Summary: God asserts God's divine wisdom and talks about the limits of Jobs understanding.
Job 31:35-37; 38:1-11 “God’s Answer’s to Suffering”
When we encounter a speed bump on the road of life, we often find ourselves asking, “How did that get there?” or “Why did I hit that speed bump?” It is our human nature to want to discover a cause and effect for our situation. We may even take our searching for answers to a higher plan and ask God, “What did I do to deserve this?” What would you think and feel if God answered you?
This is Job’s situation as we continue his story this Sunday. Job has successfully defended himself against the accusations of his friends that he must have done some great, terrible sin in order to be punished as he was. In chapter thirty-one Job first challenges God to answer him and then he declares his innocence and says that he is so innocent that he would “approach God like a prince.” God does answer Job and we learn a great deal about how God views our suffering and how God moves in our suffering.
NO ANSWER TO “WHY?”
The answer that Job most wants to learn is the answer to “Why?” God doesn’t answer this question.
This is not to say that we should never ask the question, “Why?” If the pizzazz has gone out of our marriage, then it would be good for us to ask the question, “Why?” If our teenager’s grades suddenly fall and he or she becomes sullen and withdrawn, it is important for us to ask the question, “Why?” When we look at the United States war on poverty that began in 1965—the longest war we have ever fought—and see that we have more people in poverty now than we did then, it is good for us to ask the question, “Why?” If our weight is increasing to beyond healthy levels, it might be valuable for us to ask the question, “Why?” Could it be that we are actually eating too many chocolate chip cookies?
Often, though, in our own suffering there is no cause and effect relationship. The question, “Why?” becomes unanswerable. We don’t know why one person gets cancer while another does not. We don’t know why the car we purchased was a lemon when other identical models were not.
It is okay not knowing “Why?” Often knowing “why” doesn’t ease our suffering or speed us on our journey through it.
LOOK OUT AND AWAY
God comes to Job in a whirlwind—a symbol of God’s power and also our inability to control God. Who can capture the wind? Who can tell the wind when and where to blow and where to remain still?
God doesn’t talk about Job’s suffering. God doesn’t give Job a bro hug and assure Job that God knows what Job is going through. Instead of focusing on Job’s problems God lifts Job’s eyes off his suffering.
It usually doesn’t accomplish anything for us to focus on our suffering, examining it and reexamining it—except to make us more miserable. What is helpful and sometimes life changing is to focus our attention away from us and onto the needs of others. Serving others often eases our suffering and the suffering of others.
THE GOD OF CREATION
When God answers Job, God talks about creation. “Where were you,” God asks, “when God laid the foundations of the earth?” “Where were you,” God asks, “when God said to the sea, “Thus far you shall come and no farther?” Of course, Job was nowhere. Job didn’t create—God did.
We learn two things from the beginning of God’s exchange with Job. First, we learn that God is involved in our world and in its history. Knowing this we can assume that God continues to be involved in the world and in our lives.
We also learn that God controls the uncontrollable—in fact God seems to enjoy pointing out that God controls what humankind cannot control. God controls the sea. Later God talks about controlling the great sea monsters—the Leviathan.
In the middle of our suffering we can live by faith by trusting in two things. God is somehow in control and God is involved. We are able to rest in this knowledge and, “Let God and Let God.”
As a pastor, I have seen people both destroyed by suffering and empowered by suffering. There are many reasons for these different outcomes. One of the main differences, I believe, is that there are disciples of Jesus, who can see God—God’s presence and power—in their suffering. This perspective enables them to still live with gratitude and thankfulness. Nothing has been able to separate them from the love of God—not even their suffering. Amen.