There are many events in life that we do not understand. Misfortune becomes less painful and more bearable if we can either discern a meaning or impose a meaning. When disaster strikes or bad things happen to us, we look for reasons that are not only factually inaccurate, but sometimes present themselves as attempts to defend God. We are sometimes tempted to blame ourselves or someone else. As humans, we want the world and the events in it to make sense, but in trying to do so, we sometimes miss the point. This is the way it was with Job and his friends. Job’s friends struggled not only to find the cause of his suffering, but assumed that his suffering was justified.
In his frustration, Job is seen challenging the fairness of God, but in so doing, he also expresses his intimate knowledge of God. Job believed that God cares for humankind by finding endless ways of testing and torturing (7:17-20). He believed that not only did God know his every move (7:19) but is also very attentive to his struggle (7:20).
Job’s friend Bildad responds by applying the principle of cause and effect by calling Job to repentance. Bildad held the view that the Almighty God, who knows all things, is just and does not pervert righteousness (8:3) and therefore, Job must be guilty for such suffering to befall him. In a sense, Job’s predicament can only be punishment from a just God. Bildad does not appear convinced that Job is necessarily guilty, which begs the question of who then is guilty and as such, responsible for Job’s suffering. Bildad attempted to assign the blame to the sins of Job’s children (8:4) and suggest that Job should plead with God so he can be restored (8:5-6).
Suffering has two sides: those who suffer and those who observe the suffering. Both can be consumed with the frustration of trying to do something about the situation and not getting the desired result. As Christians, and observers to suffering, we are tempted to take a religious or traditional approach just as Bildad did and interpret suffering as punishment from God. When we experience pain and suffering, or encounter difficulties in our lives, it can feel like God has abandoned us. We question, “Why can a caring God allow such suffering?” or in contrast, “God must have a good reason to allow it”.
We get frustrated in trying to make something happen instead of waiting on the Lord to bring it to pass. Although our God is a just God, He is also a merciful and caring God. Do not give in to frustration, but wait on God, even when it seems impossible. The best thing we can do to anyone suffering is not to speak in platitudes or ask why, but to come to God in prayer. He is faithful in His own time.
Is God really good? Why does God permit evil and suffering? Why do bad things happen to good people? Humankind has been asking these three philosophical questions for thousands of years ever since the Fall in Genesis 3. The story of Job is an important story. We may question, did this really happen, or is it a cautionary tale? Christians believe it to be the inspired Word of God and historically true. It is strategically inserted in the middle of our Bible because it helps us wrestle with how we process negativity, loss, sickness and ultimately death.
Before we move any further, I want to remind you that Satan is a real person. Though you may not see him, he is a spiritual being. He is still “roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” He is looking to put to the test those who are blameless, upright, fear God and shun evil. Do you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength? If your answer is “yes”, guess what, you have a target on your back. While that thought might frighten you, there is no need to fear. You see, the Lord who knows the human heart volunteered Job in order to put Satan to shame. Job did nothing to deserve this series of unfortunate events, yet God, in His sovereignty, knew that Job was resilient because of his godly character. No matter how much Satan knocked down Job, God knew Job would get up again, not in his own strength, but through God’s strength.
The Christian life is not exempt from struggles. Even for the most devout believer, there are significant challenges. The result of Job 1 is the unfolding of repeated bad news. His five hundred oxen and five hundred donkeys were stolen. His seven thousand sheep and servants were consumed by fire. His three thousand camels were stolen. Last, his ten children were crushed to death. In the span of one day, Job went from being financially and relationally blessed to bankrupt. What do you do when everything you have worked hard for is taken from you? I know that if my two girls were taken from me, if my house were destroyed and if all my belongings were stolen, I would be devastated. Notice what Job did in this heartbreaking moment. He tore his cloak, shaved his head and bowed in worship.
Why did Job worship instead of weep? Job understood that even if you lose everything, but still have God, you have all that you need. Even if you die, but still have God, you will be with Him forever. Job was not narrowly focused on the “now”, but he had his eyes on the horizon of eternity. Skip Heitzig uniquely said that “Job preached the first Easter message thousands of years before it happened.” What he means by this is that Job had an unshakeable confidence that he could be redeemed and could be resurrected from his despair. Do you have that kind of confidence in the God of Job? The Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 2:12 says, “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” Similarly, he reiterated this confidence in 2 Corinthians 4:13, “It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken. Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak.” Do you believe in God and are you convinced of His goodness no matter how bleak your situation appears? Do you believe in God and therefore speak by faith even though you cannot see a way out? The test of Christianity is being unmoved in your belief of who God is irrespective of your circumstance. May we be able to maintain Job’s perspective and declare like him, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”