Jerry Bridges gives us the key to understanding trials in his book Trusting God. For those who have had a share of suffering and adversity, this nugget will be helpful.
Bridges uses Job as a Biblical example of someone who experienced suffering and affliction. Bridges points out that Job asks God the same question we ask God when we face adversity: why? Job asks this question 16 times. By the 16th you feel Job’s pain, confusion, and frustration. It must have been like screaming at the top of your lungs, and getting no answer in return.
However, God is not silent. He does finally speak, and His answer is one of the most shocking in scripture.
God Answers Job
To set the stage, stop and think about how you have answered those in anguish and pain. Likely you have weeped with “those who weep” and you have mourned “with those who mourned.” Very few are so emotionally calloused that they would not feel great sympathy for those in the deep valleys of darkness and melancholy. Nay, we seek to comfort and encourage those with sunken eyes and frail souls. Those who have hunger, but no will to eat. Those who have thirst, but no strength to lift the cup to their lips.
And this is an altogether Biblical response. Paul presents himself as a caring mother to the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 2:7). He instructs us to weep and mourn with those who weep and mourn (Romans 12:15). Never are we told to begin a theology lesson in the moment of horror and pain.
But the Lord of the universe had a better plan to serve us in His response to Job. While we may not respond this way, studying Job is surely the richest meal a hungry soul can eat. It is surely the wettest water a thirsting soul can drink.
God answers Job, but He doesn’t answer the question Job asked. God never answered Job’s why. Instead He answered who.
God actually begins to interrogate Job. In the most turning of tables that have ever been table-turned, God now asks Job more than sixty questions. None of which Job can answer. The point God makes is that there is One who can answer these questions. Thankfully for Job, this same One is He who has been allowing suffering to befall His choice servant. The point is clear: Job, have you forgotten Who it is that is allowing these sufferings into your life?
Bridges’ masterfully observes that a question is asked (why) and an answer is given (who), but these two do not match.
The Importance of Who instead of Why
Perhaps for me, the most important part of this has been the realization that the real question being asked the whole time was never why. It was always about Job’s level of trust in the who behind the events. In my own life I have had to work through this issue. Why would God allow…(insert ANY situation)? As my friend once said, “It’s ok to ask why. But often, after looking for a while, you’ll see that in your question there was an accusation against God that you didn’t notice.” In Job, the accusation is a question: God, are you really good?
The Goodness of God on Trial
The question of God’s goodness is also the question that drives Satan in the book. Do we really think that Satan cares that much about some human who serves God? Why make him his main target? Isn’t that a bit like Rocky picking a fight with a 6 year old?
Rather, Satan is attempting to show that God’s choice servant is not serving God out of love. His argument in chapter 1 is that Job only serves God because God pays and protects him. When Job keeps true to God in spite of life-altering disaster, Satan is proved wrong. Job still thinks that God is good.
In chapter 2, Satan counter-argues that Job doesn’t really believe God is good since God has allowed him to keep his health. “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face” (Job 2:4-5). Satan is contending that the character of God is not good. He’s arguing that the only reason anyone would serve God is because God bribes them with health. Job passes this test as well, thus showing that he believes God is good. Satan has failed in his attempt to destroy the reputation of God.
But as Job’s friends accuse him of deserving the suffering he has experienced because he must have sinned, he slowly begins to wonder himself. He knows that suffering does not only happen to sinners. His three friends disagree, and they want Job to fess up so he can die with a clean conscience.
The interrogation from his friends takes a toll. Job desperately wants to know why God has allowed these evils to fall upon him. And this is where God finally answers. More than 60 questions later, Job has gotten the picture. The God who loves Job is behind the events. If God is powerful enough to create the entire universe and to play with a dinosaur like he’s a small puppy, can’t Job trust Him with his life?
Trials are about Trust
James 1 says that trials come to test and to grow our faith. As we learn to endure and trust the living God, we build more endurance. This endurance is part of our growth in sanctification. We trust the Lord in trials, and this leads to growth in our ability to remain steadfast under the trial.
And while we do not see the why behind these sufferings, we must always remember the who that has allowed them. The same God who loves you enough to send His Son to calvary is the one behind the trial in your life. He loves you. He will care for you. He knows your limit. He knows your every tear. And He loves you.
Take a look at the trial you are presently facing. Remember that James 1 says they come in many sizes. It could be a huge disaster, or it might be a minor inconvenience. But which ever it is, the test of your faith will be in trusting the who even though you don’t know the why.