Job’s culture wants an easy explanation for the difficult problem of suffering, so they embrace the idea of divine retribution. If you are righteous, you prosper. If you are wicked, you experience pain. Since Job is experiencing unimaginable suffering, his friends take it upon themselves to locate its cause and explain it to him. They offer ample sins that Job must have committed because of his severe, painful losses.
Job, a righteous man, knows better. He wants answers, but realizes that no easy ones apply to his case. He passionately challenges God to name the reasons for his sorrows, to reveal what sins he committed. Job recites a catalogue of offenses based on what his current culture believes is wrong. What did he do to deserve divine punishment? This wounded man demands an encounter with God that will satisfy his longing to know why God allows a righteous person to suffer.
Both suffering and living with unanswerable questions are painful realities of life. Job’s response to both of these experiences is to persistently tell God about them and seek understanding. In the depths of his pain, Job moves toward God, who does not will us to suffer but desires that we trust in God’s ultimate love for us when we do.
During experiences of suffering, James 5:11 reminds us how important our endurance is: “You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” When we look to the past, trying to find a reason for our trials, we lose focus. Instead, as we learn to live with our questions we can pray to encounter God’s presence each day.
How can we live in pain without losing faith in God?
Gracious God, help us to grow through the challenges we experience. When we encounter suffering, give us courage. Comfort us with the sure knowledge that you are God with us, Emmanuel. Amen.