There are tragic things that happen in life that cause us to ask a familiar question. This question may fall from the lips… of a young mother whose twins are joined at the head… of emergency response crew at the scene of a fatal bus accident… of flood victims in Manila… of a rescue worker pulling dead bodies from the rubble left by an earthquake… of soldiers whose comrades were ambushed… of COVID-19 frontliners … from our own lips when suffering impacts our lives. “Why?” we ask: “Why me? Why this? IF God is a loving and caring God, why does he allow suffering in my life and in the lives of those I care about and love?”
fact of the matter is that sometimes God just doesn’t make sense to us. We
may have different backgrounds, goals and motivations. But there is one thing
we all have in common: We all know what it means to hurt. Tears are the same
for Jews, Muslims, or Christians; for white, black or brown; for children,
adults or the elderly. How are we to respond when God doesn’t make sense to us?
Job in the Bible – imagine how he felt when he heard these words… “You’ve
lost your livestock, they’ve been stolen. Your sheep were destroyed. Your
employees were murdered. Your children were crushed in a freak windstorm – they
are dead – all ten of them.” This is how the book of Job begins (Job
1:1-19). One calamity after another strikes this godly father and business man.
“Godly?” you may ask. The Bible says, “There was a
man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and
upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). Job
was not perfect, but honest before God. Job’s calamities were connected to a
contest between God and Satan. Satan is saying that Job is motivated by
self-interest, not love for God. Satan says. “Take away
Job’s blessings and he will curse You, God” (Job 1:8-11).
So God gives Satan permission to attack Job’s
property. After Job loses his wealth… servants, and children, we read: “Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell
to the ground and worshiped. And he said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s
womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken
away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ In all this Job did not sin nor
charge God with wrong” (Job 1:20-22).
How many of us would respond the way Job did? When God Doesn’t Make Sense… 1. SURRENDER TO HIS CONTROL (Job
1:1-2:13). How do we do this? First, we grieve. “Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head” (Job 1:20a). These
are all expressions of grief. Tears are God’s way of washing away the pain.
Second, we worship God. “And he fell
to the ground and worshiped” (Job 1:20b).
bad things happen, will we grow bitter or will we bow before Almighty God?
Focusing on God keeps pain from swallowing our soul and it also brings us to
the point of acceptance: “And he said:
‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord
gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Job
accepted the fact that all his wealth, his employees, even his own children
belonged to God – so he surrendered them all to the Lord. He let go. “In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22). A
person who surrenders to God doesn’t accuse God of wrongdoing. Have you
surrendered all that you have to the Lord?
Satan comes back to God and says, “Sure Job didn’t curse You because You didn’t let me touch his
body. Let me
afflict his body and he will surely curse You to Your face” (Job 2:1-6)!
For example, when I am in good health, I’m a happy man. But when my body is
hurting, I’m a grump. Can you identify?
Now Job is covered with boils from head to toe (Job 2:7).
Job’s wife asks Job to do exactly what Satan wants him to do (although she
doesn’t realize it) (Job 2:9). Job responds to his wife, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed
accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity” (Job 2:10)? This
is an incredible response to calamities which were not the result of Job’s
personal behavior, but the result of a contest between God and Satan. Job
continues to surrender to the Lord and accepts the good and the bad
in his life as part of God’s plan.
Most sermons on Job end right there. If Job had just
kept quiet, we would not have the rest of the book. But Job doesn’t remain
silent. Job’s three friends come to him and they sit quietly with him “for they saw that his grief was very great” (Job
Job doesn’t remain silent, however: “After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of
his birth” (Job 3:1). When we are hurting physically,
we become more vulnerable to despair and depression. After all of his
suffering, Job is wishing he had never been born. He is down in the dumps. When
Job opens his mouth, it starts a long avalanche of words between Job and his
three friends. This time Job is not blameless with his lips. For the next
thirty chapters there is a long exchange between Job and his friends. From this
exchange we learn a second principle.
When God doesn’t make sense… 2. DON’T TRY TO EXPLAIN EVERYTHING (Job 3:1-31:40). Explanations
never heal a broken heart. If his friends had listened to Job, accepted his
feelings, and not argued with him, they would have helped him greatly; but they
chose to be prosecuting attorneys instead of witnesses.
example, the first friend, Eliphaz, essentially says to Job, “If you sin, you suffer.” “Is not your wickedness great, and your iniquity without
22:5)? Eliphaz is saying, “Job, the
reason people suffer is because of personal sin in their lives.” It
is easy for Eliphaz to say this when he is not the one with boils all over his
Job’s second friend, Bildad, basically says, “You must be sinning.” “So why don’t you turn to Him and
start living right? Then He will decide to rescue and restore you to your place
of honor” (Job 8:5-6 – NLT). Bildad is saying, “If you were living right, Job, God would heal you and prosper
you. But He hasn’t, so you must be sinning.”
third friend, Zophar, basically says, “You are
sinning.” “Get rid of
your sins, and leave all iniquity
behind you. Then your face will brighten with innocence. You will be
strong and free of fear” (Job 11:14-15
– NLT). All three of Job’s friends reasoned, “Job, the reason you’re suffering is because you have sinned.”
