Why Is God Silent?
The Bible teaches a harsh and difficult lesson about the manner in which God deals with people. He is not obligated to provide certain comforts or luxuries in this life. The scriptures teach that God is not a respecter of persons. He doesn’t play favorites, and since we all fall short of God’s glory, we should all receive His judgments. However, though God is just, He is merciful and gracious. He does not treat us all as we ought to be treated. He does not punish us according to what we deserve. He does not punish us to the extent that we should be. Rather, God relents from His judgment for a time, affording us the opportunities to receive His forgiveness according to His grace. Thus, while God is loving, merciful, gracious, and patient to save the lost, those who He saves are still not worthy of any sort of special treatment. Our deliverance from the condemnation we should receive is FAR more than what we deserve.
This fundamental Biblical truth is hard to digest. Often times, as people we think that we should receive certain benefits and privileges in this life because we have been saved. It is common to think that, as children of God, we are entitled to a certain manner of living. This is flawed thinking. The scriptures teach that we must enter the kingdom of God through many trials. Jesus promised that His people would suffer for His namesake. The prototype of our salvation is Jesus Himself, who took the form of flesh in order to overcome the temptations of the world according to the righteousness of the Father up to the point of death by the cross. Salvation didn’t come comfortably or easy then, and it doesn’t now either. The history of the church of Jesus Christ proves that to be true.
Processing this truth can cause great friction and conflict within our minds. Our flesh desires comfort. Human habit is to pursue the path of least resistance. Yet, the way to the kingdom of God is on a straight and narrow road that is difficult. The testimony of Job provides an intense illustration of how hard it can be to walk down this road. In Job 30:20-31 the Bible describes how Job really wrestled with the difficulty of serving the Lord. Job reflected on the early season of his life when he prospered. God provided a substantial amount of increase and material comfort to enable Job in an outwardly glorious manner of service. Job received great protection according to the providential care of God. Job received great riches that he used to serve the needs of God’s people. Job received great wisdom from God that garnered the respect of his peers and others. Job had the privilege of providing for his family, nourishing their spiritual life, and being a great example of God’s mercy by his material wealth and the way he used it.
Job then talked about the immediate switch in his circumstances. Job quickly lost his family, his riches, and his influence. Though God’s protection remained, it didn’t seem that way. It seemed like God unleased the armies of hell against Job even though God had set specific parameters for the enemy attacks against Job. Though Job maintained his wisdom, Job lost the respect his wisdom commanded because of the manner of his appearance. The flip in his testimony caused him to be despised so that no one respected Job anymore, and his entire ministry, as he knew it, was lost. The dramatic shift in circumstances was hard for Job to process in his mind. He had the wisdom of God, but still had to deal with the factors of life with a human brain. Job tried to reason things out in his mind according to his own understanding, and scripture shows that his own understanding – while natural to human thinking – was not sufficient to show him the full picture of God’s work. In other words, Job couldn’t understand God’s work and so made up his mind to determine other things about God that weren’t true.
First, in Job 30:20-31, Job figured that God was ignoring him. Job testified that he cried out to God, but God didn’t answer him. Even though he knew that God acknowledged his existence, he felt that God’s silence to his cries was cruel. It is true that God did not answer Job’s requests, but that doesn’t mean that God was ignoring him and being cruel. Recall that Job’s primary request was to die. He felt that his dramatic change in living circumstances was emblematic of a relationship change with God. Job felt that he had become God’s enemy, even though he couldn’t identify any particular sin that would have caused a change in their relationship. Job felt there was more mercy and grace available for him in the afterlife rather than life in this world. Job wanted to escape the pain of this life. Job wanted to escape the shame of this life. Job trusted God to bless him in eternal life, but didn’t want anything to do with the pain he endured in this life.
