Scripture describes Job as a godly and upright man. Why did he need to endure so much pain and loss? Today, Derek Thomas addresses the problem of suffering in the life of God’s people.
NATHAN W. BINGHAM: We’re recording live from Ligonier’s 2022 National Conference, and I’m joined by the senior minister of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina, Dr. Derek Thomas. Dr. Thomas, why did testing come to Job?
DR. DEREK THOMAS: Well, from our point of view, it was to humble him. For Job himself, of course, it was a massive problem. We are told once by the author of the book of Job, and twice it’s put into the mouth of God Himself, that Job was a godly man—in fact, the godliest man on the face of the earth. And the conundrum for us is, why should a righteous man suffer?
We can understand “why do sinners suffer?” It’s what they deserve. But why should a godly man suffer? And this, of course, is the great question. And it’s a question that Job’s friends answered by saying he suffered because he sinned; “You reap what you sow.” They only had one song, and they sang it to death.
But God Himself, when He finally comes to Job and speaks in chapter 38, “Who is this that speaks words without knowledge?” And the answer is, it’s Job. And Job has been asking for a fight, an epistemological fight, a fight over the issue of the problem of pain. And it was very personal for Job. And God turns the tables and says, “I will ask the questions, and you will give the answers,” which you’re not expecting because Job is the one that’s been asking questions, and he expects God to answer.
And God asks him all kinds of questions, from caves that man has never explored, to the skies and the universe and the planetary system, and so on and so forth. And he cannot answer any of them. And then, He introduces two creatures: Leviathan and Behemoth. And for the purposes of this podcast, let me suggest that Behemoth is a hippopotamus and Leviathan is a crocodile. Why would God—and what in the world does this have to do with Job’s suffering? But it has everything to do with Job’s suffering because why did God create a crocodile? I’ve given money to—not a lot—but I’ve given money to save the polar bear. I think it would be a very tragic, sad world if there were no more polar bears in the world. But I wouldn’t shed a tear if there were no crocodiles in the world. So why did God make a crocodile? And you know, a facetious answer might be handbags or belts or shoes. But the answer is, “I don’t know,” and pain is like that.
Sometimes the reason for God’s inflicting of trials and tribulations in our lives is unknown to us. Except, I think that the Shorter Catechism answer is the best one, that our chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. And I think that’s what happened in Job’s life—that he became prideful, and he needed to be humbled. He needed to put his hand over his mouth, as he himself says, and acknowledge that God is not obligated to give the reason. What’s important is that He knows why He does it and that we trust Him. And I think that was what Job was learning in his afflictions. He needed to learn to trust God even when he didn’t have all of the answers.
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