“But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue my case with God.” — Job 13:3
Two days ago, I watched my daughter die. Seeing one’s child slowly die forces a re-examination of all that one holds sacred yet easily takes for granted — life, love, God. My ordeal has drawn me closer to a particular biblical character for whom circumstance has led to an in-depth scrutiny of self and God. Thinking and talking about Job’s struggles will hopefully assist me in sorting out my own present agony.
Job was not so much a person as he was any person who had life going his way and who acknowledged God as the source of the blessings. At God’s boasting of Job’s faith, Satan suggested, “It is easy to trust God when one has everything going his way. However, take away the objects of his joy and soon his faith will die.” Then it happened. Tragedy struck Job. He lost his children, his wealth, and his health.
Three friends came to Job’s aid. Their words proved to be on a par with one who would throw a drowning man an anchor. These friends were convinced that all personal tragedy had but one cause — personal sin. They implored Job to make his confession. For nearly thirty chapters Job argued with them, claiming that while he was not perfect, he was innocent of any wrongdoing which would merit such punishment. Tired of their shallow explanations, Job shouted, “If only I could present my case to God himself.” In the end this was exactly what he got. Job had his day in court with God.
After those three friends exhausted their defenses, a fourth person spoke. He was a young man who, in listening to this endless arguing, had been angered by both sides. Job claimed his suffering resulted from God’s injustice, while the three-man inquisition claimed it was due to Job’s sin. The fourth voice, which belonged to Elihu, said both explanations were inaccurate. There was something more profound happening to Job than either Job or his friends realized. Finally God spoke directly to Job. God did not accuse nor condemn Job for his arguing spirit. God simply raised the question that must be faced anytime creation challenges Creator. It was the question of perspective. “Can the clay tell the potter what to do?” The story ended with Job acknowledging that he was the clay and God was the potter. The epilogue revealed Job experiencing the restoring power of God in his life. The joy, the hope, the love, the peace we all long for and need to sustain us were restored to Job.
The dialogue in the Book of Job has all the drama of a courtroom setting. While this extraordinary story can be studied from many vantage points, I approach it from the angle of conflict. The specific conflict in mind is the inner struggle of faith with which Job wrestled in trying to sort out the pieces of the scrambled puzzle that had been dumped in his lap.
Recently a friend gave me a book written by preacher John Claypool. The title, Tracks of a Fellow Struggler, was certainly fitting for me. The tracks of my struggles paralleled those of John Claypool with amazing closeness. He lost a young daughter to cancer. Her name was Laura. He recalled a note received from a friend during the final days of his Laura’s life. This friend wrote, “I have no word of explanation for the suffering of the innocent. I fall back on the idea that God has a lot to give an account for.” God has a lot to give an account for in the tragedies which befall the innocent. For some, that statement may border on the edge of heresy. For others of us, it borders on the edge of our bruised and broken hearts.
For over two weeks I watched my daughter slowly waste away. First she lost the ability to sit, then the ability to swallow, then the ability to speak, then the ability to move anything except her eyes and tongue, then her ability to see. I prayed throughout that she would lose her ability to breathe. During this time, an image filled my mind, an overwhelming image. It featured God on the witness stand in a courtroom with me as a hounding prosecutor seeking to unravel the twisted threads of a great injustice. This image did not originate with me. Others have shared it, not the least of whom was God’s own Son. In his moment of greatest anguish and confusion, Jesus cried out from a cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” However, it was Job who most fully incarnates my image of God on the witness stand. For it was Job who pleaded, “But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue my case with God.”
That is my desire, to argue my case with God. I have been engaged in this very process. I believe I have a strong case against the injustice done to my daughter and to me. I share with you some of my private arguments and the responses which God has given me through my reflections, my faith, and my reading of the Scriptures. What follows is a dialogue between me and God. It is a running debate which certainly is not finished. So I share my findings to date. Imagine that I am the prosecutor arguing my case in the courtroom.
Prosecutor: I call to the witness stand the defendant in this case — God, who is accused of a gross and cruel injustice. Please reveal your identity to the court.
God: I am the Almighty, creator, sustainer, redeemer.
Prosecutor: Almighty God, for what reason did you create us?
God: I created for one very simple reason, love. I created you out of my love.
Prosecutor: So it was your love for us that brought us into being. Does your love move beyond creation? Do you continue to sustain us, to care for us, out of love?
God: Yes.
Prosecutor: Well, then, perhaps you can help me understand why your love has not sustained and cared for my daughter. Have the Deists been right all along? You created, then you stepped back into retirement, no longer active in the events of our world and our lives.
God: Many believe that. However, I do not believe you do. Think back over your life, Mr. Prosecutor. Recall the opportunities, the disappointments, the milestones. On those past occasions, you acknowledged my presence, my involvement. Can you honestly deny all that now? Can you deny my hand in your life?
Prosecutor: Well then, maybe your activity is not as benevolent as we think it is. Maybe the fruit of your hand is bitter not sweet. Maybe your works are no different from any of our works, a mixture of good and evil.
God: Before I respond, we need to define what is meant by those words good and evil. Most people I have observed define as “the good” only those things which they like, those experiences which please them and bring immediate pleasure. Thus their definition of evil is anything that blocks the attainment of their good, their joy and enjoyment. Both good and evil become totally subjective and defined solely on the basis of self.
Prosecutor: How can life be otherwise? How else can one define good and evil apart from personal experience?
