In Night, the seminal autobiographical novel about his experience in Nazi concentration camps, writer Elie Wiesel says this: “Some of the men spoke of God: His mysterious ways, the sins of the Jewish people, and the redemption to come. As for me, I had ceased to pray. I concurred with Job! I was not denying His existence, but I doubted His absolute justice.”
Because it deeply resonated with his own experiences with tragedy and suffering, Wiesel publicly lectured on the book of Job throughout his career as a professor and Nobel Prize-winning author.
As I was researching Wiesel’s work on Job, I remembered reading Night in middle school. Then, I had a second thought, one that made my stomach drop and my eyes flood with tears. I realized that one day, my daughter is going to read Night. One day, she is going to find out about the Holocaust. She’ll read about about slavery and Jim Crow and 9/11. She’ll find out about war, famine, genocide, opioid overdoses, and school shootings. One day, she will learn about suffering. And even harder still to imagine, one day, she herself will suffer.
Where will God be when she learns about these things? And can I trust Him not only with my own suffering, but with my precious baby girl’s?
When my heart wavers and falters on the edge of faith, brought on by suffering and fear, I know I cannot stand on my own feelings. I must stand in faith, which is a gift of the Spirit, and I must pray unceasingly for Him to strengthen it. I must stand on the unwavering, infallible Word of God. Here is what it teaches me:
1) God is just and good. He controls the wind and waves, the leviathan and behemoth, and every living creature.
2) His Son Jesus, who is God incarnate, knew suffering here on earth, just as we do. But the suffering He endured was infinitely greater than anything we might bear, as He took on the weight of the world’s sins.
Suffering belongs to all of us, through all time. One of the gifts that comes with reading Job through the lens of the New Testament is knowing that his story of suffering is our story and that Jesus came to secure true righteousness for all who believe in Him.
God’s justice is absolute. In the depths of suffering, it is no wonder we question it. God speaks to Job, “Would you really challenge my justice? Would you declare me guilty to justify yourself?” (Job 40:8). Would we?
We can trust God with our suffering because He is the Creator and King of everything. But we can also trust God with our suffering because Jesus suffered, bearing all of our sorrows to the cross.
He himself bore our sicknesses,
and he carried our pains;
but we in turn regarded him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced because of our rebellion,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on him,
and we are healed by his wounds (Isaiah 53:4–5).