Every once in a while, when reading the news on the internet, there are stories about our universe. “NASA’s Planet Hunter has Found Star Shredding Black Hole.” (September 25). “Black Hole at Milky Way’s Center Behaving Strangely.” (August 15) And, “First Ever Black Hole Image Revealed.” (April 10, 2019) Maybe it makes sense that these stories go over my head and simply cause me to wonder. My education has been primarily in the area of theology, in literature, and in people issues like counseling and outreach. So, I understand what people mean when they talk about ‘how small WE seem to be in the middle of the expansive universe around us.’ (Have you seen Louis Giglio’s video, “How Great is our God.”?) I humbly confess my personal lack of understanding when confronted with the mysteries of the universe!
But, there are also events from our lives in this world which also cause me to wonder, often without answers. The suffering faced by people in our world leaves me with questions. I learned earlier this past week of the death of a high school classmate from pancreatic cancer. This lady was bright and beautiful, and in high school she ‘shone like a star.’ How could this be? But cancer and death do not discriminate. Unfortunately, I also heard similar news about the illness of a close relative. It is hard to make sense of the world around us. This lack of understanding is especially true when we look at the suffering of people created by the God of love!
Perhaps it is understandable that my mind is considering these mysteries. My daily readings in my devotional bible have now taken me into the book of Job. Job was a man who, as far as humanly possible, sought to live a righteous and upright life. He was blessed with a large family and with many possessions. But, in a short series of events Job lost his family, he lost his worldly goods, he lost his health. And, when Job’s friends saw his appearance, changed by his calamities, Job had then also lost his reputation. Why would something like this happen, especially to a man of God like Job? Actually, considering that question is the purpose of the book of Job. This inspired book of Scripture examines the mystery: ‘Why is there evil and suffering in our world?’
As I read this book of Job again, I work through and consider the actions and the re-actions of Job’s friends. Four friends come to Job with the intent of comforting him. Throughout this book they try to explain the unexplainable, the suffering which Job faces. Sometimes, and this humbles ME, their words have a grain of truth. For example, Job’s friend Eliphaz, shares words encouraging Job to confess his sins. 7”Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? 8 As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it. 9 At the breath of God they are destroyed; at the blast of his anger they perish.” (Job 4:7-9) Yet, these words of Eliphaz, and the words of all Job’s friends, are criticized by God Himself at the end of the book for seeking to share wisdom without any real knowledge. (Job 42:7) Sadly, I am sure there are times when my own words have sounded like those of Job’s friends. The best thing Job’s friends did was when they first arrived to comfort him. “Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” (Job 2:13)
The more experienced (older) I get, and the more knowledge I gain, the more I realize how much I do not know and how much I don’t understand, especially about the working of the Lord. Paul was led to a similar response when faced with anguish over the lack of faith by His Jewish brothers. He wrote in Romans, “33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” (Romans 11:33-35) Paul is actually quoting Isaiah 40 and Job 41 in these verses. The Lord and God of the universe is higher and greater than we are. His ways are a mystery, which we will not totally understand in this world. Therefore, Paul concludes this section of his writing by praising God! “36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:36)
Therefore, I am led again, in humility, to confess my own lack of knowledge when it comes to God and His ways, even after all my education. Yet, I have learned to trust Him. I am thankful that God’s wisdom is found in Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:24) Jesus is “The Word made flesh” (John 1:14), “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29), “The Bread of Life” (John 6:35), “The Good Shepherd (John 10:11), “The Way the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6). I am thankful that in Jesus God has acted to save, not to condemn, as we certainly all deserve. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17)
Brought to unanswered questions, and to humility in the face of God’s greater and greatest wisdom, I am led to pray with King David, “23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24) How about you? What do you do when faced with life’s great questions?