“That We Might Have Hope” (Rom. 15:4)
The Book Of Job
LESSONS FROM JOB
A tragic car accident leaves its victim paralyzed for life. A young man finds out he has terminal cancer. An expectant mother miscarries her child. A young couple unexpectedly loses an infant. A tornado demolishes an entire city block killing many in its path. These tragedies take place daily in our world to both believers and unbelievers. Why does a righteous God permit His children to suffer so intensely? Why aren’t Christians immune to such problems? In order to help answer these questions, let us turn to Job, who is well-known for his suffering.
Job’s Faith Is Tested
Job was an extremely wealthy man from the land of Uz who was “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). He placed his trust in God’s promises, and through faith in the coming Savior was declared righteous by God. Yet God permitted Job to suffer at the hands of Satan. In a single day Job lost all of his property and his ten children. This test of faith, however, was passed by Job who uttered these humble words; “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:21).
This reaction of Job to tragedy puts us to shame, doesn’t it? How often do we, when faced with comparatively insignificant tragedies, react with spite and self-pity, wondering why God has been so cruel to us. “Why did God allow me to sprain my ankle right before the big game?” “Why do I have to suffer from this facial blemish on the day school pictures are taken?” “Why do I have to be sick on my birthday?” These complaints sound pretty petty in comparison, don’t they?
Unsuccessful in his first attempt, Satan obtained permission from God to cause physical suffering to Job. Permission was granted by God with the condition that Job’s life be spared. Job was stricken with painful boils from head to toe. So altered was his appearance that his three friends could not even recognize him. He also had to deal with the poor advice of his wife who instructed him to “curse God and die!” (2:9) How did Job respond to these new attacks? He told his wife she was speaking foolishly and said: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (2:10)
But Job was a sinful human just like you and me. He too struggled with his “old man.” After being visited by his three friends who offered him no comfort in a week, Job cursed the day of his birth. Job uttered strong complaints against God; yet he never cursed God as Satan had predicted and as his wife had suggested.
God Is Faithful
Job’s friends finally spoke, but their words only made things worse. They surmised that Job must be suffering so severely because of some dreadful sin which he had committed. It is true that certain sins do lead to earthly consequences which may be difficult to bear. But it is also true that some hardships, such as Job’s, do not come to us as a direct result of some grievous sin. The amount of suffering in one’s life is not directly proportional to the sins one commits. In fact, in Hebrews we read: “For whom the Lord loves He chastens” (12:6). Oftentimes it seems like those who suffer most are those whose faith in Christ is strongest. But God also leaves us with these words of comfort: “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13). God knew the strength of Job’s faith, just as He knows the strength of ours.
The prolonged suffering, however, did have its effect on Job. In response to his friends accusations of wrongdoing, he went too far in saying he had done nothing to deserve this kind of torture from God. Job was a sinner, and as a sinner he deserved eternal punishment in hell. Although Job was suffering intensely, this suffering cannot compare to the suffering we all deserve because of our sin. Job needed to be humbled in his self-righteous attitude, as do we at times.
A younger friend of Job, Elihu, rebuked Job’s attitude toward God. He told Job that he did not have the right to question the wisdom of God. He reminded Job that God may allow affliction for any number of reasons, many of which man’s simple mind cannot comprehend. God does not exercise justice in accordance to our way of thinking. Elihu also comforted Job by telling him that God is loving and that He restores people from the clutches of suffering and sin.
Finally, it was time for God Himself to address Job. God reminded Job, through a series of questions about the universe, that Job’s limited knowledge pales in comparison to that of the Creator God. In the last chapter of the book Job recognizes his sin and repents “in dust and ashes.” God then blesses Job with another large family, many possessions, and a long life.
What We Can Learn
What can we learn from the account of Job? Certainly we can learn patience in tribulation. Few of us will ever experience the tragedies Job faced as a child of God. But when suffering does come, let us bear it with humility and patience.
We can also see from this account that we have no right to question the wisdom and justice of God. His ways are perfect, ours are sinful. We do know that the trials He allows Christians to endure are for their eternal benefit. But most importantly, the book of Job provides us with hope for deliverance from this world of sin. For in chapter 10 of Job are recorded these familiar words: “I know that my Redeemer lives.” Job was able to withstand the trials of Satan because he clung to the Savior whose foretold death and resurrection assured Job of his own salvation. The book of Job paints to Jesus who suffered hell for us, and who provides the perfect example of patience in tribulation. Because of what Jesus bore on the cross, we can bear the crosses in our lives.
Lord, as we pass through this vale of tears, grant us patience in suffering and the hope of heaven through Jesus Christ, our Savior.
Oh, for a faith that will not shrink Tho' pressed by many a foe; That will not tremble on the brink Of poverty or woe. That will not murmur nor complain Beneath the chast'ning rod, But in the hour of grief or pain Can lean upon its God. Lord, give us such a faith as this; And then, what e'er may come, We'll taste e'en now the hallowed bliss Of an eternal home. (TLH, 396)— Prof. Joseph Lau