What happens to our emotional well-being when our theology of God’s lovingkindness crashes into the harsh wall of reality?
The bulk of the book of Job consists of the divine dialogue of prayer. Job speaks to God. God speaks to Job. That this is a reality is itself infinitely helpful and comforting. We may not have a God who will keep us away from all experiences of pain and suffering, but we have a God who listens and speaks. He is not indifferent.
What he says is important, however, and the astute reader notices that God never poor babys Job. Instead he whisks him into a dizzying panorama of his own glory and sovereign power. So much of what he shows Job are things Job cannot see, at least not in the moment. “Were you there, Job, when I created sea monsters?” That’s just one of the strange things God says to our sufferer (41:1).
Of course Job wasn’t there for that. He may not have ever seen a Leviathan, much less its creation. He hasn’t seen nearly any of the things God puts in front of his troubled mind to ponder. Why would God go about comforting Job this way? He is proving himself anything but touchy-feely.
When we are suffering, we long for a touchy-feely God. And in his incarnation, the Son of God has come to touch and to feel. Not only is God not indifferent, he is able to sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). But the touchy-feely God isn’t exactly what we need. What God has come to do with his beloved servant Job is remind him of the deeper reality in play, the bigger story that will make his pain—while perhaps not bearable, it would be meaningful.
The Lord has allowed the satanic crushing of Job in order to show him the reality of what he could not lose.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Hebrews 11:1 NKJV