Conventional wisdom says following God is easy when life is going well. We can trust Him when our circumstances seem to confirm God is good.
But what happens when life doesn’t go as we expect?
What happens to our faith in God when our circumstances seem to push back on our idea of the “goodness” of God?
Can we still trust Him?
Can we still follow God in the midst of suffering?
Job and his friends wrestled together with these questions (sometimes well, and sometimes poorly) throughout the Biblical book of Job. Job’s experience can be difficult for us to read; I find myself asking uncomfortable questions.
Why did God allow all of these terrible attacks against Job?
Why did Job lose everything after he had lived a blameless and upright life?
Didn’t Job deserve better treatment from God?
Job and his friends asked these same questions. Job maintained he was innocent of any wrongdoing, while his friends insisted he must have sinned to deserve the suffering to which he was subjected.
While I am often too afraid or embarrassed to ask these questions, Job was not. He asked and asked why he was suffering. He asked his friends to help him see his wrongdoing, but they could not.
Finally, Job was so discouraged by his circumstances that he began questioning God directly.
“I will say to God, ‘Do not declare me guilty! Let me know why you prosecute me. Is it good for you to oppress, to reject the work of your hands and favor the plans of the wicked?”
Overwhelmed by his suffering despite his innocence, Job began to question God’s character. He was honest before God about his struggles, and sought to find answers. He never denied God, but he did question His plans.
When life beats us down, and we wonder where God is, it can be tempting to think we have done something wrong to deserve this hardship. We might consider suffering as a “sign” we have gotten off-track, just as Job’s friends believed his suffering to be a punishment for secret sin.
But this is not how God has revealed Himself. In fact, centuries later, Jesus and His disciples have a conversation about this very idea! The disciples see a man born blind and assume his condition is a direct result of someone’s sin. Jesus corrects their thinking, explaining, “This came about so that God’s works might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3) Jesus reveals the man’s blindness was not a punishment for sin, but a tool God was using to declare His glory.
This is where we can get uncomfortable again.
We ask those troubling questions.
Is God unjust?
Does He inflict pain just because He can?
Of course not! Paul addresses these questions in Romans 9.
“What should we say then? Is there injustice with God? Absolutely not! For He tells Moses, I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it does not depend on human will or effort but on God who shows mercy.” (Romans 9:14-16)
When Job questioned the purposes and wisdom of God, God Himself came down to speak to him. The Lord answered Job, but with more questions. He revealed to Job his own limitations and ignorance.
God asked Job, “Would you really challenge my justice? Would you declare me guilty to justify yourself?” (Job 40:8) He asked Job to explain the whole of the universe, from the stars of the sky, to weather patterns, to the behavior of the animals. God did this, not to be cruel or harsh, but to remind Job of the vastness of His knowledge and power.
We have a limited view of the world. We only see, know, and understand a sliver of His plans, but the Lord knows all. He purposes all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), and we can count on this truth.
So, when life is confusing, and doesn’t seem to be going our way, we have a choice. We can choose to question God and wonder if He cares about us. Or we can choose to follow the Lord, trusting His ways are good, even when we can’t see how.
As wise followers of the Lord, we can maintain our devotion to Him even when life seems unfair. God’s vast wisdom is far superior to our own plans.
In the end of the story, Job repented of his self-righteous questioning. Job did not suffer perfectly, but he continued in his faithful pursuit of God’s character, even in his brokenness and despair. Job knew how to follow, because he knew the character of God.
Finally, God not only forgave Job, but also restored to him his fortunes, wealth, and position in his community. While we are not guaranteed a “happy ending” in this life, if we faithfully serve the Lord, we can trust we will receive our reward of eternal life with the Father.
Prayer is central to our ministry as believers in Jesus as we carry eachother’s burdens and intercede for one another. Our team is honored to share the work of praying alongside you!
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