolish enough to claim to know it myself. I will give you a couple of thoughts, though. The New Testament writer Paul knew suffering. He was no stranger to going through troubles for no obvious reason. But he wrote these words in Philippians 1: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He was in jail at the time, and even though I don’t believe he was suicidal, he was still weighing the pros and cons of living and dying. He says, “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.” That is, if he died, he’d go to heaven and be with Jesus. If he lived, he could continue preaching and teaching and helping others find Jesus.
He says, “Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” Did you catch it? Paul said it’s better to be with Jesus. In this life, as well as in the next. Paul’s suffering did not end with the question, “why me?” Rather, it ended with “how much longer?”