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Comfort for the Coldest, Darkest Night of Job’s Soul

“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind…”

This would be appropriately scary given that God is awesome.

Remember, Job thought God had abandoned him. He was about to find out this wasn’t true. And he’s about to be humbled. God loves Job enough to speak to him and humble him. God graciously and personally discloses himself to Job “out of a whirlwind” in order to humble him. And Job very much needs to be humbled before Go, which God makes this quite clear in his opening sentence:

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.” Job 38:2-3

Job is not suffering because of his sin but in his suffering Job has spoken many words that have impugned God’s justice and goodness, many words that have been “without knowledge.” Job has “justified himself rather than God (Job 32:2).” 

So God informs Job its time for him to “man up” and “listen up.” Job has repeatedly and passionately voiced his desire for God to hear his case, answer his “why” questions, respond to his protest. Suddenly God appears, but not for the purpose of responding to Job’s questions but instead to ask Job questions, to interrogate Job, to put Job on trial:

“I will question you, and you make it known to me.”

God says, “I will be asking the questions and you will answer me.”

Humbling Job is clearly God’s purpose in speaking to Job.

God’s love for Job is clearly displayed in his humbling of Job.

And God does this in a most surprising way. He invites Job to consider the wisdom of God revealed in creation (Job 38-39). He invites Job to take a stroll through creation. It will be a walk with God he will never forget. The one who has found fault with God and argued with God (40:2) is convicted of his arrogance in relation to God and realizes, “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? (42:3).”

After this walk with God Job doesn’t have any more questions for God, just an appropriate confession to God. Yet, during this walk God did not answer Job’s agonizing “why” questions in relation to his suffering. Not once. In his commentary, David Atkinson draws our attention to this with these words:

“God gives no answer to Job’s questions, no apology for having been silent for so long, no hint about Satan’s wager, no apparent acknowledgement of Job’s struggle.”

Why wouldn’t God just tell Job what happened and why? This would have made all the difference for Job, or so it would seem. But there isn’t a word about what happened and why. Not a word.

So why not tell him why?

Francis Anderson helps us to understand why when he writes:

“It is one of the excellencies of the book that Job is brought to contentment without ever knowing all the facts of his case. God thrusts Job into an experience of dereliction to make it possible for Job to enter into a life of naked faith, to learn to love God for Himself alone. To withhold the full story from Job, even after the test was over keeps him walking by faith, not be sight. He does not say in the end, ‘Now I see it all.’ He never sees it all. He sees God (42:5).

Once Job sees God all of his why questions become unimportant.

Job would most likely agree with Christopher Morley who wrote:

“I had a million questions to ask God; but when I met him they all fled my mind and it didn’t seem to matter.”

God does not reveal to Job what happened and why but he does reveal himself to Job, he reveals his sovereignty, wisdom and goodness as revealed in creation and this convicts and comforts Job more deeply than if God had revealed to him why he was suffering.

Douglas O’Donnell effectively captures this distinct work of God in Job’s life when he writes:

“Job submits to God by acknowledging that the Lord is lovingly involved in the operations of an exceedingly complex universe. What Job now comprehends is that God and his mysterious providence are too wonderful to comprehend and that human perceptions of justice are not the scales upon which the righteousness of God is weighed. What he finally grasps is that ‘God has an inescapable purpose in whatever he does, even if that inescapable purpose is never revealed to the creature it effects.’ What Job finally saw clearly is that could not see clearly. His intellectual problem remains unsolved but unimportant, for in the midst of extreme pain, Job is spiritually cured by the revelation of God. And that is enough to heat the coal of his human heart on the coldest, darkest night of his soul.”

“Job is spiritually cured by the revelation of God. And that is enough to heat the coal of his human heart on the coldest, darkest night of his soul.”

All you have to do is live long enough and you will suffer.

All you have to do is live long enough and you will have agonizing “why” questions.

All you have to do is live long enough and your soul will experience cold nights and dark seasons.

But like Job, the revelation of God is more than sufficient to heat the coal of your heart on the coldest, darkest night your soul endures. Better warmth for your soul in the midst of painful and perplexing circumstances simply does not exist. This revelation of God comforted Job and made all the difference in his life. It can have the same effect on your soul. I pray it does.

This post is adapted from a sermon I preached this past Sunday at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville entitled “Out Of The Whirlwind, God Speaks.”