Today, I wanted to share with you some thoughts on the story of Job, excerpted from my last book, Wrestling with Wonder.
For anyone going through a Job-like season in life when everything seems to be going painfully wrong, I hope this will be of help ...
In Job, my favorite book of the Bible, we see this strange dichotomy between our “why” and God’s “who” stretched out into forty-two long chapters. Most people hate to read Job. Most think it’s a book about suffering.
But it’s not.
It’s about God being the God of “Who” and not the God of “Why.” It’s about being taught to ask the right question.
The book opens with a peek behind the curtain—a scene showing Satan presenting himself to God. Immediately, in chapter one, the reader is shown why all kinds of tragedy will befall Job. Job is never told, never shown, what happens here behind the scenes. Only we know that God himself brings Job to Satan’s attention. God brags about this righteous man who honors him. “Have you considered my servant Job?” God asks. “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8).
Satan is not convinced. He says Job’s righteousness is only a result of God’s blessing. “But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face,” Satan counters (Job 1:11).
God allows Satan to take everything—all of his oxen, his donkeys, his servants, his sheep, his camels, and finally his children. Job mourns, but he does not curse God. Then God allows Satan to take even Job’s health. He sits on an ash heap scratching his wounds with a broken piece of pottery. He sits and scratches and wishes he were never born.
But he does ask why. Five times in his opening soliloquy he asks God, “Why?”
His friends, who had sat with him silently for seven days, are eager to offer their answers. For thirty-four long chapters they attempt to explain to Job why God has done this to him. And for thirty-four long chapters, Job knows their answers are wrong. You’ve sinned, you’ve done evil, you deserve this, they say. I have not, I do not, Job replies. But still, like so many of us, he continues to cry out various poetic versions of “Good grief, what did I do to deserve this? God, why is this happening to me?”
Then finally, in the midst of the final friend explaining why God is too grand to show up, God shows up. God speaks out of the storm, the whirlwind.
The friends are silenced.
Job is silenced.
And God speaks. For four chapters.
In all those 129 verses, God gives not even a single hint to answer the question of why. He says nothing about the events of the first two chapters of Job. He gives Job no explanations at all. But in every single verse he does answer another question. He answers, “Who.” In some of the most beautiful ancient poetry that we have, God paints an incredible, amazing, vivid picture of the wonder of the God of all the universe.
He says, here is who I am.
I am the God who ...
—laid the earth’s foundations (38:4).
—shut up the sea behind doors (38:8).
—gives orders to the morning (38:12).
—shows dawn its place (38:12).
—walks the recesses of the deep (38:16).
—seen the gates of deepest darkness (38:17).
—owns the storehouses of snow and hail (38:22).
—cuts a channel for the torrents of rain and a path for the thunderstorm (38:25).
—fathers the dew (38:28).
—births the frost (38:29).
—binds the chains of the Pleiades and loosens Orion’s belt (38:31).
—brings forth the constellations in their seasons (38:32).
—wrote the laws of the heavens (38:33).
—covers himself with a flood (38:34).
—directs bolts of lightning (38:35).
—gives wisdom (38:36).
—hunts for the lioness (38:39).
—provides food for ravens (38:41).
—knows when the mountain goats give birth (39:1).
—watches the doe bear her fawn (39:1).
—frees the wild donkey (39:5).
—is served by the wild ox, who stays by my manger at night (39:9).
—gives speed to the ostrich (39:18).
—gives the horse its strength (39:19).
—gives the hawk flight and makes the eagle soar (39:26, 27).
—has a voice like thunder (40:9).
—is adorned with glory and splendor, clothed with honor and majesty (40:10).
—brings the proud low (40:11).
—tames Behemoth (40:19).
—makes a pet of Leviathan (41:5).
—I am the God who saves you (40:14).
—I AM more than you ever dreamed, more than you ever hoped, more than you can even imagine.
And Job puts his hand over his mouth. No more whys, no more questions, just the wonder of an amazing God. And Job is satisfied ... because God never answered why, but God did show him Who. An incredible, amazing glimpse of a God who is so mighty and powerful and majestic that he created the earth and made the stars to sing, but is also so close and intimate and caring that he is there in the secret places where the doe gives birth, where the mountain goats bear their young. This One who tames the Behemoth and Leviathan can also tame our lives, our hearts. He is the Answer.
That’s the gift Job is given in chapters 38-41. A glimpse of the wonder of God, the true answer to all questions. And it’s our answer when life isn’t fair, when health is bad, when we grieve, when loss catches us by surprise, when the life we lead has lost its luster. The answer is the wonder of God, the reality of who he is.
Because all the answers to “why” will not satisfy the longing in our souls. They leave us empty. But God’s answer, the answer of “Who,” fills us with glory, amazes us with magnificence, and satisfies us with wonder.
In C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces, the main character, Orual, says: “I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?”
Because he is the answer.
He always has been.
Job discovered that. So did Mary. Will I? Will you? Will you stop asking why and instead discover the incredible Who that is our God?