In church on Sunday, we sang one of my favorite songs: “Behold Our God.” The second verse really caught my attention:
“Who has given counsel to the Lord?
Who can question any of His Words?
Who can teach the One who knows all things?
Who can fathom all His wondrous deeds?”
These words come from the Book of Job. After Job loses everything—his money, his family, and his health—his 3 friends come on the scene and try to comfort Him, basically telling him that his suffering is punishment for his many sins. Job defends himself, saying that his suffering isn’t a sign of God’s punishment; instead, Job says, his suffering is a sign of God’s arbitrariness toward him (see Job 30:19-22).
These finite men were trying to (unsuccessfully) explain the ways of an infinite God.
Eventually, God sweeps in and says to Job, “Why do you talk without knowing what you’re talking about?” (38:2, MSG). Another translation puts it, “Who is this who obscures My counsel with ignorant words?” (HCSB), and still another, “Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words?” (NLT).
Oh, how many times I question God’s wisdom with ignorant words!
Every time I think I know better than God what’s good for me, I’m trying to give counsel to the One who knows all things. Every time I convince myself that I’m suffering because God’s either punishing me or He’s forgotten about me, I’m talking without knowing what I’m talking about. Every time I get angry or frustrated and shake my fist at heaven because I think my suffering is meaningless and cruel, I’m questioning God’s wisdom.
The truth is, we only know a teeny, tiny fraction of the whole story God is writing in our lives, but God knows the story from beginning to end. The often quoted verse from Isaiah 55:8 is true—”My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine”—but when it comes down to it, I struggle to believe it. I still think I know what’s best for me. And my stubborn heart often questions God’s ways.
When God finally spoke to Job and rebuked him for his ignorance, He didn’t ever explain to Job why He had allowed such terrible suffering to enter his life. Instead, He listed the dozens and dozens of reasons why He is qualified to be the all-wise, all-knowing God and Job is not. The list is humbling to put it mildly. It’s a great reminder of how very small we are and how very great God is.
A few months ago, my mom gave me a wooden plaque with an Elisabeth Elliot quote on it. I have it hanging in my bedroom. It says, “My plea is let me be a woman, holy through and through, asking for nothing but what God wants to give me, receiving with both hands and with all my heart whatever that is.” I want this attitude in suffering—a trusting heart, not a proud heart that ignorantly questions God’s wisdom.
The heart that trusts in God doesn’t ask for explanations or go over every possible reason why God would allow suffering. It doesn’t try to understand the ways of an infinite, wise, and loving God. Instead, as Elisabeth Elliot says, it receives with open hands whatever God decides to give, knowing it’s given in love. The trusting heart doesn’t assume suffering is punishment or arbitrariness on God’s part; instead, it knows that a loving Father has promised to work even the hardest circumstances out for good, so it hopes against hope because of who God is.
If today you’re struggling to understand how the terrible suffering you’re enduring could possibly be a part of God’s good plan for you, lay down your need to understand God’s ways. Then choose to receive whatever He has allowed into your life with open hands and a heart that trusts Him, and leave the rest to Him. He is able, and He is in control.
This post originally appeared at Believing at Midnight, published with permission.