Anyone who has had any contact with the Book of Job knows about the patience of Job–except when we actually read the book, wading through the long-winded theological and practical debating points, we discover that Job is anything but patient. He is demanding at times, depressed at times, angry at his friends at times, upset with God at times–but he definitely isn’t patient. He faces the terrible loses in his life and he wants an answer–he wants to know WHY. He isn’t content with the pat non-answers of the friends–he is going right to the top and wants God to tell him why.
His persistence pays off and Job eventually gets an answer from God, beginning in chapter 38. But it isn’t the answer he expects. Once we read through all the natural history questions and the occasional theological allusions, God’s answer to Job is: “I am God, you are not god.” Job is satisfied with the answer, his life turns around, the friends are scolded and everyone lives happily ever after.
Job wants to know “why” and gets what could be considered the theological equivalent of “because”. While his generation may have been comfortable with that answer, our time frame generally isn’t too happy with that answer. We want the real answer. Ours is the age of the question, the age of information, the age of reason. Given enough money and computer power, any question can be answered–or should be able to be answered. All we need to do is give someone a research grant, an office, a staff and a deadline and we will have an answer.
We have serious difficulty admitting that there are some questions that we won’t get an answer to because we don’t have the capacity to answer them. There are unanswered and unanswerable questions in life that come about from the fact that we are human, not God. For all our capacity and all our potential and all that we can do and will be able to do, we have a limit–and that limit is that we are creations of God, not God. Granted, we are created with great potential, we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1.26-27) but we are not God and that sets limits on what we can understand.
There will always be mysteries and unanswered questions when it comes to faith. Given time and effort, we might be able to answer some of the scientific questions God asked Job–but there are going to be some things we simply won’t be able to understand because our finite minds aren’t able to fully comprehend the infinite. Maybe, someday when the new heaven and new earth are in place and we are transformed, we might have the capacity to understand–but here and now, if we ask any questions at all, we are going to run smack into the wall formed by our inability to comprehend the fullness of God.
When we ask a question like, “Why does God love us?”, for example, there will be all sorts of theological formulations; multitudes of definitions of God, love and humanity; reams of pages of discussion; uncounted words written and spoken–but in the end, the only answer that even begins to make sense is “Because”. We can reveal in God’s love for us; we can rejoice at the expressions of this love; we can praise God forever for this love–but we won’t ever find the full and complete answer to this why because that answer depends on something we don’t have–the mind of God.
Now, not everything that is a mystery now will be a mystery forever. Our human potential and capacity has looked at mystery and found the key to unlock what has appeared to be unknowable. We know why disease happens and even how to prevent and cure it. We know how birds fly–and have developed technology to allow humans to fly. We can understand many of the secrets of the human mind and even know how to repair some of the problems that develop there. We have made some faltering and hesitant steps to control weather.
We have found answers to a great many mysteries and will undoubtedly find others. But in the end, we will always have to deal with the fact that some mysteries will remain mysteries because they come from the mind of God, not our minds. Like Job, we will find that sometimes, the answer to “why” is a divine “because”.
May the peace of God be with you.