The ancient story of Job is an incredible drama – that is, if you like long, extended, repetitive speeches. The “frame” of the story is easy to remember: a wealthy man loses all his possessions, children, and most of his health, apparently just as a test from the Tempter (in Hebrew, “the Satan”) to see if Job will be faithful to God.
Spoiler alert: at the end of the story, Job is chided for doubting God, his four “friends” are condemned for arguing against Job, and Job receives more wealth and descendants than he had before his calamity. Everybody loves it when a story ends happily, right?
But the frame of Job’s story only accounts for about four of the book’s 42 chapters. In the middle stand these long, winding verbal arguments between Job and his friends. “Job, you must have done something wrong to deserve this punishment!” “I am blameless and innocent! Why has this happened to me?” Back and forth they go, exploring the questions that we all ask from time to time:
Why do good people suffer? Why do the wicked prosper in this life? What is the reason for calamity and disaster? Where is God in all of this? Why, God, have you allowed this to happen?
These questions are as old as humanity itself. And there simply aren’t good answers to them.
We train ourselves to look for the pleasant conclusion, the end to the story that makes all the in-between difficulties worth enduring. A two-hour movie has to end well, or else we feel like we’ve wasted our time. A five-hundred-page crime novel has to end with the “whodunit” moment, or else the whole story is meaningless. We want there to be meaning, logic, justice, something that makes all the suffering of life worthwhile. Something that vindicates the sufferer.
Even the book of Job itself, with its brief but positive conclusion, reveals this innate human desire.
But remember the premise of Job: Job is a righteous man. He made sacrifices for his children just in case they had sinned against God. God even brags on him: “There is no one like Job, faultless, blameless, a good man!” Job has done absolutely nothing to deserve the tragedies that fall on him.
And so he argues with God. For nearly forty chapters, Job engages in a fist-shaking diatribe against the God who was responsible for allowing the tragedies to occur. And God doesn’t destroy Job for arguing with him.
Friends, here is one lesson to take away from the story of Job: It is all right to argue with God, to complain to God, even to question God. He’s a big guy; he can handle it. In the end, we will be put in our place, and God will prove himself to be ultimately righteous.
In the meantime, though, during times of hardship and suffering, shake your fist at God. Ask him why this is happening. Get frustrated when God doesn’t give neat answers quickly.
…because at least you are still talking to God.