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Making Sense of the Senseless

Published 8/22/19

"One dies in his full vigor, being wholly at ease and secure, his pails full of milk and the marrow of his bones moist. Another dies in bitterness of soul, never having tasted of prosperity. They lie down alike in the dust, and the worms cover them."


• Human logic, anecdotes, and the limitations of time are little help in making sense out of the senseless. What actually works for you during these moments?

• Where do you turn when you can't make sense of the world?

• We rely on our faith and trust in God most when we are plagued by "why" questions. Why do you think this is so? (Please explain.)

We're at the halfway point in the book of Job now. Despite all of their going back and forth, Job and his friends seemed no closer to explaining why we suffer in this world. Job's friends kept insisting that suffering is punishment for wickedness. Job responded with examples of the godless prospering and the righteous experiencing tragedy. How were they going to make sense out of all of this?

So far, they had tried to reason using human logic, religious small talk, and anecdotes. None of this had sufficed. They had no way of knowing what had occurred in the spiritual realm between Satan and God.

They were also limited to this point in time. They did not know what would happen in the future. Sometimes short-term suffering leads to a long-term gain. Consider, for example, the life of Joseph. He was sold into slavery when he was seventeen years old. He made his way up in Potiphar's house, and then unjust accusations from Potiphar's wife condemned him to prison.

Scripture tells us that Joseph continued to follow God during this time. Still, being human, Joseph had to wonder why these things were happening to him.

Years later when Joseph was in a position to save not only his family but many others from famine, he realized how God's plan had enfolded. He made that wonderful statement to his brothers: "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today" (Genesis 50:20 ESV).

What if Job and his friends could never get to that point; what if they could never make sense of the senseless? What then? This is a critical question, because the seemingly nonsensical things in this world block many people from following God. They simply can't reconcile a loving and merciful God with the pain and brutality around them.

Sometimes, like Joseph, we discover later that what appeared senseless actually had a place in God's plan. Other times no explanation comes and we have to rely on our faith that God is still in control.


Lord, I see much senseless suffering when I look at the world around me. I rely on You to get me past the 'why' questions that plague me. Amen.

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