This is the request that God ignored. God did not honor Job’s request to die. God did not honor Job’s request to be removed from shame, pain, and frustration. God was not ignoring Job’s cries, but did not fulfill his requests. This is because God was teaching Job about the greatness of His sovereignty, the power of His redemption and restoration, and the miracle of His Messianic promises. Job was being used as a prophetic picture of Jesus Christ through his suffering. Why should God remove Job from suffering if his life was being used in such an eternally and spiritually profound way? Why should God honor Job’s request if God’s plan is FAR better and transcendent compared to Job’s pleas? Job didn’t consider the eternal scope of his suffering. If not for Job’s suffering and the extent of it, we would not have the benefit of his testimony today in scripture. If God had listened to Job and honored his request, we would not have the awesome witness of God’s sovereign power and gracious restoration. The point is that, when it seems like God isn’t doing what we want, it’s usually because God’s purposes are better than our desires. This doesn’t mean that our circumstances will improve, but that He will be greatly glorified by His work in our lives – just as He deserves to be.
Job felt that God was opposing him. Job felt like God had lifted him up to the wind to be tossed around like nothing. Job felt that God had purposefully and maliciously spoiled his material success and prosperity. Job knew that at some point, God would bring him to death, but Job was not satisfied with the manner in which God was doing that. What was it that made Job’s life so difficult? It is true that physical pain is difficult. It is true that mental strain and frustration is difficult. It is true that emotional distress is difficult. It is true that spiritual quietness is difficult. The Bible shows that Job’s difficulties were compounded because Job had the wrong expectations from God. As Job complained about how he felt by God not honoring his request, he went on to try to explain how he felt entitled to certain benefits as a servant of God. Job explained how he served the poor. Job explained how he aided those in need. Job was physically, mentally, financially, emotionally, and spiritually invested into those in need. The Bible explains that Job was an exceptional servant of the Lord, committed to selflessly serving the needs of others. But was his service as selfless as he thought?
Though Job didn’t expect anything in return from the people he served, the testimony of Job 30:20-31 shows that Job might have unfairly expected things from God. Was Job entitled to better treatment from God because of the way he served God? Was Job entitled to certain benefits because of the ways God used him? Was Job supposed to be exempt from certain difficulties because of his affection for others? Job was willing to acknowledge God as sovereign, but had a hard time with the manner in which He exercised His sovereignty. Since God is sovereign as the Creator of all things, He is like a potter, and we, the clay. Does not the potter have the right to use the clay however he sees fit? Is certain clay better than other clay, being more entitled to better usage? Is not all clay, at the end of the day, just dirt and water? If not for the utilization of the clay by the potter, the clay remains worthless. Thankfully, our Father is able to extract righteousness and glory out of clay that is used in ways that seem good or bad.
It is true that Job served the Lord well before his life was filled with tragedy. Still, the outward appearance of prosperity did not mean that Job was an exceptional super Christian, entitled to comfort forever, absent difficulty and suffering. God never promised that. God promised deliverance from hellfire through forgiveness of sins unto eternal life. The essence of His blessings come in eternity, and He is the One that determines the time and manner in which we receive His inheritance. Just because we serve the Lord in some capacity doesn’t mean that God is suddenly obligated to give us what we want, when we want it, and how we want it. Job figured that his service was so good in the past that he was deserving of God’s favor in a manner that was beyond the truth of God’s promises. Job was never deserving of God’s favor. No one is. That is why we are saved by grace. Job might have been entitled to certain benefits as a blameless and upright man, but those benefits are eternal in nature. Thus, Job did not have the right to demand certain affections from God, or expect God to honor every request he prayed for; even if that request was for mercy through death.
Therefore, Job was stuck dealing with the pain of his circumstances. He was forced to deal with his shame and embarrassment of his condition. He was forced to endure the pain of his physical afflictions. He was forced to persevere through the mental strain and frustration of the people around him, and yes, the apparent “silence” from God. Does that make God cruel? Does that make God mean? Does that make God unfaithful? When we consider the full context of scripture and learn that Job was not only restored in this life two-fold, but that he also inherited the eternal benefits of God, of course the Lord is not cruel, mean, or unfaithful! The Bible shows that the predominant factor that intensifies our suffering has nothing to do with God. Instead, we tend to think that our lives should be one way, when God never made such promises to guarantee that sort of living. We tend to think God will do one thing, and when He doesn’t, that God is against us. God is only against His children when His children desire that which is harmful to our spiritual integrity and the eternal purposes He bestows upon us. Otherwise, how can we question the God who swore upon Himself to forgive all our offenses, conform us to His image, and change us unto His glory so that we can be equipped to endure the magnitude of His eternal blessings? Is God really against us, or have we unfairly expected God to go beyond the favor He’s already given?