It is almost instinctive for us to cheer when crime is repaid with justice, for that is the way things should be. “Sinners deserve all the grief they get!” we proclaim. But what can we say when life bludgeons the innocent and the guilty live like kings? And why does God often seem so warm and close when we’re gliding serenely through life, yet so absent when we cry out in frantic desperation? At those times we sometimes imagine God’s door being bolted, double bolted, then dead silence.
Job was an ancient who was renowned for his blamelessness, his kindness, and his reverence for God. In one fell swoop, Job lost almost everything of value—his wealth, his children, and finally his health. In theory he may have told others not to count on happiness and prosperity, but of course it is far different when whopping calamity occurs to oneself.
During the weeks following Job’s losses, several friends came to mourn with him. Instead of giving him comfort, their dialogue with Job became a fierce duel in which they tried to substantiate that Job’s sufferings were God-sent because of sin in his life. Vehemently protesting his innocence, Job continually denied this.
Job’s speeches to his companions span a broad range of emotion and reason. At times, he reflected lion-hearted faith: “Though God slay me, yet will I trust Him.” At others, cavernous despair: “Why didn’t I die at birth—come forth from the womb and expire?” Over and over Job challenged God to appear so he could argue his case face to face. “God, you hate me and angrily tear at my flesh,” Job growled. “You have gnashed upon me with your teeth, and watched to snuff out any sign of life.”
What is the difference between Job’s bitter tirades against God and the blasphemies of a God-hater? Though Job questioned God and accosted him angrily, beneath the surface one detects a layer of faith and honor for God that never quite vanished. For example, in the middle of one of his despairing speeches, Job declared, “God, you have granted me life and steadfast love and your care has preserved my spirit.” Statements like these are sprinkled throughout Job’s heart-wrenching orations.
God finally did reply directly to Job, but He offered no easy answers for the prevalence of human suffering. In effect, God said, “How can you call onto the carpet the infinite, all-knowing Creator of a magnificently complex universe? He answers to no one but Himself!” Realizing the rashness of his challenges, shame-faced, Job repented and eventually prospered once again.
In the end, Job realized the deadly seriousness of the wager: our bid for or against faith in God. C.S. Lewis believed this wager is rarely taken seriously enough until the stakes are raised horribly high—until those such as Job find that humanity is not playing for nickels and dimes but for everything we own in the world…our very flesh and blood.
In this sense God could be compared to a surgeon cutting out a cancerous tumor. If, to be kind, he quickly closed the incision before the operation was complete, the cancer would continue to spread and all the pain up to that point would have been totally useless. Or God could be likened to a goldsmith who must refine every last bit of impurity out of ore. God’s role then in Job’s life was expressed by Job himself when he said with a flash of insight, “He knows the way that I take. When he has tested me, I shall come out like pure gold.” And that is exactly what happened.
What can we learn from Job?
Job suffered. To be human is to suffer. Pain and death came as a result of sin’s curse. Though some endure much more than others, Christians must believe that, for them, these tortures are necessary. If they are not, then there is no God or there is a sadistic one because not even a moderately good Being could possibly inflict or permit the agony we see in our world. God knows that a faith that is utterly untried and unrefined is weak and watery and may be no faith at all. Yet always know that in the night of trials, Christ’s tears mingle with our own. He cares.
Bible Verses about Job
Job chaps. 1-42; Ezek. 4:12-20; James 5:11
What questions does this help to answer?
- Who was Job?
- What does Job teach us?
- What were Job’s doubts?
- Does God cause suffering?