I was moved to write today’s post by last week’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy (season 14, episode 10–“Personal Jesus”). If you haven’t seen it yet, and you’re a faithful watcher like I am, spoiler alert! Don’t read any further. Go and watch it first, and then come back and read this post!
The episode begins with a voice-over that tells the story of the life of Job by one of the main characters, April Kepner. April’s character is a brilliant emergency room doctor.
She is overly perky, clever, always happy, and she is also a devout Christian. But by the end of this episode, April finds herself in a very dark place. She has a pretty nightmarish day at the hospital, and it leads to her questioning her faith along with everything she has ever come to know about God.
Job: A Faithful Servant
If you don’t know a lot about Job, here is his story in a nutshell: Job had been a faithful follower of God his entire life, and God had blessed him richly. But in an instant, everything he had worked for was taken away from him–his ten children, thousands of animals, and multitude of servants were all gone. And, as if that wasn’t enough, he was then stricken with disease and suffered from painful sores.
All of this happens within the first two chapters of Job. Then, for the next 35 chapters, Job cries out to God, asking question after question, but God is completely silent while Job continues in his grief and anguish. Nevertheless, Job remains faithful, and in the end God blesses Job with twice as much as he had before, and he lives another 140 years.
The Suffering We See Today
Back to how Grey’s fits into this: April’s day at the hospital somewhat mirrors the story of Job. All three of her patients that come in that day end up dying. A twelve-year-old boy that was shot by a police officer while climbing into the window of his own home after forgetting his key. An abusive ex-husband of a coworker, who basically causes his own death by giving himself a second concussion after being involved in a hit-and-run accident. And finally, the wife of her ex-fiance, who had just delivered their first child–a beautiful baby girl.
All this sorrow and tragedy leads April to struggle with a handful of difficult questions. Questions we’ve all probably asked at some point in our lives in one way or another. She delivers another voice-over at the very end of the episode that is quite harrowing: “Job asked the question too, but he kept the faith. And what did he get for it? Replacement children. P.T.S.D. Was it worth it to have been a faithful servant, or would it have been better to just curse God’s name from the beginning? Where was God throughout all of Job’s suffering and pain? He was winning a bet with Satan. Makes you wonder where he is through all the unfairness and inequity and cruelty in the world… Where is he now?”
Wow, that’s a lot to take in. I really hope the writers of the show keep April resilient, and that she remains firm in her faith. She’s been a character I’ve really appreciated and admired so far. But for now, I wanted to attempt to answer her questions. Brave, I know.
Who is Responsible for our Pain?
First, I want to point out something important: Satan was the cause of Job’s suffering. God allows hardships in our lives, He doesn’t ever cause them to happen. God created this world perfect; mankind caused sin and brokenness. We are to blame for all the crap that happens in the world today, not God.
Satan was trying to get Job to turn from God and curse His name by bringing loss and sickness upon him. When Job found out that all of his children, animals, and servants were dead, not only did he refuse to curse God’s name, but he fell down in worship. In chapter 1:21 Job says, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” Job didn’t even hesitate; he had just lost everything, yet nothing but praise and adoration came from his mouth. I want a faith like that!
When God Answers With Silence
Job remained strong in his faith, but as I mentioned earlier, he did question God. Questioning God is not a sin, but it does mean you have to be okay with His answer. Even if that answer is silence. And for Job, God had chosen silence, yet, he never waivers.
When God does speak, He changes the conversation and turns the questions back to Job. In chapter 38:3-4, God says, “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.” Job now realizes that he could never fully understand God’s ways, even if He did answer his questions. “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 42:3). He recognizes that God is so much bigger and wiser than he is, and that he could never come to understand why God works in the way He does sometimes.
Where is God?
To answer April’s question of where God was and where He is today: God was always right there, and He continues to be right here. Through all of Job’s suffering, He was there. Through all of the injustice, cruelty, and tragedy that happens in our world today, He is present. He is right here, waiting for us to run to Him so He can mend our hurting and broken hearts. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). God is ready to comfort us and give us peace, if we are willing to let Him.
As for why God allowed Job to experience all that sorrow and pain–that we can never understand. And why He continues to allow suffering in our world today–there’s no answer we can come up with for that, either. All we can do is remember that He is bigger than we are. He is wiser. He is so much more than we could ever comprehend. So, we can either get caught up in trying to understand why bad things happen, or we can put our complete trust in God and have peace in knowing that He’s already got things under control. Because even if it doesn’t seem like it in the right now, His ways always end up being better than our ways.