“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” - Job 42:2-3
Years ago, I was tasked with doing a homework project where I needed to pick a book of the Old Testament and create an outline of the entire book. It was called a ‘Diagrammatic Summary,” and I essentially had to trace the structure of the narrative—looking for key themes, sub-themes, and imagery—and attempt to creatively collate it onto a poster.
I chose the book of Job, and I remember interpreting the process of Job’s grief into the image of a tornado. I came across this poster the other day and was reminded of the story’s significance in the Christian journey.
Job had everything. He acted as a priest for his family. He was righteous and blameless. His life was full, abundant, plentiful.
But then everything was whisked away, seemingly within a matter of hours, and all Job can offer in the face of suffering is accusing grief. “You snatch me up and drive me before the wind,” says Job. “You toss me about in the storm,” (30:22).
Where is God? Why is this happening? How is this fair? What are we to do when we’re caught up in the midst of a storm?
When God (finally) answers Job out of the storm, His charge to Job is initially jarring: “Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?”
Wait, what? Your plans? You have a plan in all of this mess? And now you’re confronting me because I’m messing it all up by not having enough knowledge to see it?
This feels a little harsh.
But it appears that the writer of Job may be pointing us to a habit we often revert to in seasons of grief or pain: we blot out God’s plans because we can’t fathom what good could come from it. We can’t imagine what kind of good could come from this. We obscure or hide His purposes because we’d prefer to be upset.
And yet in his vulnerability, Job didn’t turn inwards on himself. His gaze was still fixated—even in lament—on the author of his salvation, on the God who he knew to be faithful, whose purposes could not be thwarted.
Despite his great suffering, Job’s words in the verses above highlight a trust that goes beyond human understanding. Job is challenged by God’s sovereignty and humbly admits that perhaps he can’t see the whole picture.
“Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”
How many of us would be able to muster up such trust, such humility, and such vulnerability in the face of grief and suffering? To understand that we can’t see the whole picture, and to trust that such ignorance is actually wisdom?
Where is the space to actually praise God for what we don’t know? When life feels empty, or stretched thin, or frail? When we’re limping from one task to the next? When we can’t find contentment no matter how greatly we seek after it?
As William Temple puts it, “It is hard to know what one’s faith is worth until some severe test comes along.”
It is one of the most powerful acts of strength known to us—that when trials come, we still obey, we still trust, and we still surrender to the purposes of God. And something incredible happens when we choose, in the midst of the storm, to praise and be thankful.
Prayer: Living God, help me to find you in the storm. May I trust that all things (not just some things) work together for good—for your good purposes—for all those who love you. Help us to love you as you love us, even in the trials. In Christ, amen.