“‘Though He slay me, I will hope in Him; yet I will argue my ways to His face.’” (Job 13:15)
The story of Job is one that many people are familiar with. We know him as the man who lost everything, all his property and all his children, because the devil saw his righteousness and wanted to make him stumble. We also know his three friends as perhaps the worst comforters in the world, as they based all their attempts on consolation on a firm belief in Job’s depravity. The majority of the book is a discourse between Job and these friends as they try to understand why all of these terrible things have happened to an apparently good man. But the theme of the book goes a bit deeper than that. While on the surface it’s a story about a man who obeyed God, suffered for it, and was eventually rewarded for his faithfulness through it all, it’s ultimately about a man who didn’t understand, who only wanted answers, but who continued to trust God no matter what.
The book of Job doesn’t waste any time in getting to the story. By the end of the first chapter, Job’s property has been either stolen or destroyed, and all ten of his children have been killed when their house fell on them. In the second chapter, Job is stricken with boils. His three friends come to comfort him, but they’re so shocked at his appearance that no one says anything for a week. At last, Job speaks. He voices his confusion about everything that has happened, wondering why God would let something like this happen to a good man. Whenever he speaks, he uses language that is at times shocking and seemingly irreverent. Like Job’s friends, we start to wonder just how righteous this man really is. How could someone with a great faith present such appalling questions about God? His friends immediately start rebuking him for this, assuring him that he has sinned and that the only way he will ever be restored is if he repents. After all, the righteous always prosper; it is only the wicked who have trouble. Job’s grief is irrational to his friends, who can only see things from their objective standpoint. God is good and just, and Job must simply accept this.
Job, however, knows that he has not sinned, and his current questions aren’t meant to accuse God. He worships his Maker as the God Who both gives and takes away. But in the midst of his terrible grief, he truly wants to understand. Out of the honesty of his misery, he pours out his heart, begging to have some measure of clarification. He doesn’t doubt God; he just wants to know why.
Grief is something most of us are all too familiar with. As Christians, we have hope beyond our despair, because we know that one day, God will make everything right. But in the middle of mourning, it’s hard to see how that’s going to happen. Our faith in His promises may not be shaken, but we begin to wonder just how everything is going to work out. Like Job, we will trust God even if He kills us; but that’s not going to prevent us from asking questions. And the thing is, it’s okay to ask. At the end of the book, God answers Job. He reminds Him of His own glory, of His wisdom that goes far beyond what we can see. Grief hurts. It doesn’t make sense. The only thing that can offer some level of comfort is to understand why. Job’s friends failed as comforters because they couldn’t see that he just wanted an explanation. They took the harsh, bitter things he said in the midst of his misery and interpreted them as the ramblings of a man angry with God. But that wasn’t the case at all. Job wasn’t accusing God; he just wanted God to explain Himself. In the midst of our own grief, whatever that may look like, it’s okay to do the same. God isn’t afraid of our questions. So if you’re currently grieving something, talk to God about it. Be honest with Him, and don’t hold back from asking Him why. He answered Job; why should He not do the same for you?