When Days End In Why? Meeting a Man Named Job

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Protestant pastor who was imprisoned and eventually executed by the Nazis during World War II. From his bleak prison cell, Bonhoeffer wrote letters full of faith and hope. This is a quote from one letter to his sister: "I think that God is nearer to suffering than to happiness, and to find God in this way gives peace and rest and a strong and courageous heart."

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. Seven sons and three daughters were born to him. His possessions also were 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and very many servants; and that man was the greatest of all the men of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When the days of feasting had completed their cycle, Job would send and consecrate them, rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, "Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." Thus Job did continually. (Job 1:1-5 NASB)

The first cry of a baby is in a sense, “why! Why do I have to leave this comfortable place where all my needs are met!” It is only the beginning of such days. To live life – either with or without faith – we ultimately will ask “why” on more than one day. Just look at Rob's (our bass player) post on Facebook: "Note to self when you're super-tired: Putting ice cream in the pantry just doesn't work."

There is a word for the problem of evil and suffering and God – it is called theodicy. There are those who wrestle with this issue and those who dismiss it altogether. For some, it becomes the reason they leave faith behind and for others, it propels them to walk closer and more deeply with God than ever before.

I can tell you that more than one book of the Bible wrestles with the issue of theodicy. Read the book of Ruth, and you will find suffering face to face. Read Ecclesiastes and again, the theodicy will be faced. If pastors back away from addressing the reality of suffering it isn't because we lack material. The Bible deals head on with evil and suffering – sometimes more pointedly than we'd like.

Will faith protect me from evil? If I do right will I also do well? Is there a cause and effect between faith and success in our world?

Enter Job. A man from the Land of Uz – a place unknown even to the Israelites. Job. Is the name an invocation of God or a name meaning the “persecuted one?” Was he real or a story? What we know is once, long ago in a land far away lived Job.

BLAMELESS – UPRIGHT – FEARED GOD – LOVED HIS FAMILY. What could be wrong? Seven sons and three daughters both represented numbers that meant “Perfection”. His animals too, represented complete numbers. All the important holidays were times to party!! By all accounts in faith, family and finance – he was successful.

VERSE 5 (sanctifying the children). Pastor Mark Westmoreland asks - “Is that fear – is it faithfulness? Is it a little of both?” Can we protect ourselves in ritual and doing good from evil? For a long time it has been thought so. I have yet to see evidence as of yet that this belief has disappeared. In fact, the writer of Job takes us to a seen before God's throne where this interesting conversation takes place...

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" Then Satan answered the LORD and said, "From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it." The LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil." Then Satan answered the LORD, "Does Job fear God for nothing? "Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. (Job 1:6-10 NASB)

We are so quick to ask God “Why?” But it is Satan who asks an even better question - “Why do we worship God to start with? What is OUR motivation? Is there some level of selfishness we can never escape?” In looking at the life of Mother Teresa, behavorist Edward O. Wilson noted that her service to Jesus was linked to the promise of eternal life and thus had a selfish basis.

I think there is something missing from our faith if, along the way of our life, we are not asking 'why?' Why follow if the journey is marked by suffering and not prosperity? Indeed. Shall we follow theT lives of the disciples, Peter and Paul, Matthew and Andrew, except for John, all knew incredible suffering and struggle. The centuries that have gone by have recorded others. Foxes' Book of Martyrs notes many. More recently, The Voice of The Martyrs has highlighted the abuse and suffering of Christians around the globe during this past century.

Philip Yancey notes, “The most aggressively Christian continent on earth, Africa, is also the hungriest, while the most aggressively non-Christian region, around the Arabian Sea, is the wealthiest.” Why? Walter Wangerin has been one of my favorite authors through the years. In 2006, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and is preparing for his own death by writing. But in his book, Mourning Into Dancing, written in 1992, he records these words, “The one for whom Why has no answer is even further isolated by those for whom Why has no interest (107).” If you are asking why – you will find friends here at Crossroads and alongside Job as well.

“What does it profit us to gain the whole world and lose one's soul?” Jesus asked good questions and tended to leave the answers to be discovered. Paul tended to answer his own questions: For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. These and the words that follow, are recorded by many of the missionaries who have gone where Jesus sent them. Barclay Buxton, Amy Carmichael, E. Stanley Jones, Jim and Elisabeth Eliot and countless others found a peace in the words of Paul in their suffering and questions of “Why?”

But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. (Philippians 1:21-24 NASB)

I can speak of the suffering of cancer and the stigma of depression. But I can also tell you of the isolation and despair that come with following Jesus where he says to go. Faith, if I have learned anything, is not safe. It leads to questions more often than it leads to answers.

What do you want to hear from me? Do you want to hear that faith in Jesus will assure that you will blessed and your life overflowing with joy? Or that faith in Jesus could cost you everything you dreamed and worked to achieve? The answer to both is "Yes." But to find those willing to ask the questions? Now that is a place of grace and place that Crossroads desires to become.

(NOTE: Special thanks to Pastor Mark Westmoreland who provided the outline for this series.)


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