Job 38:4, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.”
God answering Job in his misery is my favourite section in the book. Like us, Job was asking why he was suffering and was demanding that God answer him. So, finally, God answers him, but not with answers he was hoping for. God answered Job with a bunch of rhetorical questions such as, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” In other words, “I have existed since before time and I am the one who created everything as you know it including yourself. If you have understanding, why don’t you tell Me why you’re suffering?” Not only does this biblical account reveal our own foolishness, but it is also humbling to know that we don’t know everything, and we never will.
God could have answered Job with what we know from the first two chapters, that God allowed Satan to afflict him without taking his life in order to make the point that God has complete power over him—that the Devil can only do what God permits. It would have revealed the foolishness of Job’s friends, shown Job God’s role in suffering (His gracious providence), and it would have sated Job’s curious questions. Instead, God brought up something more important—Job’s faith.
Like Job, we want immediate answers from God so we might understand why we’re suffering. However, I don’t think God always want us to fully understand why we’re suffering. Rather, He wants us to trust in Him so that He might enable us to overcome our suffering. Many years ago, when I was in kindergarten, I suffered from violent racism. As a multi-racial kid, there were white kids in Detroit who could not accept that. Yet it wasn’t only the white kids who hated me, but also the black kids. A particular white kid in 5th grade decided to beat me up every day and call me racial slurs, and the black kids wanted nothing to do with me. I was completely alone; I literally had no friends. All I had were my older brother who protected me and my parents who put an end to the bullying.
Now, I didn’t have faith at this time in my life because I was aloof to God. However, I could spend ample amounts of time trying to discover the reason for my suffering. But the reason is not important, short of original sin. What matters is that I exercise faith and see how God brought me out of that situation. Through the vocation of being my older brother, Daniel protected me when he was able. Through the vocation of my parents, they comforted me and put an end to the bullying. By faith, I exercise thankfulness to my God for using my family to end my suffering. Instead of moving past these kids’ transgressions against me, I could be angry, blame all my problems on white people, and march with Black Lives Matter towards nonsensical destruction of our poor communities. Instead, God worked in me to forgive those who trespassed against me, and I have tremendous peace in spite of the evils done to me. Not just peace with myself, but also peace among people of all colours. In fact, most of my friends are white.
So what past or current suffering are you curious about? Are you demanding God to answer? You probably haven’t gotten an answer if that’s the case. If so, perhaps God is saying what He said to Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” In other words, God says, “If I am wise and powerful enough to create the universe and sustain it, then I am wise and powerful enough to work good in your life and bring you through suffering. Trust Me to do so.” God answers in questions in order to bring us toward reflecting upon His character—what we know of who He is.
Faith is not just mere belief in God, for even the demons believe (James 2:19). The Greek word for faith is deeply connected to trust. Faith, then, is putting your complete trust in something. Is your faith—your trust—in God or something else? It’s not important that we understand “why” things happen to us. What’s important is that we trust God to help us overcome, for “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).