When bad things happen to us, one of the first questions we ask of God is “why?” “Why did this happen to me?” Or, a rather “why did You allow this to happen to me?” We thought that we were doing everything the way we were supposed to. We’re Christians after all, isn’t God supposed to protect us from harm? The least He could do is make sure that everything turns out all right in the end. At the most basic level, what we ultimately want from God at these times is an answer. Even if we accept our suffering with all patience, we still want to know why we’re suffering.
When God allows Satan to afflict Job (taking away his wealth, family, and health), Job’s responses include, “the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord,” and, “shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” These are certainly words we would expect to hear from a man who God testifies of as one who “fears God and shuns evil”. However, let us not suppose that Job was not upset by his losses. So ghastly was his appearance due to his sorrow and afflictions, that when his friends arrived to comfort him they did not recognize him and they sat in silence, no one daring to speak, for seven days and seven nights.
When they finally spoke, the debate centered on the question of why these things happened to Job. Job asserts his righteousness and demands an explanation from God of the matter. His friends, on the other hand, insist that he is being punished for his sins. They reason that God wouldn’t allow such things to happen to a righteous man. Thus, Job is not as righteous as he claims to be and can get God to end his suffering by repenting. This debate unfolds over the course of the book until it comes screeching to a halt when God speaks. He rebukes Job’s friends for misrepresenting Him. Then, turning His attention to Job, God questions him to demonstrate the gap between the His understanding and Job’s. Upon being shown this, Job repents of demanding an answer from God because he realizes that God owes him no such answer.
Like Job, we often ask why because we think we’re entitled to an explanation from God. However, we learn from the story of Job that God doesn’t owe us an explanation. As a matter of fact, God doesn’t owe us anything. It might be an audacious question, but the next thing that goes through our head is often “why not?” Fortunately, this is a question that we can at least begin to answer (by deferring to God’s answer, of course). When God speaks to Job, He questions him concerning matters that, Job admits, are beyond his comprehension. God reminds Job of their relationship as God and man, as Creator and created. He essentially demands to know on what grounds Job is entitled to an explanation from Him. Why is God obligated to explain Himself to the man He created? Paul uses the metaphor of a potter and a pot in Romans 9:20-21. The pot cannot claim authority over the potter nor can it claim that the potter owes it a debt. Likewise, we don’t have any ground to stand on in order to make demands of God.
This certainly seems harsh, especially when God “brings the hammer down” on Job and company. But we cannot lose sight of what it says about God when we look at the full picture. Yes, it is true that God, by virtue of being God, doesn’t owe us so much as an explanation. However, consider the things He has done without any obligation: He has given us His written word in the Scriptures, He has redeemed us through Christ’s death and resurrection, and He causes His Spirit to dwell in us. These are just a few of the unwarranted blessings that He gives us through grace.
We are often sidetracked by the whys, as Job and his friends were, which causes us to lose sight of God. This is sometimes why we feel abandoned by God or that God doesn’t care; we aren’t looking for God, but for the answer we want. We turn away the love and comfort that God offers us because it isn’t an explanation. Finding God in trials and tribulations doesn’t always consist in understanding why. It consists in receiving His grace: His peace, consolation, patience, hope, etc. “My grace is sufficient for you,” (2 Corinthians 12:9)