Things too wonderful for me to know
Shortly after we lost the twins, I dove deep into the book of Job through slowly reading the text in multiple translations, studying supporting scriptures from both the old and new testaments, and following along with Proverbs 31 Ministries' “Suffering and Sovereignty” experience guide . After saying goodbye to our fourth and fifth babies all at once, the study immediately caught the attention of my broken heart. I was hurt and confused, but I knew I needed to lean into God and cover myself in His word. He had met me there before and I knew He had never left.
I had read the story of Job multiple times, but it had never truly left an impression on me until then. (I encourage you to dive into the book of Job for yourself, but I’ll paraphrase to catch you up to speed.) Job was a righteous man who, although not perfect, was living a righteous life in line with God’s will. His righteousness both pleased God and caught the eye of the evil one, Satan. One day, Satan approaches God and says, “Job only praises you because his life is so good. He has riches, land, children, good health. If you take those things away, Job would surely turn his back on you” (paraphrased). God responds to this challenge by giving Satan permission to harass Job and take everything from him, except for his life. (It’s so interesting to me that Satan had access to approach God in heaven and also that Satan had no power without God’s permission--but that’s a whole other topic for another time.) Almost immediately, Job loses nearly everything including his children, his livestock, and his health. Chapters 4-37 contain a dialogue between Job and the friends who come to “comfort” him. His friends are convinced that Job’s misfortune is a result of hidden sin and repeatedly tell Job to turn from his wicked ways and repent. Meanwhile, poor Job is at a complete loss. He curses his own life and wishes he were never born. “I’ve searched my heart! If you know something I don’t know, please tell me so I can repent,” Job basically pleads (again, paraphrasing). All the while, Job cries out for a Redeemer--he cries out for the coming Christ. “If only there were an advocate to stand in my place and argue my righteousness before the Father,” he cries.
After chapters and chapters of Job suffering, pleading with God to put him out of his misery, and receiving misplaced advice from well-meaning supporters (can anyone else relate?), God finally speaks to Job in chapter 39. Rather than answer all of Job’s questions or give a thorough explanation for his suffering, God simply tells Job of who HE is. He asks Job, “Were you there when I created the earth and set the sun in its place?” He continues to list the magnificent, unimaginable things He has accomplished and asserts his sovereignty. He simply tells Job of His character, and who Job is in light of that--his mortality and humanness in light of God’s grandeur.
Job’s response in chapter 42 left a deep imprint on my broken heart, as I wrestled and dove into this study.
Job 42:1-6 ESV
Then Job replied to the Lord:
“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me to know.
“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
My ears had heard of you
But now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
And repent in dust and ashes.”
Like Job, I was experiencing God’s sovereignty and majesty, as well as my smallness in comparison. He was continuing to deepen my understanding of just how big He is, how small I am, and how amazing it is that we now had an advocate (Jesus) to stand in the gap and allow us to have a relationship with such a great, great Father. Like Job, I had spoken of things I did not understand. I had confidently asserted that I knew what God was up to in our lives. I had confidently asserted that I would never bear children again. I had confidently assumed that I was in control of my life, when in fact God was the one in the driver’s seat. Like Job, my ears had heard of God and I knew who He was--I truly knew Him, yet in our suffering I was seeing Him for all He was. And what I was seeing wasn’t awful--sure, it was big and untamed, yet it was wonderful and comforting. Like Job, I felt repentant and reverent.
Who am I assume I knew what God is up to? Who am I to confidently declare that I know what my future holds? Who am I to put God in such a small, safe box? God can do all things --even things that feel impossible--in our lives. And when our circumstances seem bleak, He remains powerful, loving, and good. He gives good gifts to His children--even when the "good" is painful or uncomfortable. I want to be like Job--I want to rest in the answer of WHO God is, even when I do not have the answer to the "why" questions.
Several months ago, I wrote this passage onto a notecard and have carried it around since, regularly meditating on God’s sovereignty, Christ’s atonement, and my identity in light of both. May the reality of WHO God is be enough for me in all circumstances.
*Photo courtesy of Austin Prock via Unsplash.