I cry to you for help and you do not answer me; I stand, and you only look at me. You have turned cruel to me; with the might of your hand you persecute me. You lift me up on the wind; you make me ride on it, and you toss me about in the roar of the storm. For I know that you will bring me to death and to the house appointed for all living. – Job 30:20-23 ESV
Job was in a very difficult place. He was suffering greatly and was struggling to understand the why behind it all. His friends were blaming all his problems on sin. But Job kept defending his own innocence, insisting that he had done nothing wrong. His pain was real. His losses were great. His confusion was intense. So he did what came natural to him – he called out to God. He prayed, sharing his pain and suffering with the only one who could do anything about it. But from Job’s perspective, God was silent. Job remembered a time when God had been his friend and things had been so much better. “Oh, that I were as in the months of old, as in the days when God watched over me, when his lamp shone upon my head, and by his light I walked through darkness, as I was in my prime, when the friendship of God was upon my tent, when the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were all around me” (Job 29:2-5 ESV). Job longed for the good old days. He wished that things were back to the way they used to be. In those days Job was somebody special. He was well-respected and a pillar of the community. He enjoyed the blessings of God and the admiration of men. But now he was a social pariah. He was seen as sinner who had been punished by an angry God. He had lost all his wealth, his health and all of his children. All he had left was a wife who constantly badgered him to curse God and die, and a few very opinionated friends who seemed to think they spoke for God. And all Job really wanted was answers. He desperately needed to know where God was in all his suffering and why He wasn’t doing anything about it.
We’ve all been there at one time or another. Finding ourselves in a difficult circumstance, unable to figure out what has gone wrong, we cried out to God. But the sky was like brass and our prayers proved ineffective. God was silent. And that silence can lead us to jump to some pretty serious conclusions. It did for Job. He determined that God was behind all his suffering. Not only that, God was persecuting and punishing him. And the end result of it all was going to be death. Job can’t understand why all this is happening to him. He pleads with God, “Yet does not one in a heap of ruins stretch out his hand, and in his disaster cry for help?” (Job 30:24 ESV). Job reminds God that, in his better days, he was always there to help those in need. So why was God refusing to help him now that he was suffering? He also pleads his case, defending his innocence and declaring his willingness to accept any punishment he deserves.
“If I have walked with falsehood…”
“if my step has turned aside from the way…”
“If my heart has been enticed toward a woman…“
“If I have rejected the cause of my manservant or my maidservant…”
“If I have withheld anything that the poor desired…”
“if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing…”
“if I have raised my hand against the fatherless…”
“If I have made gold my trust…”
“If I have rejoiced at the ruin of him who hated me…”
“if I have concealed my transgressions as others do…”
Job was willing to accept his punishment – IF he was guilty. But he stuck by his claim of innocence. Which made his suffering all that much harder to understand and endure. He didn’t know why he was having to suffer. And God was not giving him an answer. And the difficult thing for us to understand is that God did not owe Job an answer. God is not obligated to explain Himself to us. We may not always understand or even like what is happening to us or around us, but God doesn’t owe us an explanation. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV). The ways of God are often a mystery to us. His actions may confuse and even anger us, but we must understand that our God is always loving, righteous, just and good. There is always a method behind His seeming madness. He has a very good and righteous reason behind all that He does and all that He allows. His seeming silence is not indicative of inactivity. God was fully aware of all that was going on in Job’s life and He had a plan in place to rectify it and restore Job completely. Job may not have known what the future held, but he should have known that his God was loving, just and good. He is a defender of the weak, a protector of the poor, a friend of the just, and a restorer of the broken and battered.
What Job didn’t know was what God had in store for him. The book ends with the statement, “And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10 ESV). “And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning” (Job 42:12 ESV). God had heard. God had seen. And God restored the fortunes of Job. His silence was not a sign of indifference. His lack of a response to Job’s prayers was not an indication of anger or dissatisfaction. He had had a plan in place the entire time. God had known what He was going to do. And He did it – at just the right time and in just the right way.