Recently, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about Job’s suffering.
There are a lot of things I struggle to understand in the story of this man, but I am very thankful his story is included in the Bible.
There are also many rich lessons to be learned from his example, and his story has been a source of encouragement, conviction, and comfort for me.
The Suffering of Job in the Bible
Of all the men and women of the Bible (apart from Jesus), I believe Job had one of the most successful and also one of the most difficult stories.
Job is introduced to us as a highly successful man in terms of physical prosperity and also spiritual integrity:
“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” (Job 1:1)
The chapter goes on to list his sons, daughters, and material possessions. Indeed, God blessed Job richly.
In fact, God was so pleased with Job that He pointed Job out specifically to Satan as an example of righteousness.
However, Satan accused Job of being a “fair-weathered friend” and offered a challenge – if God took away all of Job’s possessions, then Satan was certain that Job would curse God.
God answered this challenge, allowing Satan to first take away Job’s earthly riches, then his sons and daughters, and finally his health.
To add insult to injury, Job’s wife and close friends did not offer support or compassion. Instead, Job’s wife told him to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9).
Job’s friends were certain that Job was being punished by God for some secret sin that Job had committed and told him so to his face.
Truly, Job had lost everything.
Job’s Suffering and Faith
However, in the midst of his deep, deep anguish, Job spoke some of the most heartbreaking and yet most inspiring words.
He answered, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21,22).
Also, through the long back-and-forth with his so-called friends, Job maintained his hope in God and his determination to keep his integrity.
- “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.” (Job 13:15)
- “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth.” (Job 19:25)
- “Far be it from me to say that you are right; till I die I will not put away my integrity from me. I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go; my heart does not reproach me for any of my days.” (Job 27: 5,6).
Why did God Let Job Suffer?
However, as righteous and upright as Job was, he was far from perfect. Through his intense suffering, he lost his faith in a just God and did not maintain respect for God’s authority.
Not able to understand why he was seemingly being punished, Job asked to contend with God, to argue his case against the injustice of God’s actions.
However, God answered Job and contrasted His power and perfection with Job’s weakness and imperfection. Humbly, Job repented and confessed,
“I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. …therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”(Job 42:2,3,6)
Despite Job’s faltering, we see the compassion of God in the restoration of Job’s fortunes. In fact, God gave Job twice as much as he had before (Job 42:10).
Later, God praised Job’s perseverance through James, who wrote, “Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11).
Even though Job was not blameless throughout his suffering, God recognized and acknowledged what Job did correctly and held it up as an example for Christians to learn from going forward.
Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of Job’s suffering was that he did not understand why he was undergoing such agonizing trials.
From the outside, it looked and felt like Job was being punished, while, in fact, Job was being tested because of his righteousness.
As far as is recorded, Job was never given an explanation; he never got to understand the why.
However, he was able to move on in faith, resting in the goodness and love of God.
The Bible and Suffering
Job’s story is extremely encouraging to me.
Not long ago, I suffered a difficult loss. Thus, my mulling over Job’s experiences.
There were several thoughts that brought me great comfort as I considered him.
First, my losses pale in comparison.
While I acknowledge that the comparison game can be dangerous and unhelpful, I also feel that it can be helpful to gain inspiration from the fact that others who have suffered much more than I have were able to remain steadfast through their trials.
I can echo Job’s words as I lift my hands up to the Lord and pour out my grief and pain to Him, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord!”
Secondly, I may not endure my trials perfectly, but there is forgiveness and mercy when I repent.
It is a growth process. Perhaps we grow the most when we suffer the most. If we can use these times of pain and loss to grow, then good can come from them.
Job also serves as a reminder that we do not see behind the scenes to understand who is causing our suffering or why it is being allowed. Therefore, we need to heed the warning that God gives to Job: God is the Almighty Jehovah, perfect in power and wisdom.
While it is ok to question why things happen to us, it is not ok to impugn God or question His authority. And while we may never understand the why, we too can rest in the love and goodness of our Lord.
Lastly, there is a reward waiting for those who endure trials faithfully. Perhaps it will be a more immediate reward like Job’s. We may be blessed physically on this earth.
However, our reward may not come until the next life.
James reminds us of this as he wrote, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).
Why I’m Thankful For Job’s Suffering
I thank God for Job’s story! There are so many gems that we can glean from it.
As I reflected on these things, a deep sense of thankfulness filled me. I am so grateful that God inspired someone to write it and preserve it for me to read thousands of years later. I can relate to Job- the good, the bad, and the ugly. It helps me feel more understood, more seen in my lonely grief; and it helps me determine to work to remain steadfast through it.
Maybe one day, my story will do the same for someone else. What about your story? What will it tell someone else? Perhaps, years down the road, someone will say, “I thank God for _(your name)_’s story!”