HELPS IN SUFFERING
by Jeffrey Hagan
Job was an extraordinary man. He is described by God as being a “blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). The book of Job describes a long, difficult, and excruciating trial he endured.
The book starts by describing an encounter between Satan and God. God asks if he’s considered Job’s righteousness (Job 1:8; 2:3). Satan responds accusing Job of serving God because of the blessings he's received (Job 1:9-11). God allows Satan to take these 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 this his friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar come to “mourn with him and to comfort him” (Job 2:11). A series of conversations ensues, beginning with Job cursing the day he was born (Job 3:1).
His friends then share their opinions of Job’s trial. They conclude that such a tribulation comes from God upon the wicked, and so Job must have sinned to deserve this. As the accusations escalate, Job avows his innocence saying his affliction is unjust.
Let's look at five lessons from Job:
1. Suffering is inevitable and unavoidable in this fallen world.
"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
Hardships are not always punishment. The opening lines of Job make that clear. In fact, one could argue that it is because of His righteous walk with the Lord that He ends up facing disaster as a test of his faith which God knew he would pass (1:8-11).
Throughout the book Job’s friends insist he must have brought this upon himself through sin, but their over-simplistic theology was wrong. Job was a man of God. His suffering was not punishment but intended to actually prove and purify his faith.
When we experience difficulty we can be quick to think God is punishing us for something we’ve done. Though there are natural consequences for sin – like a crime will put us in prison – not every trial is because of disobedience, and this is especially true for those in Christ.
2. The worth of God has nothing to do with our comfort. The worship of God goes beyond His blessings.
"Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips." Job 2:9-10
God’s glory is unchanging. Our reverence of God should be too. He sits upon His throne in splendor and holiness. He is worthy of our respect and worship simply because He is the great I AM, the One over every living thing.
Even at rock bottom, even with all his questions and doubts, Job understood this.
3. Words matter, and a lack thereof matter.
"And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great." Job 2:13
Most of the book of Job is his dialogue with his friends. But we do learn from them the power of silence.
Sometimes we rush to give words when quiet mourning and meditation is better. In a world buzzing with social platforms, television, and cell phones, we communicate constantly and often miss out on the connection to be had with the Lord through “being still.” We can distract ourselves from pain with white noise of worldly entertainment and shallow conversation instead of quietly seeking and praying to God.
Yet, these same friends eventually break the silence, and end up saying harsh words. As they go on to accuse and attempt to explain Job’s demise, we see the futility of human thinking.
Although these men share some real nuggets of truth, they foolishly apply them to Job’s situation. They assume the worst of Job and underestimate the workings of God.
We may be educated in the Scriptures, but we still must be slow to speak and humble in our hearts. Sometimes we cannot give an explanation for a situation and that’s okay. We cannot pretend to know the mind of our infinite God, whose most “foolish” thought is wiser than the wisest thought of men (1 Corinthians 1:25).
4. Even in the most atrocious suffering God is still there and still faithful.
During Job’s "crisis of faith" he and his friends never question God's existence or sovereignty. While it's fine to hold onto future promises that God can redeem, restore, and work together good out of the evil upon us, there is also a precious good we can experience in the now – a more intimate walk with Him.
5. Job sets us up to embrace a suffering Savior.
Our Savior knows our pain not only in his mind, but in his heart. He knew pain in his body on the cross, and in the worst form as He was "forsaken" by the Father. He is a Savior who we can turn to, a Savior who suffered to end suffering once and for all.
His story of endurance in the midst of intense suffering causes us too long for a Savior. We realize that in Christ’s perfect obedience and personal suffering the questions of Job, and all of us, find their final answer.