by Barry Newton
Devastated by Satan’s shock and awe salvo, Job sat silently, poverty stricken, childless and disease afflicted upon the ashes of a garbage heap feeling as though he, too, had become rejected rubbish. The nature of his initial questioning is all too familiar to us. “Why did I not die at birth? … Why is light given to him who suffers? … Why …”
When our own suffering becomes too large for language to capture, we typically step upon Job’s footprints asking, “Why didn’t I leave the house just a little bit earlier?” “Why did this genetic combination have to come together in our child?” Why, why, why?
Perhaps, given our curious nature, it is inevitable that we will ask why. Perhaps by asking why, we betray our desperate need to somehow cling to the illusion that we are in control, for we may fear that if we abandon a belief in our ability to exert our will upon our world then our personal hope in human significance will be lost. But then circumstances and forces beyond our ability to dominate and subdue can rudely awaken us to the reality that we are mere dirt and dust creatures who can be captured and bound by suffering.
Unfortunately, our inquisitiveness frequently leads us down Job’s path so that we miss the far greater and more significant question — How am I going to choose to respond to this? While there are many possible answers as to why things happen, what will matter at the end of life is how we chose to respond. In fact, the nature of this question always confronts us. Will prosperity and health cause me to indulge in self-absorption, thereby denying my dependence upon God and failing to worship him? Will suffering and pain cause me to fail to see that God is worthy of worship?
To be sure, trying to solve why can consume enormous amounts of time and energy. Consider the prime example of Job chapters 3 to 33. But as the reader of Job can easily observe, the real question revolves around how Job will respond. Would God’s taunting of Satan regarding Job ultimately lead to greater spiritual development for Job or would Satan’s devastating salvo rip off a mask of godly devotion to reveal a truly nefarious and self-worshiping creature?
While we still breathe, the final word about how we will choose has yet to be written.