This is Part 3 of 5 parts answering the question, “Is God indifferent to the suffering that He allows?” in the larger question, “Why does a loving God allow suffering?” Parts 4-5 will be posted on succeeding days.
There are Times When God is Silent
There are times when it seems as though God is silent. For example, He gave no providential revelation during the time between when the Old and New Testament Scriptures were written. Yet, the Old Testament was available to those who pursued knowing Him. Its thirty-nine books describe God’s holiness as well as love as displayed in motivation and action. He is just in all of His ways and continued to communicate through these parchments.
John wrote about this silence of heaven in Revelation, “When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” (Rev. 8:1 NKJ) However, that was merely a transitional time during the Tribulation. This question is intended to relate to personal suffering, or corporate (large group) suffering, as in the case of Job.
Job did not understand what he was experiencing! It is likely that there were no written Scriptures available to him then, only oral tradition. As recorded in the last five chapters of his book ( Job 38-42), God spoke audibly to Job in His perfect timing. God appeared to be silent to him in chapters 1-37. Remember Job’s righteous words at the beginning of his trial, “”Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.”(Job 1:21 NKJ) Yet, even though his friends came to sit with Him, God did not speak to set the record straight that they (Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar) distorted.
Fortunately, the young man Elihu had a correct view of Scripture and made many accurate observations. Although he too distorted some of the truth, Elihu did declare that God was not silent. Larry Waters writes,
In chapter 33 Elihu established that God was not silent during Job’s suffering. In chapter 34 he confirmed that God is not unjust. Furthermore, God is neither uncaring (chap. 35) nor powerless to act on behalf of his people (chap. 36-37). In chapter 37 Elihu introduced God’s response and returned the discussion to the issue of God’s sovereignty and plan for Job. Elihu then brought to Job a totally different perspective: his suffering was not because of past sin, but was (1) to keep Job from continuing to accept a sinful premise for suffering, (2) to draw him closer to God, (3) to teach him a true wisdom that reveals God as sovereignly in control of the affairs of life, and (4) to show that God does reward the righteous, but only on the basis of his love and grace.1
In that silence, as God continues to reward on the basis of His love and grace, we also learn that none of His blessings are based on external righteousness or anything that obligates Him. He is free to act as He wishes, mainly based on His love. Waters writes,
Elihu challenged a false belief system in a fixed mechanical formula of compensation that was original with Satan, exemplified in ancient Near Eastern religions, and unwittingly perpetrated by the three counselors. Elihu asserted that Job’s suffering was not connected to an external standard of righteousness or to an assumed divine action of compensation that obligates God.2
When God seems silent, friends need to come alongside and help each other find their way through the valley of the shadow of death. That is what Elihu attempted for Job. Waters writes,
Yet Elilhu also comforted Job, insisting that God sent suffering not to reject Job but to accept him, and to train him to rely on God instead of his own human righteousness and goodness.3
Part 4 will be posted tomorrow.