“You got a minute?” I was sitting in my office a few weeks ago, and a friend walked in. He’s a partner in a business venture, but that day was a friend conversation. A friend of his had just buried his 11-year-old son, only a few years after he had lost his wife to cancer. My friend was hurting deeply for his friend, and I sat and listened. I listened as he unloaded the pain and weight and confusion that was on his heart.
Sometimes life is like this—heavy, hard, and perplexing. We face hard questions of uncertainty, heavy pain that is almost unbearable, and dark seasons of doubt and confusion.
What do we do with these moments? How do we explain and handle the conundrums of life? Why do bad things happen to good people? Put another way, why do bad things take place in this world if God is a loving, good God?
No one has better credentials to talk to us about this than a guy from the Old Testament named Job. He knew pain, confusion, struggle, and death intimately. He lost his wealth and his health, and his children even died.
I recently spent some time studying through Job’s life and thought I’d share four insights to help steer us when life unravels.
- Sometimes life just doesn’t make sense.
No matter where you stand, what you believe, or how good a person you are, sometimes life just doesn’t make sense. It certainly doesn’t make sense to Job. Even at the end of the book of Job, he doesn’t get an answer to the “Why” question. But he appears to be OK with that.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case with us. We have a high need to seek the “why.” We have a need to get it all wrapped up and tied down. That goes for sports (why did they lose the game?) to politics (why did he win the election?) to traffic (why is it so difficult for people to merge into one lane?) to the hard things of life (why did this happen to me?) and everything in between.
More than asking “when” or “how” something happens, we are driven to ask “why.” But in life we don’t always get answers to that question.
So we have to change the question from “why” to “Who.” Job never got the “why” but he does see God in His wisdom, beauty, and love. Jon Bloom writes of seeking this kind of change in perspective, one which offers the only lasting hope when we don’t get the answer to the “why” that we seek.
- We never know ahead of time all the plans of God for us.
How has your life changed in the last ten years? How might it change in the next ten years?
Peter Drucker once said, “The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different.”
Some people are more intuitive than others. But even those folks don’t know all that God has planned for us. Some people are more mature and have been walking with God longer, but even those folks don’t know all that God has planned.
No doubt Job had some expectation of what his future would hold. Perhaps it was a detailed ten-year plan, but more likely it was loose expectations or daydreams about the future based on the way life had gone to that point for him or on the way he watched the previous generation go about life. In any event, though, life didn’t go according to his plan.
We cannot control God’s handling of our lives. Therefore, we should take a different posture. Try this: wake up and say to God every morning, through the day, and then as your head hits the pillow, “God, I trust You.”
- Discernment is needed to detect wrong advice from friends.
Job had three long-standing friends who knew him well and were willing to give their honest opinions on the matter. That’s usually a recipe for success. “Outside perspective,” I call it in the coaching business.
The only problem is, their honest opinions were honestly wrong. Like the rest of us, they wanted to explain “why,” but they were simply wrong.
Don’t be closed minded when it comes to taking advice and receiving instruction. But at the same time, don’t give every opinion and point of view equal value. Be discerning.
People can know us well, have different perspectives from us, and even be well-meaning, but that doesn’t mean they’re right.
- When things completely unravel and all hope is gone, sound theology is all we can stand on.
As Tim Keller writes, we often short-circuit the “Why” question when things go wrong. We grasp at the answer that feels right or the answer that culture or friends give us.
Instead of grasping the near answer, we need to drill down to the deep answer. Cling to what we know to be true—even if that list has been reduced to the basics. That’s what Job did. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21). Job understood that God wasn’t just a higher version of the best of man.
The accusation was made that Job only worshiped God because everything was going well. Let the bad show up and he will leave you in a second, was the assertion.
But Job did not leave, nor did he take the bait. “I don’t know what God is doing, and I don’t know why,” he said. “But I know He is God, and I’m not. So, I’ll keep going to Him for answers.”
May we do the same.