Job 7:19-20 - Will You never look away from me, or let me alone even for an instant? 20If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O Watcher of men? Why have You made me Your target? Have I become a burden to You?
"Why me, Lord?" Have you ever asked God that question? Let's admit it! We've all probably voiced that question at one time or another--or at least thought it--especially during times of extreme pressure or pain. More than 3000 years ago there was a man named Job who, when he was experiencing great suffering, asked God that question. And God answered him! God's answer to Job is recorded in the Old Testament book of Job, which was written forour benefit. (See Romans 15:4.) Let's look at the ancient story of Job and carefully examine God's answer to see how it applies to our "Why me?" questions today. "Why me, Lord?" is really part of a much larger question that is wrestled with in the book of Job. How can a good God of love and mercy, who is also all-knowing and all-powerful, allow suffering--especially the suffering of "innocent and righteous" people? Is this characteristic of a just and fair God? A defense of God's goodness and omnipotence in light of such apparent inconsistencies is known as a "theodicy". The book of Job serves as a theodicy--a vindication of God in spite of the sufferings of "poor, innocent Job." The particular aspect of suffering that is dealt with in this book is the purpose of suffering in the life of the believer. The complete answer covering every detail of the complex problem of suffering is not the intention of this book of Scripture. In Job we see that God allows suffering in order to accomplish His good purposes in our lives. Here again, the book of Job is not an exhaustive treatment of all the many ways in which God uses suffering for our good. However, three sure answers to the question "Why me, Lord?" clearly emerge from a brief study of the book of Job. The first and most obvious reason for Job's suffering was for God to diagnose Job's faith. The Bible teaches that God tests the faith of believers to prove its genuine quality. 1 Peter 1:7 states that a proven faith is worth far more than gold, and results in praise and honor and glory to God. God's testing of our faith is similar to a father proving his young son's character by purposely "programming" him into situations around the home where he is forced to bear some burdens--not just play all the time! How pleased and honored the father is to see his son "hang tough" in difficult circumstances. In the first two chapters of Job we see God permitting circumstances which severely tested Job's faith. At the beginning of chapter 1 Job was a man of great wealth and influence and outstanding faith. God's diagnosis of Job and his faith at this point is given in Job 1:1--"blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil." Could God make that statement about our faith and character? As we follow the story of Job we see two giant waves of adversity sweep unexpectedly over the patriarch and leave him struggling to believe. In the first wave Job lost all his children and all his possessions. Think of the magnitude of such a loss! It makes many of our "why me?" outbursts seem completely out of place. In spite of such a tragic loss, Job recognized the truth that everything we have in this life comes from the gracious hand of God. Job worshipped the Lord, saying, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord" (1:20-21). The diagnosis of Job's faith after this first wave of affliction is given in 1:22. "Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God." The second wave of suffering came even closer to home! Job's own body was afflicted. "Gross" is about the only single word that adequately conveys the condition of Job's body. He was covered with painful boils (2:7). His skin was crusty and oozed serum that attracted worms (7:5)! There was no relief from the fever and intense pain that he was experiencing (2:13 and 30:17, 30). What kind of faith in God would we exhibit under these horrible conditions? Job's response could only come from a deeply rooted faith in God. "Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" Again God's diagnosis of Job's tested faith is given in 2:10. "In all this Job did not sin with his lips." God had more in mind than just a diagnosis of Job's faith when He allowed his servant to suffer. He also wanted to develop Job's faith. Yes, even the faith of patient Job needed some maturing. While Job did not renounce God throughout his ordeal, he did raise the question of "Why me, Lord?" (See 7:19-20.) In fact, from chapters 3-31 we see that Job's constant response to the counsel of his three "friends" was essentially, "Why me?" Job could not understand why God was letting all this happen to him. Did God really know what He was doing? Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar thought they knew. Their logic was simple. "All suffering is the result of sin. Job is suffering; therefore Job has sinned." But Job staunchly maintained his innocence. On this point Job was right and his counselors were wrong. That's why they, and not Job, had to bring sacrifices at the end. (See 42:7-9.) But Job was wrong for questioning God's ways and having a "why me" attitude. This is the area where Job's faith needed to be developed--and ours does too! In chapters 32-37, Elihu, a fourth counselor, came closer to the truth than Job's first three counselors. Elihu told Job that he was being disciplined by God and that Job should submit to God instead of questioning Him. It appears that God used Elihu to pave the way for His own answer to Job. It is noteworthy that Elihu did not have to bring sacrifices at the end, and also that Job was silent and listening through all of Elihu's speeches. Finally, the Lord spoke directly to Job. God's answer took the wind right out of Job's sails! By a series of questions the Lord gave Job a small glimpse of His infinite knowledge and power. Who was Job, a mere fledgling, a finite creature, to question the ways of the almighty and sovereign Creator? Job was reduced to the level of a kindergarten child. It was like a proud and loud-mouthed high school algebra student, who thinks he has the last word in math, suddenly being confronted by Einstein! However, Job's response was beautiful, and it was evidence of a great step in the development of his faith. (See 40:3-5 and 42:1-6.) Job recognized his insignificance and ignorance. He retracted his former "why me?" statements and repented of his wrong attitude. He realized that the Lord had the big picture and was in control of everything, including his suffering. He humbly submitted to the hand of God and awaited further instruction. Job had taken a giant leap forward in his faith. God wants to develop our faith also. "Why me, Lord?" is not blasphemy, but it is a sign of immaturity, and actually is a sign of our subconscious pride in our own self-righteousness! To question the ways of God in our lives with an unsubmissive attitude or the idea that God is unfair and doesn't quite know what He is doing is really the basic sin of pride. It is evidence of a faith that needs to grow and develop and come to a proper understanding of who God is. During times of smooth sailing we often feel self-satisfied and even judge others. Paradoxically, it is through the tough "why me?" situations that our wrong attitudes begin to change. A growing Christian learns to humbly submit to the hand of God and to trust His inscrutable ways. Is your faith being developed? God's response in Job's suffering was also to display Job's faith. Job was God's "Exhibit A"--not only to earthly people but to heavenly beings as well. In chapters 1:6-8 and 2:1-3 it is quite obvious from the Lord's questions to Satan that Job's faith was on display before the unseen world. Although Job's faith was not perfect, and was in the process of being developed, God still took delight in pointing out the faith of His servant. Can God take delight in the display of our faith? The fact that the angelic hosts (good and bad!) are observing the evidence of our faith should motivate us to a more consistent Christian walk. Remember that Satan is called "the accuser" of believers. (See Zechariah 3:1 and Revelation 12:10.) Unfortunately, the enemy of our souls usually has lots of evidence from our lives that he can use for accusation! In connection with the display of our faith it is comforting to know that God will never permit a situation in which our suffering is so great that our faith has to fail. Notice that God sets limits on how much heat Satan was allowed to bring to Job's crucible of life (1:12 and 2:6). 1 Corinthians 10:13 assures us that God still sets the limits as to how much heat can be applied to our lives. The protective hedge that was around Job (1:10) is around us as well. It is lowered only when the Lord knows we're strong enough to handle the situation. The last chapter of Job shows the happy scene of Job's restoration. God's purposes through suffering were effected in Job and now he is blessed. We too will know the blessing of God in our lives forever, as we come to understand now God's answer to, "Why me, Lord?"