The BIG Why ?
Amidst all the pleasant and beautiful things we experience in life; there are periods in life where we go through hardships and sufferings. When carefully introspected, we may discover that our sufferings are due to our own sins. Or, we may also suffer due to another’s sins and unknowingly were a part of it. But there are times we never can find a reason as to why we are going through hardships. We may be God fearing, truthful, devote, kind, caring, concerned about other beings, miles away from evil; yet, why all these sufferings in life, why the restlessness, why the anxiety, why the failures, why the sorrow? Why we are made to go through all these, remains unanswered. why, That is; The BIG Why?
Job and his life perhaps holds the answer to this Big Why. Job was a blameless and the most upright man as quoted by God himself. Let’s explore more based on the Book of Job.
Job: Character and Wealth
Job is described as having everything that could be available in world. He had a well settled family with wife, seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen and 500 female donkeys and very many servants. These all had made Job, the wealthiest man in the east.
One of the important ways to a healthy relationship with God is having a healthy family. Job 1:4 "His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them" . This stresses the fellowship and unity that Job could maintain in the family. He was a great leader and held the family together. What a contrast to our world - where attaining better jobs and wealth supersedes the priority of maintaining good relationships with parents, children and siblings, unknowingly affecting our relationship with God !
Job 1:5 "And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send andconsecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. This Job did continually." Job is shown to be having an unshaken belief in God. He served as the family priest. He loved his children and he prayed for them continually, offering sacrifices to temporarily atone for their sins. This shows that Job was a man committed to the Lord as well as to his family. He was not a part time believer. He lived this way every day of his life. Every day was spent in holy living, in avoiding sin, in seeking God for others and in living out his relationship with his Lord.
The Heavenly Assembly and the Open Challenge
While Job is living his life out on the earth, events are taking place in Heaven. The angelic beings make an appearance before God’s throne. And Satan is one of them.
Job 1:8 "And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?" God Himself recognizes that Job is the most upright man and whole heartedly acknowledges that Job is the perfect example of how a human life should be lived.
When Lord talks very highly about Job, Satan argues that the only reason Job serves Him is because God has paid him off. He says that if God were to remove His hand from Job’s life, Job would turn his back on the Lord. Satan is making an easy accusation here, something which is a sure win. Because the argument made by Satan is very simple – “Job is good only because of the abundant blessings he received.” Satan’s confidence is obviously driven by the human nature that he saw around the world. God gave him the certificate of a ‘ blameless and upright man’ when Job was in the heights of richness and wealth. It is very common to see that belief in Lord is broken or shaken when sufferings are faced. Many times the reason for people going to other Churches is the ‘search of new God’ which can provide immunity from hardships and sufferings. This is what Satan used as the tool to challenge the Lord. Accepting the challenge. Lord permitted Satan to put Job through trials and sufferings.
Meanwhile, Job is unaware of all these happenings in heaven. He does not have any indication that he is going to be the subject of “God – Satan cosmic experiment”.
In one day Job receives four messages, each bearing one bad news. All his livestock, servants and ten children are dead in one day. Job did not curse God on the loss of all his wealth and children. Satan failed.
Satan again appeared and God gives him another chance to test Job, except touching his life. This time Job is affected by horrible skin sores. Job is subject to severe physical and mental pain. He is expelled from his house. His wife encourages him to curse God, but Job refuses. Job remained faithful to Lord even after losing his wealth, children, health and wife. Satan again failed.
Job’s friends visit him and try to share his suffering. They give many theological reasons for his sufferings. They give reasons that can persuade Job to make at least one statement against God. Job still does not turn against God. Satan fails again.
One phenomenon is very obvious and noticeable is despite all the hardships, Job continued to maintain steadfast belief in Lord. Being a human; at one point Job curses the day of his birth, but still he did not turn against Lord.
Another very worthy observation is, he did not dare take the precious gift of life with which God Almighty endowed him.
These days, we are seeing more and more cases of suicides triggered from hardships. Here is Job, in a very hopeless situation, deciding to continue his life. What an example!
But what remains unanswered is why God accepts to put the most benevolent person through the hands of Satan there by opening up all the hardships and sufferings for Job and his family. Why?
As we continue to ponder over the Big Why, God was not doubtful about Job’s purity in life as well as steadfast belief. There is no reason seen for God submitting Job to the tests of Satan.
Towards the end of Book of Job, we see that God restores twice as much as Job had lost. His brothers, sisters and family acquaintances come to eat with him and comfort him. Job lived 140 more years, saw descendants to the fourth generation and died full of days. But one thing still remain - Why did God allow Job to be put through all these hardships?
As we continue to ponder over God’s action on pushing his best people through all the hardships of the world; let’s look at some excellent interpretations. St. James teaches and helps us understand that the hardships are a “Testing of Faith”. Like how the ores of metals are subjected to heat, beatings and other hardships; only to purify and make them glittering, strong and useful for everyone, God’s plan is to make us strong, glittering and useful too.
In Genesis we get clear pictures of God judging the wicked and saving or rewarding the good. God floods the world to destroy wicked men (Genesis 6) but Noah, "a righteous man" (Gen 6:9) is saved. Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed for their wickedness; and Lot, who is righteous by comparison, is saved (Gen 19). God rewards Abraham's faith in him by blessing him and his family in numerous ways.
But in the case of Job, Satan is permitted to harm Job not because Job is a bad person, but because Job is a good person. It is God bragging about Job's goodness that leads to the challenge from Satan, and God permitting Satan to afflict Job (Job 1:8-12, 2:3-6). Does it mean that God allow goodness not only to go unrewarded but to be punished ? Looking it from another perspective, we can also conclude that
“We suffer for the glory of God."
While proving Satan wrong for his judgment about Job, Lord is also proving his power as well as glory through Job.
We can see this revealed further by Jesus Christ in the New Testament.
John 9:3 (Situation of seeing a man blind from birth):
"Neither this man nor his parents sinned", said Jesus, "but this happened so that works of God might be displayed in him".
John 11:4 (Situation of hearing about the sickness of Lazarus):
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death.No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.
What better recognition of a Christian life than being chosen as a medium to spread His Glory? Isn’t that the Ultimate Recognition?
The dominant theme of book of Job is why an all-powerful God allows good people to suffer. It also suggests that people should not discuss divine justice since God’s power is so great that humans cannot justify His ways. What we need to do is to establish a Holy relationship with God. Then we will be in a plan that Lord has for us and at the end of the execution of the plan, it will be abundant blessings.
During this Lent, let us review ourselves. Let’s find a Job in ourselves; spread Lord’s glory and strive for the Ultimate Recognition. For that’s what a meaningful life is !
- By Biju George