How Long, O Lord?
Jun 12, 2020 · Dave Bast
How long, o Lord?
That’s the question we’re all asking these days, isn't it? How long must I stay quarantined because of COVID-19? How long until I can hug my grandchildren? How long before we can go to work, go out to eat, gather with friends, go to church again? How long until sports return? How long will injustice continue? How long will the civil unrest go on? How long until we get back to life as “normal”?
It’s also the question God’s people asked over and over in the Bible, but no one asked it with more urgency than Job—a man whose story is synonymous with suffering. And this is where we turn to find answers to the “God-sized questions” suffering raises—questions about God and questions for God. Questions like, "Why does God allow me to suffer?," "Has God abandoned me?," "Will I be sad forever?," "Where are you, Lord?,” and "Why won't you help me?" In our Groundwork series, “Job and the Problem of Suffering,” we dig into the book of Job to wrestle with questions like these and strengthen our faith as we listen to how God answers Job’s laments.
Job Reflects Our Reality
The timeless story of Job resonates with believers because it reflects our human experience. Job shows us how physical or emotional suffering can unsettle us. Suffering, whether our own or that of a loved one, disturbs our thinking, undermines our faith, and can even throw us into depression. Suffering makes God seem distant and unresponsive when we cry out to him. It renders the well-meaning attempts of friends to comfort us merely painful to endure. Believers enduring all types of suffering recognize their own raw emotions and unanswered questions in Job’s voice.
Job Grows Our Faith
Studying the book of Job can deepen our understanding of God and strengthen our faith, especially when it feels like our pleas for explanation or revelation are unanswered. The pages of Job do not contain clear and simple answers to our deep questions about God’s purpose in allowing us to suffer. We do hear plenty of explanations from his companions, explanations we still hear well-intentioned comforters offer today, but the book of Job rejects these.
- “You’re getting what you deserve,” Job’s friends tell him. “God gives blessings in this life to good people, and he punishes the bad.” That’s simply not true, says the book.
- “There’s a reason for all this suffering you’re experiencing, Job. God always has a purpose.” Well, yes . . .but Job isn't told what the purpose is.
The fact is, throughout the story Job keeps asking God for an explanation but he never gets one, because explanations aren't what Job really needs. The Lord himself is what Job really needs. And that’s what he receives in the end.
Job Gives Us Hope
In these uncertain times, when we don’t know from one day to the next whether we’ll be sick or healthy, safe or at risk, or even whether we’ll live or die, we don’t need explanations or pat answers, not really. Many of our questions may not even have answers yet. But what we do need is the reassurance that we belong to God and that he is with us in the midst of our struggle, our fear, and our loss.
This is how the apostle put it: “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:7).
In a letter written to a suffering friend, Martin Luther reflected on this verse and pointed out that “Whether we live or die we are the Lord’s”―that’s the fundamental assurance that we belong to Christ in life and death. But, he also noted that if you take the apostrophe and capital L out of “Lord’s,” you get another truth: “Whether we live or die we are the lords.” Christ has been raised to the highest place of honor and authority, and we’ve been raised with him. You and I are the lords (and ladies)! God doesn’t just want us to survive, he wants us to thrive. He doesn’t mean for us only to hang on and try to make it through, he wants us to know victory and joy. “For all things are yours, whether . . . the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).
I invite you to join Scott Hoezee and me as we explore the profound mystery and wisdom of the book of Job in our Groundwork series, “Job and the Problem of Suffering.”
- Why, God, Why? - Job 1-3
- Is God Punishing Me? - Job 4-8
- Consoling the Suffering - Job 32-34
- Choosing Hope in Suffering - Job 13-21, esp. 19:23-27
- God Answers Job - Job 38-42
…and together we’ll discuss the truths of Scripture that give us the encouragement we need to endure the unknowns we’re experiencing and the assurance we need for confident faith. May we always know we are the Lord’s—and the lords!