“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
I have spent the past two weeks reading through the book of Job. Perhaps one of the most theologically challenging books in Scripture, the book of Job presents us with the difficult question of “why does God allow suffering”, and more specifically “why do the righteous suffer”? I’ve read through the book of Job before, but I found myself much more engaged this time. Maybe because we’re in the middle of Found On My Knees and we’ve just spent the past three weeks studying themes of brokenness, surrender, and trust…or maybe because I have begun to see increased suffering around me in the lives of those I love…whatever the reason, reading through Job again has been so timely in my walk with the Lord these past two weeks.
The book begins with the description of Job’s righteous character. Even God Himself described Job as blameless and upright, fearing God and shunning evil. So, we wrestle endlessly with this question: Why did God allow Job to suffer so greatly? If you’re familiar with the story of Job, you remember that Satan petitioned God to mess with Job, certain that if Job was tested and tried, that he would in fact turn from God and renounce his faith. Upon receiving God’s permission, Satan proceeded to wreak havoc on Job’s life. By the end, everything but the breath in his lungs had been stripped away from him, and even his closest friends condemned him, assuming he must have done something horribly wrong to deserve such harsh punishment from God.
The thing that astounds me the most about Job is his trust in the Lord. At one point, his own wife tells him to curse God and die, yet through every painful testing that Job faced, ultimately he trusted in the Lord. Sure, he struggled to understand why God would allow him to face such severe hardship when he had lived such a righteous life. He mourned and grieved his losses, and at points he despaired his own life, but he continued to cry out to God in desperation, begging God to vindicate him. In the end, his unwavering trust in the character of God stood firm. His conclusion was simply this: God, in His sovereignty, chooses to allow suffering in both the lives of the wicked and the righteous for His good and divine purposes. Although Job never received the answers he was probably looking for in regards to his suffering, the answer he did receive was sufficient. God is still good, and He is still trustworthy.
As I wrestled through this book, seeking to understand God’s purposes in my own suffering and the trials I’ve faced, I too came to the conclusion that because God is God and I am not, He reserves the right to withhold any and all explanation from me. If nothing else, He does reveal His character to me, and it is in that alone that I can trust. The Bible makes it very clear that God ordains His children to walk through sorrow and pain on this side of heaven…sometimes as a result to our own sin (Numbers 12:10-12), sometimes to discipline us (Hebrews 12:5-12), sometimes to strengthen us (1 Peter 5:10), and other times to give opportunity to reveal His comfort and grace (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). Perhaps it is that final reason that causes us to struggle the most with suffering. In this age of entitlement, we find that final reason simply not enough, not just cause to allow suffering, and we also struggle to understand how a loving God could allow suffering at all. But, is it not a beautiful thing to fully experience the Lord’s comfort and grace? Is it not life-altering to rest in His presence and know His love that transcends all understanding?
There were two profound truths that I walked away with after reading through Job again. First, Satan requires God’s permission for everything that He does. He does not have the power to do anything apart from what God has given Him. Understanding this alone deepens my trust in the Lord. Secondly, every storm, every trial, every hardship that has or will penetrate my life has first gone through the hands of my loving God. God does not grab a handful of painful trails, toss them into the air, and allow them to haphazardly fall into our lives. As we grow to understand God’s character, we come to see and know that everything God does or allows flows out of His love. He cannot act outside of His character. He cannot be unloving. Believing this to be true releases such freedom into the life of the believer. What if we, just like Job, could trust in the unchanging, perfect, and always good character of God and choose to see our circumstances through the lens of unwavering trust in who He says He is? Perhaps we would find ourselves finally grasping onto the hand of Jesus. This is where I desire to be found, holding onto His hand in complete surrender and total trust.
1. How do you find yourself responding to the story of Job? Do you struggle to see God’s goodness in the face of such great suffering? Why?
2. How has the story of Job brought hope to your current situation?
3. Journal a prayer of response, asking God to reveal more of his character to you and to increase your trust in who He says He is. Confess the doubt in your heart and ask Him to replace it with unwavering trust.