25–31 October 2015.
The ending to the Book of Job is one that causes us a lot of frustration. We have just struggled through 40 chapters of discussion on the problem of suffering, trying to understand why God allows suffering to exist. Job wanted to take God to court to force him to answer this question. The foolish and arrogant Elihu had argued that God would never waste his time answering Job. But then suddenly God does appear to answer Job! Yet even though God speaks, he never really answers our question about suffering.
Nevertheless, God does do some helpful things. First, he confirms that Job really is righteous, and has spoken the truth all along. Second, in v. 7 God condemns Job’s three friends and rejects their so-called “answers” as lies. (Note here that even God completely ignores the arrogant Elihu, who had imagined he was so clever!)
God’s rejection of the answers given by Eliphaz and the other friends is a good reminder and warning to us today. When we are confronted with other people’s suffering, we often want to use the same arguments that Job’s friends have used. We want to tell victims that God has a plan for all things, that God directs our lives and leads us to suffering, that God makes us suffer for our own good, that God uses suffering to teach us a lesson or to punish us for evil things that we have done. But we must remind ourselves never to go down those paths or speak that way. Imagine standing in front of God and hearing him tell us (like he told Eliphaz) how angry he is at us for spreading such lies!
So what do we do then about suffering? The Book of Job leaves us with a frustrating empty space where we had hoped to get an answer. But for us Christians, that answer only comes with Christ. We don’t learn why there is suffering, but we do learn that God never abandons us, condemns us, or rejects us in our suffering. He is always there with us, even suffering through death together with us. And in Christ our hope is that one day all that suffering will finally and completely be destroyed. Amen!
Pastor Stephen Lakkis