Thoughts on the Book of Job and Suffering

When I began reading the book of Job a few weeks ago I had the intentions of finding out the answer to the age old question, "Why does man have to suffer?"

Obviously, because of man's decision to sin at the beginning of creation (as we know of from Genesis 3) we and all of creation are cursed and will be until the Messiah comes again. In the meantime, we must pay the consequences for our sins which results in suffering.

If you've read the book of Job you know the story. Job was a very godly man with a very prosperous life. When the Devil challenges Job's loyalty, God agrees to allow him to test Job. The Devil goes to work and Job loses his family, his wealth, and his health; everything except for his life.

It is very important to realize that though God did agree to the Devil's "suggestion", He personally did not need this question answered --He already knew the outcome. 

Through the conversations between Job and his three friends we see that Job is oblivious to why God is allowing this to happen to him. His friends insist he must be paying for a particular sin, but Job is adamant that he has been righteous and is undeserving of this apparent punishment.

In spite of this, at one point he says: "When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold," (23:10). His faith astounds me. I find it hard to believe that, were I in a similar situation, I would have the ability to say the same.

Time and again Job asks God why. His belief is that one only suffers when one is being punished.

And don't we? When we are going through a particularly trying time, don't we began asking God, "What am I being punished for?"

When I had finished the book and was thinking about it, it hit me quite suddenly that God never did answer Job's question. He never told him of the heavenly exchange. All those "why's" fell away when God began to speak to Job.

After everyone had come to the end of their explanations and Job, his justifications, God says:

"Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me," (38:2).

He proceeds to ask Job if he was present when He created the world and set up it's boundaries. For two whole chapters, the Lord lays it on the line for Job, comparing his idea of personal importance to the enormity of God and His accomplishments.

In chapter 40, Job speaks again, but this time his words are unusually short. "Behold, I am vile," he says to God, "what shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth. Once I have spoken, but I will not answer; yes, twice, but I will proceed no further."

Simply put, Job realized, when compared with God's magnitude, his complaints were pitiful to say the least. What is man when compared to Almighty God?

We have such a tendency to speak out about our grievances when we can only respond within the little box of our limited understanding. In the end, righteous-but-still-imperfect Job is humbled. "I know that You can do everything...I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know," (42:2-3).

Job learned the lesson God intended for him --and the Devil lost the wager.

God blessed Job even more than before by restoring to him his wealth, with increase, and his health, giving him more children and a long life.

Though this is a very hard lesson to learn, the truth of the matter is, God is enough in our suffering. We are not always meant to know why. We are, however, meant to trust the One who does.

It's enough to know that God knows why.

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