Just about everyone has heard of the suffering of Job in the Old Testament. You might have heard someone say, “They have the patience of Job.” There is good reason for that saying. According to biblical scholars, the Book of Job is the oldest book in the Bible. If you were to fit it chronologically, it should be place in the early chapters of Genesis. What can we learn from the Book of Job? Is there application for the believer’s life today? Was sin involved in Job’s suffering? Is there sin in all suffering? Why does God allow suffering?
All was going well with Job. He had it all: A large family, wealth, and blessings of every kind imaginable. At that time, Job may have been the richest man on the face of the earth. Job 1:2-3 describes his wealth as “He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.” Clearly, Job had it all. This must have bothered Satan because he came to God. What did God say to Satan about Job? God bragged on Job in 1:8, saying, “Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Can you imagine the God of the Universe bragging on Job from heaven? Might He also brag about you and your righteousness found in Jesus Christ? It is entirely possible however Satan was not convinced and said to God, “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face” (Job 1:9-11).
Satan’s name means “adversary” and he has been called the “accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12:10). God sets out to prove to Satan that Job is not righteous just because he is being blessed. God challenges the Devil telling him, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger” (Job 1:12). Job lost just about everything; his sheep, his oxen, his camels, his servants, and all of his sons and daughters – but remarkably he did not lose his faith in God. What was Job’s response? “Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: “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. In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:20-22).
Here we can plainly see Job’s reaction: he worshiped God, he said that he came into this world with nothing and will return with nothing, the Lord has taken away all he had except his wife – and his wife told him to “curse God and die” – and Job also blessed the name of the Lord. In all of this, “Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong!” He blessed God’s name, he worshiped God, and he did not sin. Satan must have been angry at Job’s response. Job suffered unjustly and yet he did not blame God or say, “why me?”
Job’s friends tried to console him but they soon started to blame him for his own troubles inferring that he must have sinned in order for all these trials to come upon him. That is something that is far too easy for believers to do. When they see a Christian suffer, they unfairly assume that there must be sin in that believer’s life. But suffering is not always a result of sin as we see with Job. In many cases, those who are sinners suffer little while those who are saints suffer much. Many people see this as a stumbling block for Christianity and ask why God allows suffering. Instead of asking “why” they might be better off asking “what”. What is God up to? What is He trying to produce in us? Like the refiners fire, God often uses suffering to produce righteous character in believers. Sometimes He wants those who suffer to be more dependent upon Him. It may be that He is trying to get our attention. We might even be sinning; however we can not always equate suffering with sin in a believer’s life as we see with Job’s experience.
At first Job’s friends try to help Job but they quickly turn to accusing him of some sort of hidden or known sin. Job knows that this is not the reason and tries to justify himself against their accusations. But his justification quickly turns to self-righteousness and that is sin before God. Job’s friends say, “Is not your wickedness great? Are not your sins endless? You demanded security from your brothers for no reason; you stripped men of their clothing, leaving them naked. You gave no water to the weary and you withheld food from the hungry, though you were a powerful man, owning land– an honored man, living on it. And you sent widows away empty-handed and broke the strength of the fatherless. That is why snares are all around you, why sudden peril terrifies you” (Job 22:5-10). This brings God’s righteous indignation upon Job’s friends (Job 42:7-17).
God Answers Job
Job is not guiltless as no man is without sin (1 John 1:8, Romans 3:23). Job becomes discouraged, partly because of the blame game played by his friends. Job begins to question God Himself and this is when God answers Job out of the whirlwind (tornado?), He says, “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.“ Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding” (Job 38:2-4). God puts Job in his place and in effect tells Job, who are you to question the God of the Universe? God never does answer Job’s question on why He allows suffering. God, in His sovereignty, chooses not to tell us everything. That is God’s prerogative. Also notice that God spoke to Job out of the “whirlwind” which is the terminology for a tornado or great and destructive windstorm. This could indicate that God is in all things going on this world. He is sovereign and nothing happens that is not within His perfect will. This things include natural disasters and calamities. God is never caught off guard or by surprise.
Someday in eternity, God will likely make it clear why Christians suffer – why something terrible was allowed to happen or why their child was allowed to die. It is as God once said in Isaiah 45:9, “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘He has no hands’?” We can not question God’s motives. His ways are beyond human comprehension but clearly He does have a purpose in suffering. As God tells Isaiah, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah. 55:9). He sometimes chooses not to reveal this to believers – at least in this life.
God Restores Job
If Job had known that God would have restored to him more than he had in the first place, would he have questioned Him at all? God rewards Job for his faithfulness and his endurance through such suffering. This story has an incredible ending.
Job 42:10-17 “After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his prosperity and doubled his [previous] possessions. All his brothers, sisters, and former acquaintances came to his house and dined with him in his house. They offered him sympathy and comfort concerning all the adversity the LORD had brought on him. Each one gave him a qesitah and a gold earring. So the LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the earlier. He owned 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters. He named his first [daughter] Jemimah, his second Keziah, and his third Keren-happuch. No women as beautiful as Job’s daughters could be found in all the land, and their father granted them an inheritance with their brothers. Job lived 140 years after this and saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. Then Job died, old and full of days.”
So Job ended up much better off than he was in the beginning. He had considerably more than when he began his suffering and even though God did not answer Job why he was allowed to suffer so terribly, in the end Job had more blessings than any man or the face of the earth at that time. The application for Christians today is that God will bless those who endure to the end and that someday, God will reward us with unbelievable blessings that can not compare with what we have today (Rom 8:18, 28). We will all suffer in this life. It is appointed to mankind to suffer. It is a fallen world. We may not know the “why” today but some day we probably will. Instead of asking “why”, we should ask “what”. What is God up to? What is God trying to do in me? The “why” will have to wait for someday in eternity. Until then, we can not fully grasp the purpose of God but we know that He will not allow us to suffer into eternity. One thing that is important is that Satan could not lay a finger on Job, nor can he us. God will not allow this (Job 1:12. I John 4:4).
For those who reject God today, they may have suffering in this life and in the after-life. For those who believe in Him today and trust in the Son of God, their suffering will be over someday. They will have eternal joy and fellowship with God. My prayer for you is that you can inherit this eternal joy where there will be no more sorrow, no more pain, no more suffering, and no more death. Let the Word of God tell us what is in store for the children of God someday in Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.“
Was the story of Job personal to your life today? Share with us in the comments!
New International Bible (NIV)
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Photo Credit: www.photoforsouls.com