I’ve been reading Job lately, and I’m convinced the sin of Job’s friends, the ones who came to “comfort” him, is something of which we have all been guilty.
The sin? Thinking they had God all figured out, that they had the Almighty in a box.
Job’s suffering had nothing to do with anything he had or hadn’t done. His suffering was a test from God, a test instigated by Satan, and meant to try Job’s commitment to his Creator on its deepest level. Yet his friends thought they had it all figured out. “You must have sinned,” they proclaimed, “Otherwise God wouldn’t be punishing you. We know how God works and He doesn’t treat the righteous like this, so you must be guilty.”
They thought they had God in a neat, predictable box. And so do we sometimes. We are convinced we know how He operates. We are so sure we have Him figured out that we cannot handle it when A plus B does not equal C. We are confused and often become disillusioned when the ways we thought God should operate appear not to work anymore.
What if, like Job, we don’t get an answer right away? What if the sickness doesn’t go away? What if our problems don’t magically disappear like we want them to?
In Genesis 15, after God has made great promises to Abraham, He also warns that Abraham’s descendants will go into slavery. Why? Verse 16, “for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” God is telling Abraham that his people will be slaves in a foreign land for 400 years, not because they have done anything wrong, but because God is giving the Amorites enough rope to hang themselves. When Israel later comes into the Promised Land and is instructed to “destroy all that breathe”, the Amorites will have no excuse.
Sometimes God has plans in play that are not clear to us. Sometimes God is working in ways that don’t immediately make sense. Sometimes God does things that do not fit neatly into the box I have created for Him.
Yes, it may be that my suffering is a consequence of some sin or act on my part. But sometimes, like Job, I just have to say,
He does great things past finding out, yes, wonders without number. If He goes by me, I do not see Him; if He moves past, I do not perceive Him; if He takes away, who can hinder Him? Who can say to Him, “What are You doing?” Job 9:10-12