Too often in conversations about suffering,
one particular Bible story is not consistently discussed. The Book of Job is a story that details the life of one man who was not a distinguished church figure facing persecution. He was an everyday man, albeit affluent in possessions and faith. The Bible describes Job’s financial stature as making him a noteworthy person in his region of the east. He had a large family of a wife, seven sons, and three daughters. In his possession were also large quantities of land and animals (Job 1:2-3). Of all that he owned, his greatest asset was his faith.
- “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” (Job 1:1)
- Job’s ability to believe was so impressive that he garnered the attention of God and also Satan. In this first chapter of Job, we read an account of God questioning Satan about his schemes. Satan confesses to roaming about the Earth, and God asks if the Devil has considered Job. The question sets Job up for an intense season of suffering, one that breaks him physically, emotionally, even spiritually, but he never forsakes his faith. All this occurs as a test, allowed by God to show Satan Job’s faith (Job 1:11-12).
- Job’s story continues to be relevant to Christians today because of his ability to believe despite suffering. His season of loss is a reminder that no possession or relationship on this Earth is guaranteed to last forever. Not even our health. Job found himself losing all that he owned, all except for his faith. However, Job’s story is not limited to suffering or maintaining faith amid trials. There are a number of different lessons we can glean, but first, we must understand the purpose of the Book of Job and why it was included in the Bible.
- Who Wrote the Story of Job and Why Is the Book of Job included in the Bible?
- The Bible is authored by a number of different people, prophets and kings included. There are even unknown authors of certain passages. As for the Book of Job, the author is unclear. There is no indication of the author within the book itself, and Job’s death is mentioned in chapter 42, the last chapter of the book. There is speculation amongst the scholarly community that Moses wrote the book, but there is no conclusive evidence.
- Even without an author, the story’s inclusion in the Bible informs us that there is something God wants to glean from His word (2 Timothy 3:16). In addition to authorial speculation, the inclusion of Job’s story is believed by some to be purposed in answering the question of why innocent people suffer. By the conclusion of the book, there is no answer given as to why innocents suffer, but there is a solution, trust.
- The idea and word trust appears multiple times throughout the Bible spoken by different people. The idea is also present here as Job experiences suffering and seeks God for help. With this greater understanding, we can analyze the 5 the story of Job.
- 5 Important Things to Know about the Story of Job
- 1. Job Suffered while Innocent
- Job did not commit any sin that led to his suffering. On the contrary, Job’s suffering came about as God allowed Satan to test his faith. Why did Job have to suffer at all? The same question has been asked throughout the ages after events such as school shootings or natural disasters. Why do innocent people suffer for seemingly no reason? And Job was so greatly afflicted by his problems that he cursed, not God, but the day that he was born.
- “After this, Job began to speak and cursed the day he was born.” (Job 3:1)
- This was not an inconvenience that Job experienced. Life as he knew it was turned upside down and made into something that brought him intense pain. Job represents the truth that innocent people suffer, but by the end of his story also shows that God is in control the entire time. God allowed Satan to attack Job spiritually, emotionally, and physically, but never to the point of death (Job 2:6). God remained in control.
- 2. Job Questioned God
- As shown in the Psalms, which follow after the Book of Job, prayer is shown to be communication with God that is deep, intimate, and honest. As Christians, we can talk to God about things going well in our lives, and also our troubles. Job did not hide his troubles and spoke openly.
- “If I have sinned, what have I done to you,
Watcher of humanity?
Why have you made me your target,
so that I have become a burden to you?”(Job 7:20)
- In his anguish and confusion, Job sought to have dialogue with God as a means of understanding his plight. We are like Job when we experience suffering. We may ask God questions like “How long?” or “Why is this happening to me?” Though not immediately, God does respond to Job later in the book (Job 38). God also answers our prayers, just in His own timing. In the way God responds to Job, He makes clear that though we may ask, our sense of comprehension will never fully grasp God and His ways. Still, He is trustworthy.
- 3. Job’s Loved Ones Didn’t Help
- Job’s wife was the first to reveal her lack of faith in God. “His wife said to him, ‘Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!’” (Job 2-9)
- Job’s response shows just how much faith he had in spite of her doubts. “‘You speak as a foolish woman speaks,’ he told her. ‘Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?’ Throughout all this Job did not sin in what he said” (Job 2:10). Job posits an excellent question to consider. If God promises salvation in the form of heaven, why is life expected by some to only be good?
- Job’s three friends when introduced to the story bear witness to his suffering. They go so far as to lament on his behalf (Job 2:13). As the Book of Job continues each friend has a chapter where they engage in dialogue with Job. Then Job is given a chapter where he responds. The friends’ attempts to “help” go so poorly that God is ultimately disappointed in them (Job 42:7). God was so upset he had them offer sacrifices as repentance. The reason for this is that the friends blamed Job for his suffering, unbeknownst to them God allowed Job to suffer despite being a righteous man.
- His friend Eliphaz was the first to blame Job. “Consider: Who has perished when he was innocent” (Job 4:7)? Their relationship helps us see how we as believers seek counsel from others. While people may mean well in their advice-giving, no one can truly comprehend how God works in our lives and should not speak on His behalf. Moreover, suffering is to be experienced even by the innocents, like Job, not because someone has committed an offense against God, but because suffering is a part of life.
- God used Job’s suffering to build him up and show the Devil that Job would keep his faith.
- 4. Job Was Restored
- “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and doubled his previous possessions.” (Job 42:10)
- In the end, Job gained more than he lost. And he was restored in all aspects of his life: health, family, finances. God showed Job favor as he remained faithful in his belief. This information is important because these details reflect the loving nature of God. God’s love was present despite Job’s unhelpful friends, wife, and harsh circumstances.
- God does not allow sorrow for the sake of suffering. He allows us to experience trials to make us better people and expose weak areas in our lives. Job was able to learn more about God during his struggle and further build his trust in the Lord. Job’s suffering too also allowed God to affect Job’s friends. They initially blamed Job and learned that Job hadn’t done anything to merit his suffering, thus, showing them a side of God they were unaware of before.
- 5. Job Kept His Faith
- Throughout the entire book, Job prayed, struggled, and eventually overcame. He never stopped having a relationship with God. Nor did he curse God as his wife encouraged him to do in the second chapter. Job’s steadfast faith offers proof that no matter life’s circumstances, maintaining faith is always a possibility. Whether we are spiritually, emotionally, or physically stricken, we can keep our trust in God. He will at some point deliver us from our troubles, and make us better from the experience.
- A Modern Day Job
- As we read and learn from Job we can ascertain that suffering comes upon all, sinful or guiltless. Jesus was the only person without sin and even He knew suffering. While we may encounter our own unexpected problems like Job, his story reminds us that even when we don’t understand why we can put trust in God. That trust is not limited to circumstances, nor by the “advice” given by other believers. Trust is not an explanation of why Job suffered, or why we suffer. Yet, the idea of trust gives us a solution to bear the suffering.
- No one can fully understand God, and that gives us all the more reason to pray. And when we pray and while we wait, we know in the end God will make us into someone better than where we started. Job proved that.
- Further Reading
- Bible Story of Job
- What Is the Story of Job?