“How does God treat his friends?”
This is the question posed by pastor and author, Christopher Ash, in his sermon series on the book of Job. He gets his question from a book of the same name, one that he says is one of the best books on Job out there.
It’s a startling question, really. It assumes that God has friends. It assumes we can be his friends. It assumes that a benevolent God could (and does) treat his friends like anything less than our definition of friendship. Job is a startling book as well. The suffering experienced by Job, as Ash says, is more than what any human being will likely ever endure all at one time. We all probably know people who have lost children, their livelihood, their property, their relationships, or their health. But few know people who have lost all of these things in rapid succession. To apply this question to Job and his experience asks a very difficult question of God, and forces us to come to terms with the reality of suffering. Job is a book for those who wrestle, and as one who wrestles often, I am thankful for this book.
Job spends a great deal of time accusing God of failing to answer him. Job surveys the landscape of his suffering and doesn’t see a point in it. He feels abandoned by God. He doesn’t understand why this is happening to him. But as a worship of the one true God, he knows who God is, and this only compounds his suffering. He knows God’s character, and he wants to see God in his pain, but his sight is clouded by all that is happening around him. As one who once had intimate fellowship with God, he simply doesn’t understand why God won’t answer his questions. But by the time we get to the end of the book Job doesn’t seem as concerned with his unanswered questions. God has silenced him as well as humbled him.
Ash says that one of the points of the book of Job is that we learn that we can leave our unanswered questions at God’s feet. Job didn’t get his questions answered, but he did get God. Who doesn’t need that message? I know I do.
We all live our lives with a string of unanswered questions. But when we think about it, we really don’t have any truly unanswered questions. Just questions clouded by circumstances. We don’t know the end result of our suffering, but God does. He is not surprised or unaware of the outcome. He owns the outcome.
Christopher Ash goes on to say that this side of the cross we have access to a hope that Job only knew partly—a truly righteous sufferer. Job was a blameless man, but he was not a perfect man. Christ is both the blameless and the perfect one. He provides a category for unanswered prayers, for the righteous suffering, and for the darkness that we see in Job. Job could only hope in what was to come. We hope in what has already happened.
This means we have a comfort in suffering that Job did not have. He only had the promise of it. We have sinless savior who endured unimaginable suffering so we would never suffer alone. We have a perfect high priest who suffered in our place so we have an advocate before the Father. We have a savior who sympathizes with us in our weakness and also saves us from the sin that threatens to undo us. Like Job, we would stand before God silenced by his utter holiness next to our sinfulness. But because of Christ, we can stand before this holy God boldly. This is a rock for us in our suffering. At the cross, our unanswered questions are answered, maybe not in this life, but most definitely in the one to come.
We all have unanswered questions, sometimes more than we can handle. Even though our sin is paid for, we still have to walk through life in this broken world, where all is not right, and sin destroys the lives of even the blameless. We can lay them all at the foot of a savior who knows what it’s like to feel abandoned, and who is the promise that we will never be.