and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!”
Over the last three years I have developed a close affinity with the story of Job from the Bible. In light of the devastating hurricanes and fires that have taken place in the southeast of the United States this year, I imagine many other people have come to empathize with Job’s sudden, inexplicable loss and pain. In many ways, Job is a type of Jesus Christ. He is a righteous, honest man who fears God but still suffers incredible loss and pain. Job loses everything. He loses his property, his wealth, his children, his home, and his health. In the end all he is left with is an ash heap to sit and mourn in, a wife who resentfully tells him to “Curse God and die!” and a group of condescending “friends” who sit around trying to decipher what Job could have possibly done wrong to incur the judgment of God upon his head (2:9, 19:2-6). And what is Job’s response? He praises God , not perfectly, not without question and resentment, but his response is the response of a righteous man nonetheless (1:20-22).
In the end, Job receives back everything he lost and more (42:10-17). God gives him even more land, more livestock, a bigger house, more children, and more wealth. And this is the moral of the story, is it not? Have patience during the tough times and God will replenish your blessings two-fold soon enough! This is how I have often heard the story interpreted and understood, but when I read the book of Job I cannot help but realize how this interpretation of Job’s suffering completely undermines the severity and pain of his loss.
Job never got his children back. The suffering he experienced was never erased. What’s more, Job never received any kind of explanation from God. And that is what he ultimately wanted, wasn’t it (7:20-21, 13:24-28)? All Job really wanted was to know why. He didn’t want his wealth back as much as he wanted to be assured that the suffering was not pointless. But he never received the answer to this question. The story of Job leaves us all on a proverbial cliffhanger and I have always come away from that story wondering, like Job, “Wait, why did all of that happen? What point was God trying to prove? Was that really fair of God to set Satan loose on such a faithful servant?”
I still don’t know the answer to these questions. Like Job, I have been there. I have asked God, “Why?” and I still do. Unfortunately we do not all get a Clarence like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. We don’t all get a cliché explanation for why some people live and others die. We don’t get that revelation moment that suddenly makes all of the misery clear. At least, we don’t get that in this life. I do not have the answer to Job’s question, but I think I understand the moral of his story.
God never tells Job to be patient and wait for his good blessings to come back around again. God simply reveals himself to Job. He rebukes Job and Job in turn praises God and repents (chapters 40-42). God tells Job to stop asking the question why, because he is not going to get an answer, because God is God and Job is not. God is God and he does not owe any of us an explanation. He is not subject to our scrutiny, though he condescends to lovingly hear our prayers, complaints, and questions all the same.
Job is a type of Christ, a righteous man who suffered, but he obviously was not perfect like our God-Man Savior. At some point or another we are all like Job, believing God must have got it wrong and he had better have a good explanation for this. I know a little about loss, enough to know that all the blessings Job received in his lifetime never made up for everything he suffered and lost. All the wealth, children, livestock, and peace could never satisfy that question—why?
The Book of Job is about patience, but not about waiting patiently for the good times to come back around in this life. It’s a book about waiting for eternity. It's a book about never doubting the goodness of God even as we suffer. We never get the answers in this lifetime, but one day when we look into the eyes of our Redeemer, we will know the answers, and everything will become clear. But until then we have to wait. We have to hope. We have to faithfully plod on in obedience with the joy of future glory in our hearts.
The waiting is hard. The waiting feels like forever. The waiting feels like losing, like giving up everything we feel we have a right to. The waiting feels like dying, dying to ourselves, dying to everything we want. The waiting is God being silent when we want answers. But we do not wait without hope. We do not wait without assurance. We do not wait without joy and comfort and we never wait alone. And one day, the waiting will be over.
“These many years of waiting will only be a sentence in the story. This long day will come to an end, and I believe it will end in glory, when we will shine like suns and stride the green hills with those we love and the One who loves.” —Andrew Peterson