Five Truths About God That Help You When You Are Suffering
After everything is taken away from Job, his friends sit with him in his misery and ask the question we all ask in moments of tragedy: Why? They try to figure out why God would want to punish Job so harshly, and their answers mirror our own natural reactions: They assume that Job must have done something to warrant his suffering. After all, if there is any justice in the world, terrible things just can’t happen to good people, right?
After 37 chapters of arguments between Job and his friends, God finally shows up. Finally, Job thinks, I’m going to get some answers.
Instead, God asks Job a series of questions—64, to be exact—including, “Job, were you around when I shaped the earth?” and “Where do storms come from, and can you predict when they’re coming?” There are even some really random, odd questions like, “How much do you know about the copulation patterns of goats?”—all to show God’s infinite perspective. In other words, if Job can’t even fathom all the mystery behind natural things, is he really in a place to understand—and critique—eternal things?
God ends up restoring everything to Job, seven-fold, but the looming question of why remains. Throughout all of Job, we never get an answer (that most of us would find satisfying) about the purpose behind all of this happening in the first place. What’s more, neither did Job.
But while we may not get the answer to the question we think matters, we do get five crucial points about the size of God. And, as it turns out, that’s far more valuable.
1. God’s power is sovereign.
In the book of Job, we see God’s absolute power over creation, angels, and even Satan, who does nothing except by God’s permission. And, we see that God has purposes in creation that go far beyond our purview.
For example, God talks about watering a land where no one lives (Job 38:26), making the flowers and plants flourish. Why would God put all this beauty in places where no one would see it? Because God does some things solely for himself. Not everything in creation is for man.
The ultimate purpose of Job’s suffering was to bring glory to God. God was demonstrating his glory to Satan and all the angels through Job’s suffering.
You might say, “Well, that’s a hard thing to live with—that God is using my suffering for his glory.” It may be hard, but accepting that truth is the secret to a happy, fulfilled life. When you realize that you—and the entire world—exist for God’s glory, you’ll find a joy and satisfaction you’ve never known, because you were created to live that way.
2. God’s perspective is infinite.
Think about the fact that there are at least three billion trillion stars in the universe. Even looking at a number that big is staggering: 3,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. My calculator doesn’t even allow me to fit all those digits on the screen. And each one of these stars puts out roughly the same amount of energy as a trillion atom bombs every second. These stars exist in an expanse we simply cannot comprehend, and they were all created in a single moment with a single word from God. If that’s not power, I don’t know what is.
Now, if God’s wisdom is as high above mine as his power is above mine, the most rational conclusion is that there will be some things beyond my immediate ability to understand.
One of our core problems is that we don’t think of God as that much bigger than us, as if he’s only a slightly smarter version of us. But does that make any sense when we think about how big he had to be to pull off creation? It’s like we think of God as a being with huge, powerful, star-creating muscles but an itty-bitty, teeny-tiny head.
God asked, “Who is this who conceals my counsel with ignorance?” and Job replied, “Surely I spoke about things I did not understand, things too wondrous for me to know” (Job 42:3 CSB). We could use a heavy dose of that humility.
Your questions are great—ask them. But have some sense of the magnitude and wisdom of the God to whom you are asking them.
3. God’s purpose is guaranteed.
One of the most encouraging things in the book of Job is seeing that because God’s power is sovereign and his knowledge is infinite, even Satan’s attempts to attack God’s people only further God’s purposes.
Think about it: All of Satan’s attacks on Job yielded a book that has provided encouragement to countless believers throughout the centuries. Do you think that’s what Satan had planned?
And don’t we see this pattern all throughout Scripture? Satan’s strategy to defeat the sons and daughters of God only serves to provide salvation for the sons and daughters of men.
God is doing the same thing with our struggles. And sometimes what God is doing, he is doing in you: Sometimes God lets us suffer in order to correct us and bring us back (see Jonah) or so that he can work salvation in others (see Joseph) or just to make us love him more (see Job).
Suffering is how God shapes us for himself.
If we can already look back and see a good purpose for some of the suffering in our lives—which most of us can—then given infinite time and perspective, won’t we see a reason for all of it?
4. God’s promise is everlasting.
My favorite verse in Job is this: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25 ESV).
“At the last” means in eternity. The last scene in the book of Job is God restoring to Job seven-fold all that he lost. The number seven is a picture of eternity. In this scene we are given a glimpse of what eternity will be like, when God restores to us all we have lost and gives us perfect joy.
Consider eternity. Next to eternity, 3 billion trillion years will seem like just the first few seconds of a never-ending day. Your life is just a brief ellipsis compared to the expanse of eternity. That means that compared to eternity, what we go through here in life is nothing. No wonder the Apostle Paul said our suffering was “not worth comparing” to the weight of glory being produced in us! (2 Corinthians 4:17)
5. God’s presence is pledged.
Why did our Redeemer come to “stand upon the earth”? He came to take our punishment in our place so we would never be separated from God again.
Yes, we are wounded sometimes; but he was wounded for us so we could be eternally healed. Yes, we sometimes feel abandoned, but he was abandoned for us so we could be eternally embraced. That means his mercy is ever-present with us, and we never have to worry about what he is doing in our lives.
I love these words of A.W. Tozer: “With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare, the wisdom of God to plan it, and the power of God to achieve it, what do we lack?”
We may not know exactly what God is doing in our pain, but the cross shows us what our suffering can’t mean: It can’t mean that God has forsaken us or that he’s lost control. The cross was where God did his greatest work.
That’s what he’s doing right now through your pain. It may feel to you like a dark night of the soul, but God is working in it the power of resurrection—where he entered into your pain for you, took death for you, and now stands victoriously by your side, promising you that one day you’ll stand with him in eternity.
Your suffering may feel to you like a dark night of the soul, but God is working in it the power of resurrection.
Job wanted answers; instead God gave him his presence. As soon as Job saw who God was, Job was satisfied—before he was restored.
A revelation of God, not an explanation of suffering, is what God gives to us. And it is enough.