When something terrible occurs—a terrorist attack, a horrific accident, a grave diagnosis—our first instinct is often to ask, “Why?” Our response is natural. God has given human beings the gift of reason, and we are eager to use that gift to make sense of the world around us. But it is a mistake to presume that human reason can make sense of all things.
That was the downfall of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, the friends often referred to as “Job’s comforters.” That title, however, has an ironic quality; at best, they offered cold comfort. After disaster befell Job, they arrived full of the presumption that they could discern the reasons behind this catastrophe, which led them repeatedly and insistently to blame Job himself. But Job doggedly— and correctly—maintained his innocence until finally God answered him out of the whirlwind. And after that encounter, Job, the one whose “ears had heard” of God, could say, “Now my eyes have seen you” (v. 5).
Notably, God’s response never directly answers why such suffering has come upon Job. Instead, it gives him a vision of the world that is far more vast and wild than humans generally appreciate. “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail . . . ? What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed . . . ?” (38:22–24). Creation, God’s response suggests, is full of things we do not know and cannot fathom.
This leads Job to respond in great humility: “Surely, I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (v. 3). Thankfully, God does not expect us to understand all things. Rather, He asks that we trust His providence and goodness (v. 2).
God used the natural world to remind Job of the mysteries of the Creator. Both what we do and don’t understand about the world should reinforce our trust in God. When we learn more about science or medicine, we should marvel at our good Creator. And when we consider the mysteries yet unknown, we should trust His love and provision for us.