When we think of suffering and feeling abandoned by God, the book of Job is an obvious place to go to explore the topic. We’ve gathered four things that can be learnt by his story, when it comes to suffering.
We cannot earn a life free from suffering.
In the same way that grace is a free gift and we cannot earn God’s love, we can also see that ‘good behaviour’ doesn’t dictate a person’s fortune. Many of us will know kind and generous people who get incredibly sick – or unloving and selfish people who are blessed with many possessions. Our view and measure of who is ‘good enough’ to have a ‘good life’ isn’t always a helpful gauge. Job was an upright man, a righteous man, and had done nothing to ‘deserve’ his suffering. Satan claimed Job’s loyalty to God was because of his lack of testing – and yet, through the trials, we see Job stand firm as he acknowledges God’s sovereignty.
Friends may not say what we want to hear
In our suffering, it makes sense that we would seek comfort from those closest to us. As Christians, we are called to bear burdens together and to support one another. However, that doesn’t always mean that friends get it right, or at least say what we want to hear. Job understood what it was like to present his case to others and have a challenging and honest response in return. When sharing with friends, it’s important to value and remain thankful for the good relationships in our lives, the ability to share with others, and the integrity of friends who are honest with us. If we don’t like what someone has to say, listening to God and weighing their opinion with grace and calmness is key.
Sometimes we don’t receive answers
After the interactions between Job and his friends, we receive God’s response (Job 38). We might expect a personal encouragement or explanation about what Job is going through. Instead, God speaks about His own character, power and sovereignty. God says to Job: “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!” (Job 38:2-5 NIV)
In a way, it’s as if this is the answer. God’s thoughts and ways are above our own – we cannot always comprehend them. God does not have to answer our questions in the way that we would like, or conform to our rules. He is the one who controls and created all things. Job’s response to this declaration is to submit and trust in God’s authority and wisdom. As we learn to listen to God and trust in who He is, we are able to hold on to joy and peace in the toughest of times. And the great news is, unlike Job, we have the whole Bible, filled with words God has spoken to us, to see us through.
God is a God of restoration
While Job’s reality was filled with hardship and hopelessness during the worst of his suffering, ultimately God restores his life. The final chapters of the book of Job present a case for hope and trust in God. God gives back Job’s wealth, and brings him more children (in fact the belongings Job acquires in later life goes above and beyond what he had before). This is not only a picture of God’s attentive and loving nature, but also a nod towards an even greater restoration that is coming, in eternal life. While we may have to live on Earth with difficulty and without answers, we can be confident that God will return peace, honour and blessings to us, in abundance. In His character, and in the promises of Jesus, we find our assurance.
For more on the topic of suffering, why not watch ‘Why does God allow suffering?’ with Andrew Wilson: https://watch.tbnuk.tv/think-with-andrew-wilson/season:1/videos/why-does-god-allow-suffering