“I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you declare to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.” (NRSV)
Probably the most recurrent issue in Christian faith and life is the problem of unjust suffering. Why do some live while longing to die and others die while expecting to live? Why do bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people?
No-one has come up with a completely satisfactory answer. Not even the book of the Bible that deals with just this issue comes up with an explanation. Job is the great example of a good man suffering bad things. Much of the book is taken up with Job agonising over what is happening and why it is happening. His friends’ replies are not much help to him.
These friends seek to offer explanations, but it seems Job is not really seeking such things. This is why their ‘help’ is unhelpful. As the book concludes, we read of Job being more or less satisfied, but not with his friends’ attempts to explain but with God’s revelation of himself.
God offers no answer to the problem of Job’s suffering and yet Job accepts God’s response. The reason is probably that Job was never after an explanation but after an assurance of God’s continued care and presence. After all, even if he did get a neat answer, he would still mourn his catastrophic losses.
He needed a person not an explanation. We do too.