Job: A Case Study On Suffering, Part 2

We have been surveying the book of Job in order to gain a godly perspective on this problem of suffering. Rick Rood has observed: “It is unquestionably true that there is no greater obstacle to faith than that of the reality of evil and suffering in the world. Indeed, even for the believing Christian, there is no greater test of faith than this–that the God who loves him permits him to suffer, at times in excruciating ways.” [1]

Imagine what it would have been like for this man of integrity to lose his children and finances all in one day! Moreover, Job lost his health and then was falsely accused by his three friends. The silver lining in these storm clouds is that Job would be restored, and that his testimony would be used by God as a test case to teach us invaluable lessons about suffering.

As we continue this brief summary of the book of Job, we discover that even in his painful affliction, Job held onto his confidence in God (Job 13:15), and he knew that a mediator was needed to rightly approach Him (Job 9:32). Job also believed that his traumatic experience was a valuable refining process:
“But He knows the way that I take;
When He has tested me,
I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

A century ago, Jessie Penn-Lewis observed how God intends to refine believers, conforming them to the moral likeness of Christ:

“There are as many grades of suffering among souls as grades of living among men. Suffering may be spiritual, mental, or physical, or all of these blended into different forms and degrees. When a soul abandons itself entirely to God, with a perfect intention to be conformed to Jesus, the Holy Spirit in a particular way establishes a disciplinary government over it, and takes charge of every form of suffering such a one has, whether outward or inward, and so saturates every incident, trial, and grief with the providences and purposes of God as to make it work for good” [Rom. 8:28-29] [2].

God is hereby teaching us to keep trusting Him, no matter how painful our situation becomes.

In spite of everything, Job was sustained by hope. He triumphantly declared,

“For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see for myself,
And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27).

Likewise, we need to safeguard our joyful anticipation of seeing our Savior face to face.

Now we ask, since Job was righteous, why did he need to repent after God appeared to him? (Job 40:4,5; 42:1-6). (He would not be confessing sins committed prior to Satan’s attacks on him because Job had been declared by God to be a sterling example of righteousness–Job 1:1,8; 2:3). Rather, Job repented of his attitudes, and criticisms that he voiced in response to the misapplied theology of his three comforters. He was pushed to defend his integrity because of their false accusations (Job 4:7; 8:3,4; 11:5-6). In the heat of his suffering and the frustration of debating the issues, Job criticized God as being unjust:

“Know then that God has wronged me,
And has surrounded me with His net.
If I cry out concerning wrong, I am not heard.
If I cry aloud, there is no justice” (Job 19:6,7; Cf.7:20; 9:17; 10:3,7; 18:20-27; 16:11-17; 23:4; 27:2).

His desire for vindication led Job into pride, so he challenged God’s wisdom (Job 31:35-37).

After Job finished his defense, a younger fellow (who had been observing the debates) put in his viewpoint. Elihu’s four speeches (Job 32-37) contain vindications of God’s power, wisdom, and justice. This fellow was not rebuked by God as the three comforters were (Job 42:7). The reason for this seems to be that Elihu based his arguments on what Job said in his speeches; he did not accuse him of a corrupt past.

Finally, chapters 38-41 contain the majestic speeches given directly by God, Who condescended to answer Job and thereby counsel us all. Although God understood and empathized with Job’s anguish, He answered him with a panoramic expression of His glory. God’s speeches validate His sovereignty and wisdom. He answered Job in person:

“Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him?
He who rebukes God, let him answer it” (Job 40:2);
“Would you indeed annul My judgment?
Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?” (Job 40:8).

We might wonder how the description of God’s glory in creating the physical universe (Job 38) and all living creatures (Job 39-40) answers Job’s allegations about injustice. These speeches were to remind Job–and all of us–of human ignorance and frailty. If we cannot fully understand God’s wisdom that was required to create and sustain the material universe and life on earth, how can we be capable of comprehending the higher mysteries that involve the origin of evil, the activity of Satan, human free will, and God’s overruling providence? Although this book teaches us helpful lessons about wisdom, it intentionally leaves out some pieces of the puzzle concerning the existence of suffering. God reveals what we need to know, not necessarily what we want to know.

One of the encouraging features of this book is the happy ending. “And the LORD restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. … Now the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning … He also had seven sons and three daughters. After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children and grandchildren for four generations. So Job died, old and full of days” (Job 42:10-17) [3].

As those who belong to Christ, we likewise will be compensated by God for all the adversity we face in this fallen world. The only difference in Job’s case and ours is that God restored and doubled his possessions in this life. Why? So all people could see God’s faithfulness and goodness in Job’s experience.

Similarly, believers await a joyous reward at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). This confidence motivated the apostles and should encourage us as well: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17).

So when you read the book of Job, apply such lessons of faith. If you are still troubled by the missing pieces of the puzzle of suffering, gaze again at the Cross of Christ. There God’s Son–the only One who deserved no affliction–suffered supremely so all who receive Him would be fully pardoned and inherit eternal life. We can keep trusting such a God, no matter what trials we may face in this life.


Part 2 of 2

[1] Rick Rood, “How Can A Good God Allow Evil?” Probe Ministries http://www.probe.org

[2] Jessie Penn-Lewis, The Story of Job, (CLC), p. 165.

[3] Note that four times in Job 42:7-8 God refers to Job as “My servant.” This is a title of honor that further vindicates him before his four critics. Also, we may wonder why Job received twice as much material possessions, yet he and his wife were blessed with four sons and three daughters (exactly corresponding to the children killed in Job 1:18-19). Since their seven dead children were with the Lord, their seven additional children gave them double their original number (seven in heaven and seven on earth!).

If this article has been helpful to you, feel free to send us a comment via the Grace Notes Contact page here. Thanks.

Copyright 2001 by John Woodward. 2nd edition. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use. Please credit the author and GraceNotebook.com. Scripture quotations (unless indicated otherwise) are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.


Honorable Mention

Greg and Connie Brezina share communication secrets learned from nearly four decades of marriage and over 30 years of ministering to couples and families. Using dramatization and personal stories from their marriage, they delve into how to manage differences, heal from hurtful words, and use communication to take intimacy in a relationship to a deeper level. The audio session is available online at their Christian Families Today web site here.

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Copyright, John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use. Scripture quotations (unless indicated otherwise) are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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