Choosing Faith in the midst of Suffering: A Lesson from the Life of Job
The Book of Job is one of the literary masterpieces of all time, and provides a profound discussion on the suffering of a just man. The date of the book is unknown. Job was called a righteous man by Ezekiel (14:14), along with Noah and Daniel. The prose Prologue (Chapters One and Two) and the Epilogue (42:7-17) explain the experience of a just man tested by suffering and then restored. The Prologue and Epilogue also serve as bookends to the major poetic dialogue (3:1-42:6) of the book.
Set during an unknown time period in Uz, an obscure land far from Israel, the book of Job focuses on questions about God's justice and why good people suffer.
The story begins by describing an encounter between Satan and God. God asks if he’s considered Job’s righteousness (Job 1:8; 2:3). Satan responds by accusing Job of only serving God because of the blessings he had received (Job 1:9-11). God allows Satan to take these physical blessings away, beginning with Job’s livelihood and children (Job 1:14-17, 18-19) and then his health (Job 2:7-8).
As Job’s going through all this, three of his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, come to “mourn with him, and to comfort him” (Job 2:11). A series of conversations eventually ensues, beginning with Job cursing the day he was born (Job 3:1).
His friends then share their opinions of Job’s trial. They reason that such a calamity comes from God upon the wicked, and they accuse Job of having done something evil to deserve all this. As the accusations escalate, Job asserts his total innocence, maintaining that he has been unjustly afflicted with this suffering.
The book raises many questions about suffering that people still debate today. Throughout the book, Job, his wife, and his friends speculate on why he, an upright man, is suffering. Job accuses God of being unjust and not operating the world according to principles of justice, and his friends believe that Job's sin caused his suffering. Job decides to talk directly to God.
God reminds him that the world has order and beauty, but it is also wild and dangerous. While we do not always know why we suffer, we can bring our pain and grief to God and trust that he is wise and knows what he's doing.
In the book of Job, we see the value of patience, perseverance, and the importance of holding our tongue, not to mention God’s faithfulness, restorative power, and goodness.
Job’s story sticks with us because it’s quite epic and vivid: a rich man loses everything, suddenly and without warning, and yet remains faithful to God. His friends, and even his own wife, discourage and accuse him, but Job’s faith remains. “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth” (Job 19:25).
Eventually (after forty chapters into the book), the Lord vindicates Job and restores with an increase everything that the devil stole (Job 42:12).
Although Job’s story ends well, there is much we can learn from the long journey it took to get there. These truths can encourage us when we’re facing loss or hard circumstances, or even in the ups and downs of life.
The first chapters of the story are unsettling, above all because apparently, and justly, Job didn’t deserve any of what was happening to him. On the contrary, what Job really deserved were blessings and prosperity, which come hand in hand with God.
Though the world is full of suffering, God has a future planned that’s too wondrous for humans to fully comprehend (1 Corinthians 2:9). When we are suffering, we should focus not only on God’s power and goodness, but on the future He has in store for those who endure “to the end” (Matthew 24:13).
Our Heavenly Father feeds the sparrows and clothes the lilies, surely He will take care of us in the midst of our trials. In the end, God rewarded Job for his faithfulness. May we be found faithful today!
Keep Walking With the King,