Silence. Sometimes what causes us the most pain and confusion isn’t what God says to us but the fact that in the midst of difficulty he seems to say nothing at all.
Has God been silent in your life as you’ve been waiting for answers?
That’s how it was for Job. He wanted to hear from God. He wanted to understand why he was suffering. He wanted God to clear his name. “Let the Almighty answer me,” he pleaded (Job 31:35).
Voice from the Storm
Finally, after all the questioning and struggle, in a voice from out of a storm, God spoke.
God asked where Job was when God began the work of creation. What had Job done to call the universe into being, to create his own life, or to make possible the existence of his possessions or his children or his health?
You might expect God to have answered all those chapters of questions from Job and his friends, who had been waxing eloquent about God and how he works. You might think God would have set the record straight on all the fine points.
But that isn’t what he did.
He answered Job’s questions with his own set of questions—four chapters of them—to remind Job that he was questioning almighty God.
God didn’t explain. He didn’t reveal his master plan. Instead, he revealed himself, and in the midst of his awesome presence Job’s questions weren’t answered—they simply disappeared.
Then the LORD said to Job, “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?”
Then Job replied to the LORD, “I am nothing—how could I ever find the answers? I will put my hand over my mouth in silence. I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say.” (Job 40:1–5 NLT)
Accepting the Mystery
In his response God didn’t explain the meaning of suffering or how to avoid it. Suffering is a mystery, and Job came to respect the mystery. He came to grasp that because he knew who God was, he could accept what God gave—even when he didn’t understand it.
The Lord did not choose to reveal everything to Job. He doesn’t reveal everything to us, either. And the truth is, he doesn’t have to. He is God. He is Creator; we are the created. God does not owe us an explanation.
And what if God had spelled it out? What if he had explained his full plan and purpose for Job’s suffering? We tend to think if we only knew why we were suffering, we’d be able to bear it. But would we?
Somehow I think that even if God listed all the reasons he’s allowed you to lose your loved one, develop the disease, or suffer the rejection, it still wouldn’t seem worth it from your limited perspective. So instead, he expands our perspective by giving us a glimpse of his ability to run the universe in contrast to our limited experience and understanding.
Job had no idea he was a player in a cosmic confrontation. As we read the ancient story, we’re privy to the deal made between God and Satan, but Job had no such context for his suffering. He had no idea his faithfulness in extreme difficulty mattered so much. But it did.
Job teaches us that our response to testing matters, too. Like him, we often cannot see God’s hidden purposes. Yet we can determine to be faithful and keep walking toward the Lord in the darkness.
Choosing to Trust in the Dark
Our task isn’t to decipher exactly how all of life’s pieces fit and what they all mean, but to remain faithful and obedient to the God who knows all mysteries. This is the kind of faith that’s pleasing to God—a faith that’s determined to trust him when he hasn’t answered all the questions, when we haven’t heard any voice from the whirlwind.
Would you be still and listen for the voice of God speaking to you through his Word, perhaps not answering the question “Why?” but revealing the all-important “Who?” Would you rest in knowing there are mysteries we will never understand completely in this life, and would you resist trying to explain an unexplainable God?
Would you choose to trust God and continue believing he has a plan and a purpose, even though the future looks dark?
This excerpt is adapted from the new edition of Nancy Guthrie’s Holding On to Hope: A Pathway through Suffering to the Heart of God (Tyndale Momentum, 2016). The book includes an eight-week Bible study on the Book of Job.
Editors’ note: Don’t miss our 2016 National Women’s Conference, April 16 to 18 in Indianapolis. Nancy Guthrie will lead a workshop on the topic of suffering titled “Arm Yourself with the Same Way of Thinking.” She will also interview John Piper on how to teach 1 Peter. Workshops are filling up fast, so register now!