A popular phrase is “everything happens for a reason.” While the underlying sentiment behind this saying is positive, the phrase can sound insensitive to those who are currently suffering. This is because explanations alone can’t truly fulfill us when we are hurting, and that is if there is even a reason at all.
The Bible records that when Job was suffering, he and his three friends tried to come up with reasons. At first, Job confided his suffering to his friends and mentioned that he felt enough despair to wonder why he was even born. (Job 2,3) His friends respond by essentially telling Job that there must be a reason behind his suffering. From their understanding of God’s justice, they concluded that Job must have sinned and caused his suffering because He only punishes the wicked. Thus, amongst other things they told Job:
- “Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed?” (Eliphaz in Job 4:7 NIV)
- “Surely God does not reject one who is blameless or strengthen the hands of evildoers.” (Bildad in Job 8:20 NIV
- “My troubled thoughts prompt me to answer because I am greatly disturbed. I hear a rebuke that dishonors me, and my understanding inspires me to reply… Though the pride of the godless person reaches to the heavens and his head touches the clouds, he will perish forever, like his own dung; those who have seen him will say, ‘Where is he?’ (Zophar Job 20:1-7 NIV)
To each friend’s response, Job denied any sin and proclaimed that he was blameless. In chapter 32, Job and his friends stop speaking because they started to get angry at each other’s persistence to their own understanding. Unbeknownst to Job and His friends, God proves Job’s claim in Job 1:8 saying, “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
At first Job lamented and talked about how God had abandoned him, but later he vented his frustration to Him. Job could find no reason to justify his suffering, so told God, “I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me. You turn on me ruthlessly; with the might of your hand you attack me.” (Job 30:20-21 NIV) Amazingly, Job questioned God about his suffering without hardening his heart to Him and sinning. By the end of the book, Job is humbled by God because He explains to Job that His ways are beyond understanding. (Job 38-39) The universe is vastly complex and only God has the ability to sustain justice while providing for all life. After God revealed His thoughts to Job, he regained the hope for his future by believing in the Lord’s power and provision. (Job 42:1-6)
Romans 8:28 reads, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Goodness is defined by God’s standards only. Like Job’s friends any person can feel encouraged to tell others that suffering happens for a reason that makes sense to us. However, this verse is not referring to the reason behind situations, but to the hope God provides through them. The Lord blessed the latter half of Job’s life, not as a reward for his actions, but because the Lord has compassion on His children. John 3:16 reads, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Even if physical situations and their outcomes are disagreeable in our eyes, the Lord is the loving God of hope for His children. If we continue to have faith according God’s standards, then no matter what we are suffering through, He will let us live in everlasting joy and peace with Him in Heaven.