After seven days of silence, Job speaks to his friends. The gist of his entire speech? Job wishes he were never born.
“Let the day perish on which I was born,
and the night that said,
‘A man is conceived.’…“Why did I not die at birth,
come out from the womb and expire?
12 Why did the knees receive me?
Or why the breasts, that I should nurse?…Or why was I not as a hidden stillborn child, as infants who never see the light?” ~Job 3:3, 11-12, 16
When tragedy strikes, it’s a very natural reaction to want to go back in time wishing for a different chain of events. In our helplessness, we are inclined to look at things from a very human perspective saying if we just could have prevented or changed one specific event in the past, the present would not be so unbearably painful. Job does this, and let’s keep in mind that we can hardly blame him when we see his story.
The problem is that, while this type of lamenting may be natural, it is not at all profitable. It does not help Job deal with his pain, it only makes his pain worse. Wondering why he did not die sooner only keeps Job regretting life later. While he does not curse God, he does question God’s wisdom and good will.
It’s one thing to question the existence of a God who would allow such suffering for one of his most obedient children, it’s quite another to know that God not only is, but is completely sovereign and begin to question his character and motives. The former is a scapegoat for the unbeliever (which is foolish enough), but the latter is none other than the elevation of human wisdom above God’s in those who doubtless know much better. Both are rooted in unbelief and result in hopelessness.
For the thing that I fear comes upon me,
and what I dread befalls me.
26 I am not at ease, nor am I quiet;
I have no rest, but trouble comes.” ~Job 3:25-26
I cannot say I’ve experienced half of the loss that Job did, but I can say I have felt the fear and hopelessness he describes here as a result of suffering, failed expectations, unbelief, and distrust of He who I never doubt is completely sovereign. This is a natural, human response to suffering. There is no rest. There is no peace. There is no joy when you’re set free from sin to serve a God whom you do not trust.
Therefore, clearly, life’s tragedies are not the problem. Life’s tragedies simply reveal the problem. The real issue isn’t how can a good God allow suffering – especially to his best men – because anyone who has believed on Christ has believed on the basis of the suffering of the innocent dealt by God himself for their own good. The real issue is how can we learn to trust a God who is so good that he will stop at nothing short of ripping our deceitful hearts completely out in order to teach us how to trust him fully.
The answer: Embrace suffering as a prerequisite to tried, tested, and proven faith. For me that means stop asking woe is me Job questions. It means stop going back in time and contemplating outcomes of altered reality and circumstances that will never be changed. It means stop looking at life and suffering from a human perspective and begin to think biblically and spiritually. It means stop elevating my foolishness over God’s wisdom. It means stop distrusting God and trust him in all things. It means stop disbelieving God and believe him always. Why? Because quite frankly, I’m tired. In fact, I’m exhausted from having to deal with myself, and in this is where true rest is found.
“Grace teaches us, in the midst of life’s greatest comforts to be willing to die and in the midst of its greatest crosses to be willing to live.” -Matthew Henry