On suffering, Job, and the goodness of God, Part 2
Please see yesterday’s post for Part 1.
I believe God’s removal of his protection and blessing from Job was, among other things, a test to expose and prove the genuineness of his faith and devotion. Would Job cling to the reality of what he knew about God, that he really is good and just, in the midst of his suffering? Or would he allow his limited vision, focused on his pain, to reconstruct God in his own image…as one who is faulty, frail, and sometimes unjust? And would Job continue in his acknowledgment of his total dependence on God, or would he rebel in pride and self-sufficiency and determine that his destiny is in his own hands and resolve to control it by whatever means necessary? The total rejection of God by so many in our times because of the problem of pain might be seen as a monumental class failure.
But Job passed the test, though God’s calling him on the carpet for questioning him probably knocked a few points off. God affirmed this when he said to Job’s friends, “you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” And God’s restoration of Job’s family and double blessing in wealth affirmed his goodness, favor, and generosity.
God’s awesomeness provides another possible reason for the test and trial he put Job through, and perhaps has put others through as well. It is really more than indescribably amazing that God, as great and “other” as he is, condescends to allow us to have a relationship with himself. But because he does, we naturally tend to expect certain things from him, as we do in other kinds of relationships. We expect our children to obey us because we love and provide for them. We expect friends to be there for us as we are there for them. We expect our spouse to fulfill their role in the marriage and family as we endeavor to fulfill ours. But though it is right and proper to expect God to fulfill his promises, it is wrong and dangerous to consider him indebted to us for our good behavior, to expect that he has to hold up his end of the bargain, if you will, by blessing us for obedience. God has an interest, i.e. his glory, in assuring that, though his love is genuine, we never lose sight of his transcendent uniqueness and supremacy. He is God and we are not. Never will be.
The Bible says that God “cannot deny himself.” He must maintain his superiority and sacredness, even though he willingly and lovingly humbled himself in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Exactly why he must is a subject for a few posts in itself. But I’m sure it’s in our best interests as well as his.
As I said at the beginning, I have not gone through great tribulation which threatened my faith, as others have. I pray I never do, but also that I would maintain my integrity, and God’s, should he ever choose to so afflict me. Many believers have, because their relationship with him was real and intimate, their knowledge of him studied and sure, and their faith based on the foundation of his revealed truth, not on their feelings or circumstances.
He exists, he is all powerful, and he is good. Nothing else really makes sense. Some disdain, deny, or curse him because they cannot reconcile such a God with the presence of suffering in the world. Would they disdain a surgeon for amputating a man’s diseased and unsalvageable limb knowing he will suffer from its loss? Would they deny the benefit of character formation from enduring hard work and self-sacrifice? Would they curse the soldier, fire fighter, police officer, or parent for putting themselves in harm’s way to protect another?
Then why would they do so when judging one so much greater than themselves, whose ways are unsearchable and whose deeds matter for eternity?