The problem of evil is presented in our culture as the following question: if God is both a loving God and a powerful God, then why does He let bad things happen to good people? Some people respond to this question by denying that God is all-powerful or all-knowing (for example, open-view theists deny that God knows the future). They compromise the awesome nature of God because they feel that there is no excuse for God to allow suffering.
Job struggled with the same problem. Even though he was a righteous man, God allowed Satan to destroy all his possessions, kill off his children, and afflict him with boils. His friends were (falsely) convinced that Job must have sinned to deserve this, but Job “was righteous in his own eyes” (Job 32:1). He couldn’t understand why God would let this happen to him.
When God spoke to Job in chapters 38-41, He had three main points:
- I am wise (38-39).
- I am powerful (40-41).
- You are not.
God proved His wisdom by the fact that He created the world. He challenged Job with a heavy dose of sarcasm, asking him which of the two of them had created the earth by wisdom. “You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!” (38:21). He also reminded Job that He was the one who preserved the created order and who continued to govern the universe. “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion?” (38:31). God then moved on to describe His intimate knowledge and loving care of the animals that He created — lions, ravens, mountain goats, wild donkeys, wild oxen, ostriches, horses, and hawks. “Is the wild ox willing to serve you?” was His challenge to Job (39:9).
God then described two powerful animals, Behemoth and Leviathan. (I’ve heard these referred to as a dinosaur and an extinct marine reptile, respectively, since they don’t fit the description of any living animals.) Behemoth was “the first of the works of God” (40:19) incredibly strong and unafraid even of a powerful flooded river. And God couldn’t seem to get enough of Leviathan — “I will not keep silence concerning his limbs, or his mighty strength, or his goodly frame….On earth there is not his like, a creature without fear” (41:12, 33). Yet the creature is not more powerful than its Creator: “No one is so fierce that he dares to stir him up. Who then is he who can stand before me?” (41:11). God’s power is colossal, and even the terrible Leviathan is nothing in His sight.
Job was humbled before God. He admitted God’s superior strength (42:2) and wisdom (42:3). Even though God never explained to him why he was suffering, he saw that He could trust an infinitely wise and powerful God — a God who knew what He was doing.
I love this passage of scripture because it reminds me to think of my life from God’s perspective. I can get all worked up about my future or about the struggles I’m facing, but here I’m reminded that this is all part of God’s plan. He is wise and He is powerful. He knows better than me what to do with my life, lovingly bringing me both pain and pleasure.
Rather than viewing the problem of evil in terms of God’s power and love, perhaps we should join the Bible in focusing on God’s power and wisdom. We should remind ourselves that there is a wise purpose behind all the pain in the world and that God has made it clear to us in His Word.