In our Biblical passage of the day, Job is defending his life to his friends who are insisting that some hidden sin in Job’s life has brought about his suffering, and Job says:
I was a father to the needy;
I took up the case of the stranger. (Job 29:16 NIV)
In these words, Job is projecting the Lord as there is no greater Father or Advocate than Him. We were strangers once and He found us and provided for us. He has taken up our case before the Father, and as Christians, we are called to pick up this mantle and serve those in need in the same ways. Our church is very mindful of the needs of others around the world and we can see that it is truly wonderful to be able to serve the Lord by helping others.
But in doing so, when we witness devastation and suffering, what we really want to know is why? Why would a God who is great and good allow families and children to suffer? Over time, we see that everyone experiences suffering, and at some point in our own life we might even find ourselves asking horrible questions like why do I have to walk through cancer? Why is my home being taken from me? Why is my job going away? Why did my best friend betray me? Why is my family breaking apart? Why did my child die?
Like Job, we may even know that we did not bring the suffering upon ourselves through willful sin and we want an explanation from God. What is happening? Why is this happening? Where is God when this is happening? Job asks all of these questions, too, but the question that truly dominates the book of Job is “Who?” Who is this Sovereign God that ordains all of this suffering?
We want to know why, and as we see in the Book of Job instead of telling us why, God reveals Himself and draws us closer to Him. We really just want our life and all our stuff to be restored to the way it was, but in His revelation, God exposes our limited and erroneous thinking. In fact, it is in our suffering that God shows Himself to be our treasure. He is our Creator, our Sustainer, and our Savior. His power is great and His knowledge is perfect. His purpose will not be thwarted. And most poignantly, His love and mercy are personal; He is our Friend. We can trust in a God like that, a God who is personally and intimately involved in our life.
In awe, when Job realizes who God truly is, his immediate response is to humble himself by saying, “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). Job despises the small view he held of God in his suffering and he turns to a corrected grand view of God. Job finally sees that God is his treasure, God is his goal, and when the goal of our life is God Himself and not the things of God, then, like Job, we can view our suffering as a pathway to finding deeper and deeper treasure in Him.
At the end of the book, we see Job’s health and status restored, so is God telling us that if we just walk through suffering we’ll get all our stuff back? No, that’s not the message. That discounts Job’s deep pain and horrendous loss – nothing is going to bring back his 10 children. But, the reason the book ends that way is to show us that suffering doesn't have the last word. Satan doesn't have the last word. The cross doesn't even have the last word. Resurrection has the last word. Hope has the last word. Victory has the last word. God has the last word. Thus, as we the people of God walk through suffering, we can know that suffering is not the end. God is the end and He has the last word every time. Praise God.