God: Mr. Prosecutor, you must begin to strip away this thin veneer you call faith, a faith which looks to me only for personal pleasure and gain. You must begin to reach for meaning that transcends the present circumstances. Good and evil have a meaning far greater than your pleasure and your sorrow. Many in the midst of personal tragedy have called me an evil, cruel God. They do so when they view the events of life solely from the vantage point of the moment, wanting clear crisp answers for every dilemma now. Faith will not grant such a wish. Faith gives one an eternal perspective which is not offended by the mystery of the moment’s events.
Prosecutor: God, you used the word mystery. Perhaps you are no more than my own creation to fill the intellectual gaps and provide an explanation for life’s mystery. Let me say it more directly. God, do you really exist as the all-powerful sovereign of the universe, or are you only my mind’s and heart’s attempt to explain the unexplainable?
God: Again, my answer comes by way of asking you to reflect upon the awesomeness of life and the events of your life. Do you believe that I am the creation of your purposes? Do you find comfort in thinking that you are the master of your own destiny, and humanity the master of the world’s destiny? Or will you believe that you are the creation of my purposes? The choice is yours. I will not make it for you.
Prosecutor: I want to get to the pressing question at hand. Earlier you identified yourself as the sustainer, the caring protector, of your creation. What happened that you withdrew your care from my family? Why have we lost favor in your eyes?
God: On what grounds do you make such accusations? Am I known to you only through your circumstances? Do you call me a caring sustainer only when health and happiness prevail? Do I cease to be good and loving the moment hardship strikes? Cannot my purposes and promises exceed your circumstances and your understanding of your circumstances?
Prosecutor: I agree with your logic; but why, in your greatness, did you not intervene to change my circumstances? Why did you not reverse the progression of Laura’s cancer and remove its plague? Certainly such action is within your power.
God: Humanity demands freedom in life, the opportunity to be more than puppets on some fatalistic, predetermined treadmill. In my love I have made you more than marionettes. Yet the moment I allow life to run its course you cry, “Foul,” complaining about the path life takes you. You want two things that cannot go together — life’s absolute freedom and my absolute control.
Prosecutor: God, if you are the loving creator and sustainer as you claim, why have you taken from me that which is mine, my daughter, the source of so much joy? An injustice began the moment you began to take what belonged to me.
God: Mr. Prosecutor, you speak as if you possess the power and rights over creation. Let me ask you something. Were you there when I brought the world into existence and gave humans their being? Were you the one, and not I, who gave Laura life? You have become indignant about losing something that never belonged to you in the first place. Granted she was yours for a time, but never forget, she has been and will be mine for all time.
Prosecutor: God, I speak now from my heart rather than my mind. I put away the mind’s arguments and my heart cries out, “You do not know what it is like!” You have no idea what it is like to watch your child slowly die. You have no idea how I am feeling, how I am hurting.
God: You forget that I do know what it is like to lose a child, an only child.
Prosecutor: I am aware of the death of your Son. Do you not see that is my point? You are removed from our suffering. Your Son suffered and died, but what is that to the Son of God? What was death to one who had the resurrection awaiting Him three days later? It is different for you.
God: Wait a minute, Mr. Prosecutor. You do not think His suffering was real? You doubt that His death was terrifying to Him and agonizing to me?
Prosecutor: I do not deny the reality of His death. However, He had the resurrection awaiting Him. He had hope within His grasp.
God: Is not that same hope available to you? You need more than a creator and sustainer who can guard life as it is this moment. You need a redeemer who can insure life and love beyond the moment, who can fulfill this life’s unfulfilled dreams. I can restore that which is broken, save that which is lost, resurrect that which is dead. I give life and I give new life.
Prosecutor: I believe that, but still I do not understand why my daughter must be the experiment for the theory. It does not make sense that this should be tested on a three-year-old, a child who never knew what it is to run or ride a bike. I do not understand such happenings.
God: Nor will you fully understand. You said you are now speaking from the heart not the mind. This is the condition I have wanted you to reach. Your mind demands explanations and answers. Yet the greater need is of the heart. You need meaning in tragedy more than understanding of tragedy. You need love to fill the void. You need hope in a painfully depriving world. You ask my reasons. They are beyond you. Instead, I give you something useful, something well within your grasp. I give you myself. I am at the center of all life. I can bring meaning to the most perplexing mysteries. I ask of you but one thing, that you trust me. No matter how confusing and painful the moment might be, trust me. I could have given answers to your questions; but answers would not have made any difference. You do not need my answers. You need me.
Prosecutor: You are right, God. I do need you. I need your presence more than I need an explanation. I need your love even more than Laura’s love, your hope in the face of irreplaceable loss, your meaning in the midst of my confusion. I have been so engrossed in my love for Laura’s life that I have lost sight of your love for her life and my life and all of life. I have been clutching at Laura’s life as if it were my right. I have forgotten that it has been my privilege. What claims, what demands can I lay upon a gift? Although I wanted her for a lifetime, I realize I did not deserve her for a minute. Laura, like all of life, is a gift. It is for me to receive the gift and cherish it dearly while it is with me, remembering there will always be that mysterious gap of understanding between Life’s Giver and life’s recipients, between the Potter and the clay. I withdraw my case and ask the court that my statements be struck from the record. In their place, I request the following to be entered. Here I stand, still confused, hurting, angry, afraid, lonely; yet grateful, trusting and hoping. I am grateful for God’s gift of life beginning to end, trusting in God’s purposes both seen and unseen, hoping in God’s love which restores even that which has been lost.
From God on the Witness Stand, by Daniel T. Hans, Baker Book House, Grand Rapid, MI. Used by permission.

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