The Sovereignty of God in the Face of the Unknown
In my latest article, we discussed the suffering Job faced when he was tested for his righteousness. Though Job struggled through his trials, he ultimately repented of any sinful thoughts and feelings, and God restored him. We learned through Job's trials that, though we are human and will have similar experiences with volatile emotions warping and twisting our view of our benevolent Father in heaven, God's grace and mercy will always eclipse our misunderstanding of him. He is a good father, and he will take care of his children.
The book of Job touches also on the incredible power that God has over all things. In fact, it is this very sovereignty that corrects Job's misinterpretation of the situation. We sometimes forget that Job has no knowledge of the conversation that took place in the first two chapters of the book. God admires Job for his righteousness, and he has confidence in his servant's faith to withstand any trial that Satan wishes to impose on him. Job faces a test he does not know he is taking.
When we face trials and tribulations in our own lives, we can often times feel that the hardship is unwarranted. We will ask, "What did we do to deserve this? Why is this happening?" The fact of the matter is that we will sometimes not understand the origin of our suffering and pain. We will face hardship that has seemingly no explanation behind it.
Like Job, we might even question God's love for us and whether or not he has control of our lives.
These are very human questions to ask. We are a species that loves to look at cause and effect relationships. We seek fairness, sometimes more than we seek actual justice. Like Job, we will look to our righteousness as a plea, believing that, since we do not deserve certain hardships, God should outright deliver us from them. Like Job, we sometimes forget that God is sovereign, and we need to rely on his sovereignty when our path becomes uncertain.
In response to Job's mourning, God finally responds in the latter chapters of the book. The theophany, the long awaited reply, begins, "then the Lord "answered Job out of the whirlwind" (Job 38:1), and God begins to question Job. In some of the most beautifully poetic chapters of the Bible, God displays his sovereignty and mastery over all creation. "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?" (Job 38:4) "Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, and caused the dawn to know its place?" (Job 38:12). "Can you bind the chains of Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion?" (Job 38:31)
Contrary to what some readers might deduce, God is not belittling Job. God is granting his servant a much needed perspective. Of course Job was not there at the beginning of all things. He has no control over the morning or evening, and he cannot possibly reach up into the stars in the sky. Job has no power over all of creation.
But God does.
It is interesting, that though Job constantly pleads for God to explain why he is suffering, God does not answer his question. Instead, God displays the might of his power and the depth of his control. Yahweh is the creator of all things on heaven and earth, the conductor of all harmony and discord, and the master of all creatures, man and beast. It is in the midst of this discourse where Job realizes the error of his ways. G.K. Chesterton makes a note about how God handles his questioner:
By a touch truly to be called inspired, when God enters, it is to ask a number of questions on His own account. In this drama of skepticism God Himself takes up the role of skeptic. He does what all the great voices defending religion have always done. He does, for instance, what Socrates did. He turns rationalism against itself. He seems to say that if it comes to asking questions, He can ask some question which will fling down and flatten out all conceivable human questioners... In dealing with the arrogant asserter of doubt, it is not the right method to tell him to stop doubting. It is rather the right method to tell him to go on doubting , to doubt a little more, to doubt every day newer and wilder things in the universe, until at last, by some strange enlightenment, he may begin to doubt himself.
Instead of dismissing Job's doubts altogether, God instead brings Job to a point where he doubts his own doubts. How could Job possibly question the Almighty? If God indeed has sovereignty over all things, what else can be said about Job's situation other than that God is in control? Thus, the Lord's servant responds in 42:2-6:
“I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”
God did not promise to take Job's suffering away. He did not tell his servant that his trial was over. Job repented of his doubts because he now understood the nature of his Master. Elmer B. Smick again comments on Job's repentance, "Job thus rejects what he so recently said, for he now understands that God is his friend, not his enemy. So he is consoled and comforted though still suffering."
Many of our paths are uncertain. COVID-19 made obvious our overwhelming uncertainty of the future. Whether our jobs or our health are in question, regardless of the darkened corridors through which our minds meander, we have an unquenchable certainty in the figure of Jesus Christ. Though God may not answer our cries for clarity, we must be comforted in knowing that he holds all things together. Let us then repent of our fears and doubts and remember who God truly is. God's sovereignty is enough.