Surrendering the Why

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, ESV)

The book of Job is an intriguing story. The opening dialogue between Satan and God  reveals much about the goings on “behind the scenes” of the world, yet the book ultimately leaves us with another world of questions we wish we had answers to. Unfortunately for Job, he didn’t even have his own book to read and so had even fewer answers than we. Job endures unspeakable trauma after his entire life is suddenly rocked by natural disasters, murder, robbery, and disease. The whole book is then the endeavor of Job and his “friends” to understand why unfortunate events happen to people. His friends are determined that bad things happen because of a person’s sin and so Job must have some secret sin he needs to repent of. Job, on the other hand, claims his innocence, and thus believes that it can’t be as simple as that. 

Job and the friends don’t really know the “why” behind Job’s pain so they each rely on their own understanding of life to come up with their own answers. The problem is human understanding is fallible and so inevitably arguments ensue over whose ideas are right. Job and the friends continue to make their arguments about the ways of God, suffering, and the world for thirty-five chapters! and they still don’t come up with a clear answer. But in the last few chapters, the Lord finally speaks up for himself. With our typical understanding of how a book should go, we might think now is the time for closure, that God would reveal to Job about his agreement with Satan to test Job’s faithfulness or that God would at least help settle the argument between these men. This book is God’s book though and doesn’t play by any of our modern story rules. Isaiah 55:8 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” God has his own way of doing things, always superior to ours, and the ending of Job’s book is evidence of this.  

Rather than giving pat answers and telling us what we all long to understand – why bad things happen to people – God instead begins to ask Job some powerful questions back: 

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” – Job 38:4 (ESV)

“Who has put wisdom in the inward parts or given understanding to the mind?” – Job 38:36 (ESV) 

“Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars and spreads his wings toward the south?” – Job 39:26 (ESV)

“Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?” – Job 40:8-9 (ESV)

God’s reply to some of life’s deepest questions is to simply proclaim himself as the powerful, all-knowing Creator and Ruler of the universe that he is. While in our pride we expect God to give us answers to all our “why?” questions, he knows better. Look at some of Job’s responses to God’s questioning: 

“Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth.” – Job 40:4 (ESV)

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” – Job 42:2-3 (ESV)

As God reveals a little more of himself, Job is immediately put in his place. When God speaks, we are humbled. If God had just given Job all the answers he sought, this would have only built up Job’s pride. Job would come to think that he can get whatever he demands of God, instead of learning that God is sovereign, he is the source of all things, and we don’t even come close to understanding all of what he is doing in the universe. God wants us to know more of him, even if that means knowing less about other things we deem so important. At a glance, this may seem unfair, but remember God knows all. He knows what we, his most highly esteemed creation, need the most and that is himself. He is the treasure we are all seeking, and knowing him will satisfy all our desires and need for knowledge. Colossians 2:3 says that in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (ESV) As we surrender our own understanding and instead seek to know God, we will gain far more understanding of what truly matters and will benefit our existence. We don’t need to know the why, we just need to know the Who. 

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” – I Peter 5:6-7 (ESV)


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