But Job insists that he is innocent: “My soul loathes my life; I will give free course to my
complaint, I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. I will
say to God, ‘Do not condemn me; show me why You contend with me. Does it seem
good to You that You should oppress, that You should despise the work of Your
hands, and smile on the counsel of the wicked?… Although You know that I
am not wicked, and there is no one who can deliver from Your hand” (Job 10:1-3,
7). Job is saying, “God, I’m
bitter about my suffering because You oppress me even though You know I am
innocent.” Job wants his friends to know that God has wronged
him: “Know then that God has wronged me, and has surrounded me with His
net” (Job 19:6). Job goes so far as to say if he could get
God to appear in court with him, Job could prove that God was wrong to afflict
him (Job 23:3-7). Essentially, Job is saying, “I am
righteous. God is wrong.”
What has happened to Job? He has gone from “the Lord gave
and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord to the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, I am bitter.” He has gone from blessing to bitterness.
this ever happened to you? You experience a painful divorce… devastation of
bankruptcy… betrayal of a trusted friend… slow painful death of a loved one…
your own health issues… an unhappy marriage… social distancing… loss of a job?
At first, you surrender to God’s control – grieving and then worshiping God.
But the suffering has lasted so long that your grief has turned into constant
complaining. Instead of focusing on the truth of who God is in worship, you are
now accusing God of wrongdoing. Instead of walking through your pain, your
pain is walking all over you?
do we get back to that place of blessing God instead of blasting Him? This
leads to a third response when God doesn’t make sense. Since God alone can
adequately deal with life’s problems, 3. TRUST GOD,
DON’T ARGUE WITH HIM (Job 32:1-41:34). Let’s look at the
process Job goes through. At the end of chapter 31, Job is silent. Then a new
figure arises named, Elihu.
tells Job that he won’t be as harsh as Job’s three friends and God were (Job 33:6-7).
Elihu says, “God is leading you away from
danger, Job, to a place free from distress. He is setting your table with the
best food. But you are obsessed with whether the godless will be judged. Don’t
worry, judgment and justice will be upheld” (Job 36:16-17 – NLT). Elihu
is saying,“God would have already ended your troubles, Job, if you had
remained silent.” In essence, to sum up Elihu’s message to Job, “Humble yourself and submit to God,” then
your troubles will come to an end.
has finished lecturing Job. Strangely, Job has no response. He remains silent.
God then comes right up behind Elihu to speak to Job. The last four chapters
are God’s words. “Then the
Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: ‘Who is this who darkens
counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I
will question you, and you shall answer Me’ ” (Job 38:1-3). God
is saying, “Job you don’t know what you are talking about when you accuse Me
of being unfair… You have said I’ve been hiding from you and unwilling to
debate with you. Well, let me see your qualifications, Job. I’m going to give
you an exam consisting of over seventy questions. They are quite simple
actually. If you can answer these ABC questions, then I will address the
questions you have in your heart.”
Job is questioned like a first grade student. He is
asked about the basic laws of nature, physics, astronomy, mathematics, ecology,
zoology. After the first exam, we read, “Moreover,
the Lord answered Job, and said: Shall the one who contends with the
Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it’ ” (Job
is saying, “Job, if you cannot understand My ways in the realm of nature, how
can you understand My ways in dealing with people?” All of us
should be slow to claim that we know God’s will about the affairs of a person’s
life, whether it be our own or someone else’s. We still don’t know all the
facts as to why God is allowing what takes place.
Job answered the Lord and said: ‘Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You? I
lay my hand over my mouth. Once I have spoken, but I will not answer; Yes,
twice, but I will proceed no further” (Job 40:3-5). Earlier
in the book, Job was hesitant to confront God (Job 9:14). Gradually he became
more confident and demanded an audience with God (Job 13:22a). Later he even
spoke like he was God’s equal bragging that he would approach God as a prince (Job
31:37). But now, God had humbled Job. Job had nothing more to say. But Job was
not yet repentant. He had not confessed any sin.
So God gives Job another exam focusing on two
animals: Behemoth– probably
an Apatosaurus (Job 40:15-19), and Leviathan,
a dragon-like dinosaur which primarily lived in the water (Job 41:1, 14-15, 21,
31). God was challenging Job to subdue these mighty creatures – something Job
could never do. But God could. God not only controlled these dinosaurs. He also
controlled the entire universe.
God is telling Job and us in these final chapters, “Job, if I can manage this whole Universe, from the basic cell up to
monsters and mega-galaxies without your understanding, I can take care of you… If I can
manage the universe, I can take care of YOU. Therefore trust Me, don’t argue
There’s a fourth way to respond when God doesn’t
make sense. 4. WE WILL STOP ASKING
“WHY?” WHEN WE SEE THE “WHO” BEHIND LIFE’S HEARTACHES (Job 42:1-17). Job
acknowledges God’s sovereign ability to govern the universe. “Then Job answered the Lord and said: ‘I know that You can do everything, and
that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You’ ” (Job 42:1-2). Only
God has the right to use people for whatever He desires. Not all suffering is
because of personal sin, but because it accomplishes God’s sovereign purposes.
many of God’s purposes are beyond our ability to understand. Job said, “You asked, ‘Who is
this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did
not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:3). Job
is saying, “I tried to talk about things I didn’t understand. I flunked Your
exams. I was way in over my head.”
“Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you
shall answer Me.’ I have
heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore
I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:4-6). At
the end of chapter two, Job had not sinned with his lips. But forty chapters
later he has to admit, “I’ve sinned
with my lips and I therefore repent.”
“And so it was, after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has…And the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:7, 10). Isn’t this a fascinating story? Job’s repentance brought an end to God’s discipline of him. When Job repents, his troubles stop and God restores Job’s prosperity. God never gave Job a reason or an explanation for his suffering – He offered Job Himself.
As God revealed Himself to Job, Job stopped asking
“Why?” Job stopped asking WHY when he saw the WHO behind his
troubles. Christian author and speaker, Chuck
Swindoll states, “No single truth removes the need
to ask ‘Why?’ like this one… God is too kind to do anything cruel… too wise to
make a mistake… too deep to explain Himself.” Like Job, we will
stop asking ‘WHY?’ when we see the WHO behind life’s heartaches. God offers you Himself as you read this
article – not reasons for your hurts, but Himself.
you know the WHO behind life’s heartaches? Do
you know Jesus Christ? You may be wondering how can a loving and caring God
allow so much suffering in the world or in your own life? Just because God
doesn’t intervene in world events or stop the pain in your own life, does not
mean He does not care. Any injustice or hardship grieves Him more than it does
anyone else. If you tried to see suffering in the world today through God’s
eyes, your view would be so different. Even if God tried to explain things to
you, you wouldn’t understand. His mind is so beyond anything ours is capable of
comprehending. If it weren’t, He wouldn’t be God.
Today, I want to encourage you to look at the good
side of God. When thinking about how loving God is, please start with the
cross. “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died
for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet
perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God
demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners,
Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).
Think about the suicide bomber who recently
killed over one hundred people at an election rally in Pakistan. If the bomber
had not died, would you die as his substitute if he had been sentenced to die
for his crime? Like me, you’d probably say, “No way!” Yet that is
exactly what God’s Son Jesus Christ did. He died for
sinners – people who should have died for their sins like
you and me. Why? So that when He had paid for our sins and rose the third day,
He could forgive us for all of the wrongs we have done and give us His
absolutely free gift of eternal life if we would believe or trust in Him alone
for His free gift (John 3:16). Since God allowed His Son to take the place of
all sinners on a cross so they could live with Him forever, doesn’t that remove
all doubt about His character?
You may say, “What about
the tyrant who slaughters thousands of innocent people?” God
is not standing unaware. If that tyrant doesn’t come to faith in Christ, his
punishment awaits him (John 3:36b). The Bible says, “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into
the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). In an eternal hell,
that tyrant will want to die but won’t be able to.
live in a fallen world. Every day people drift farther away from God. So until
Christ returns to earth, the situation will get worse, not better. God
could step in and stop it right now, and one day He is going to do that. But
understand He is a Savior, not a Dictator. He has given everyone a choice. They
can choose to come to Him in faith just as they are and receive forgiveness for
all their sins and live with Him in eternity.
You may say, “What about
the victims of catastrophes like COVID-19 or violence?” God
grieves for these victims more than you or I ever could. Yet these are the
results of living in a fallen world. But this is also why God begs people to
come to Christ now. You’re not promised tomorrow. Until God establishes a new
world, there will always be violence and suffering.
remember that God has not rebelled against people; people have rebelled against
God. According to the Bible a day is
coming when the earth will know no more violence, suffering, shootings,
hijackings, viruses, catastrophes, pain or hardship of any kind (cf. Revelation
21-22). All who trust in Jesus as their Savior will be
with Him in a perfect, problem-free place. When they see things from His
perspective, they will realize how just and righteous God has been and is. God
really wants you in His family.
Will you trust Christ to give you the free gift of
eternal life? Jesus guarantees, “He who
believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). Come to
Him just as you are in faith and receive His forgiveness and everlasting life,
and then you can share this good news with others before it is too late
Almighty God, I am so broken over all the confusion and pain that is in the
world today. I often find myself asking “Why?” instead of “Who?” I dislike the
feeling of being out of control. Please forgive me, Lord, for arguing with You and
complaining against You when I feel out of control. Thank You for reminding me
in the book of Job that You are in control no matter what I face. Since You can
manage this whole universe, from the basic cell up to dinosaurs and
mega-galaxies without my understanding, I can trust You to take care of me even
when it does not make sense to me. Please help me to focus on You
during these difficult times so I can be the opposite of Job’s friends who
acted more like prosecuting attorneys towards Job and his sufferings. Use me to
listen to those who are hurting and to accept their feelings. I pray Your Holy
Spirit will draw people to Jesus during this time so they may discover how
great His love is for them and receive His free gift of everlasting life by
believing in Him. In Jesus’ name. Amen.