BLOG: (August 1-7) The Book of Job, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him"
I have often heard people say that we shouldn’t question God, that we shouldn’t ever ask “Why me?” I disagree. I love to ask that question. I want to know the reason for things I go through. I don’t always get an answer, but when I do it always helps to shift my perspective and give clarity to help me know what God wants me to do with the trial I am facing. I have gotten some of my best, clearest answers from Heaven when I have asked God “why?”
Job had every reason to ask “why me.” He was a good man - one of the best. The Lord told Satan, “there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil” (Job 1:8). We are told over and over in the scriptures that if we obey God’s commandments, we will “prosper in the land.” And Job had obeyed God’s commandments, and he had prospered. But then his trials began.
So...why do bad things happen to good people?
I have several dear friends who are going through incredibly difficult periods in their lives, and I have wondered why they are going through what they are going through. These are incredibly strong people that I admire very much. They have strong faith and testimonies of Christ, they keep His commandments, and yet they are struggling to keep going day by day, and it breaks my heart. As I have pondered this question - why do bad things happen to good people? - I have learned that the simplest answer is also the most profound: because God loves them.
That may seem counterintuitive. It did to me. But I am starting to understand that loving someone doesn’t mean you want them to be free from trials or hardship. No, it means you want them to grow. You desire their eternal happiness and well-being, not just their comfort now. You want what is best for them. And you want to do whatever you can to help them reach their potential.
God loved Job enough to let him suffer, and He loves us enough to let us suffer sometimes too.
I love this quote by Orson F. Whitney:
No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God.
I don’t believe it is always God’s will when bad things happen. But we live in a fallen world, and suffering goes with the territory, and the beautiful thing is that no matter the source of our suffering, God can always use it for our good, because He loves us.
Here are three lessons that we can all learn as we go through the Job moments in our lives. I say “can” learn, because this knowledge is not automatic - we have to choose to learn it, and sometimes fight for it. But it is available to us in every trial and difficult circumstance we face.
Job’s assertion is powerful: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” (Job 13:15). There have been times in my life when I had to exercise (on a smaller scale) faith like that just to keep going from day to day. I think many of us have felt this way. There comes a point in every life when faith becomes a choice. Maybe it’s always a choice, but I know for me there have been times when it came easily and times when I absolutely had to choose it, with intention and sometimes with fear, not knowing what was ahead, not knowing what was going to happen, but choosing to trust God anyway. There are times in every life when faith is HARD. But we draw upon past experiences and remember how the Lord has guided us in the past and it has been, not just good, but exactly what we needed. We hold on to what we already know of Him, to the relationship we already have with Him. And we keep walking. And when we are through it, we can look back and see, again, that He was with us all the time, that He was leading us to somewhere better, and again our faith in Him is strengthened. We won’t always see that while we are in the trial. But when we choose to exercise faith, even (and probably especially) when it is hard, blessings come, strength comes, and we find the help we need to keep going one more day. And we learn to trust God, because we find that He was there for us the whole time, even when we didn’t see Him.
Job had to fight for this, and often we do too. His friends gathered around him in his misery and told him he must be a sinner to be suffering so much. (Does that ever happen today?) Job was sad that they would judge him, but he still didn’t doubt himself. He knew he was righteous. He knew God knew it. And he held onto that.
Did Job know, fully, what he was capable of before this trial? I think he probably didn’t. But he learned from his incredibly difficult experiences just how strong he really was, and that he could endure without losing his faith, no matter what.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell shared this thought in his book “All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience” (which is an excellent book and so helpful for giving perspective in times of adversity):
The future duties to be given to some of us in the worlds to come by an omniscient God will require of us an earned sense of esteem as well as proof of our competency. Thus the tests given to us here are given not because God is in doubt as to the outcome, but because we need to grow in order to be able to serve with full effectiveness in the eternity to come.
Further, to be untested and unproven is also to be unaware of all that we are. If we are unknowing of our possibilities, with what could we safely be entrusted? Could we in ignorance of our capacities trust ourselves? Could others then be entrusted to us?
Thus the relentless love of our Father in heaven is such that in His omniscience, He will not allow the cutting short some of the brief experiences we are having here. To do so would be to deprive us of everlasting experiences and great joy there. What else would an omniscient and loving Father do, even if we plead otherwise? He must at times say no.
Can you look back and see the strength of character it took for you to persist in your faith in the face of great adversity, to hold on to your knowledge of and trust in yourself and your ability to keep going no matter what? You are stronger than you think, and God wants you to know it. Trust Him, and trust yourself. You can make it, and He will help you.
As a young teenager, I had a really difficult year during which one of my two best friends moved away, and the other started making different choices than I wanted to make. I had to choose whether to go with my friend down the path she was taking - which I knew was not right for me - or to change friend groups and sit on the fringes of the new group for the rest of the year. I chose to join the different group of friends, who were friendly enough but somehow I always felt like an outsider with them. I was quiet and shy, and didn’t feel comfortable inserting myself into places where I didn’t feel wanted. So I spent a lot of time feeling lonely and overlooked. It was really hard for me, especially at that stage of my life when being accepted felt so important. But I learned from that experience how it feels to be lonely, and what it feels like to sit alone. I learned to notice the people around me and to reach out and welcome them, so they didn’t have to feel the way I had felt. I became a better person and a better friend because of that difficult period in my life, and to this day I am grateful for it and for all that it taught me.
There will be times in your life when you get to learn hard lessons that you never wanted to learn. They will bring you to your knees, and you will ask, why? And sometimes the answer will be, because I need you to know what this feels like, so you can help other people who will feel like this. You will be able to help them through their hard times because you have been where they are, you have walked this road before them, and you know the way.
God is omniscient and omnipotent.
Neal A. Maxwell, in the book I cited earlier, spent a long time talking about the importance of knowing that God is omniscient and omnipotent. We have to understand that He truly knows what is best for us, and that He truly is able to work out all things for our good. That is the only way that the hard things in our lives can make sense. He said this:
The thermostat on the furnace of affliction will not have been set too high for us – though clearly we may think so at the time. Our God is a refining God who has been tempering soul-steel for a very long time. One day we will praise God for taking us near to our limits – as He did His Only Begotten in Gethsemane and Calvary.
I know that God is real and that He knows and loves us perfectly. We can trust Him, and we can trust ourselves, and we can make it through whatever we are called to pass through. He will be in it with us, and He will use it to bless us and bring us to somewhere even better than before.
"So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning…" (Job 42:12.)