This time of year can feel so dark. Not just because the sun sets early and the twinkle lights are down. But many of our bodies are exhausted from the celebrating we did in December, the junk food we ate, and the money we spent. To top it off we are trapped inside by cold weather, and the walls start to feel like they are coming in on us.
Other years hold additional pain. The January I moved to Oklahoma was like that. I had just got a new job and by the second week, I started to realize how toxic the work environment was going to be, but also was under contract so I couldn’t go anywhere. The rest of the year was worse than I could have imagined. For years after, I would wake up gasping for breath from nightmares about that year.
Maybe that’s this year for you. Until then I had a prosperity gospel theology believing if I followed what was God’s will for my life then I would be blessed and life would be joyful. In hindsight, I can say, I see now the way God had his hand on me. Guiding me to freedom of his love, and deep knowledge he is always with me, rather than fear of constantly trying to avoid pain by “rightly discerning his will for my life”.
What we can learn from Job
We find in the book of Job the most in-depth grappling with human suffering and what suffering means in light of the goodness of God. Job struggled because he believed that suffering comes only as punishment for human sin.
Job had everything. He made wise choices that led to a thriving family life, wealth, and the respect of those who knew him. Then systematically it was all stripped away by evil. In chapter 1 his wealth was taken away. His children died in a storm. In Chapter 2 he becomes ill and every move is agony. By the middle of that chapter, his wife encouraged him to “curse God and die.”
Then, his friends took it upon themselves to brainstorm what he could have done wrong to anger God. They declared that he must be the biggest sinner that the world had known to receive the treatment from God that he had been given. In the chapters that follow Job and his friends wrestle through the difficult questions of suffering and God’s goodness.
In the modern church, we often praise Job’s passivity, because it’s easier to understand. But what we see practically through the book is a very active faith. We watch Job walk through suffering without suggesting God is evil, or limited in power. Instead, his suffering moves him to step outside of himself and see the way that God is even more wise and glorious than we can imagine. His active faith his shown in the verse we will meditate on this week.
Can I Question God?
God reveals his plans are complex. He doesn’t resent our questions but rather meets us there in them to reveal his truth. Job only had a full understanding of what happened when he met God face-to-face. There he could seen and understand how God was “for” him even in the trials.
You can have hope in suffering, because what we see it brings is a deeper and more full understanding of who God is. Ask the hard questions, because he is big enough to handle and answer them.