Everyone suffers in life. Good people suffer and bad people suffer. Rich and poor people suffer. Men, women, and children all suffer. In fact, all of creation seems to suffer (Gen. 3:17; Rom. 8:21-22).
The interesting thing is that, though everyone experiences suffering, they all respond to suffering differently. Sometimes our response is rational–understandable. Sometimes it doesn’t make any sense at all. Psychologically, looking at how humans respond to suffering can tell us a great deal about what is important to us or what we believe.
I have a friend who, after reading the book of Job, was wondering why Job responded the way he did to suffering. Specifically, why did he refuse to curse God, but still seem to accuse God of being unjust? Why did he cling to life, but still want to die?
These are valid questions. Hopefully we can find an answer. Not everyone may be familiar with this story, so let’s jump in!
“There once was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless–a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil. He had seven sons and three daughters. He owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, [etc.]… He was, in fact, the richest person in that entire area (Job 1:1-3, NLT).”
Alright. What we have here is a guy who puts God first in everything, and always went above and beyond to do the right thing. Not only that, but he is extremely wealthy. It’s a safe assumption that God had probably blessed Job with wealth because of the way he lives. This probably encouraged Job to honor God even more! (Note: Blessing of wealth is a completely different topic that I don’t have time to address here.)
We see in verses 6-8, that Satan comes to God one day, after observing life on earth. Long story very short, God says, “Did you get a look at Job? That guys is AWESOME. He really loves me and is careful to avoid doing anything evil.”
Satan basically responds, “Job only loves you because you shower him with wealth and safety. If that were taken away, he would curse you in a minute. (I’m paraphrasing, so go read it!)
To this, God says, “All right, you may test him… (v. 12, NLT).” One day, Job was hit with bad news. Four times. All at once. Raiders had stolen his animals and killed his farmhands. Fire had fallen from heaven and destroyed all of Job’s sheep and his shepherds. Raiders had stolen his camels and killed his servants. A building had collapsed and killed all of his children.
Not surprisingly, Job began to grieve for everything that was taken from him. What is surprising is that Job still worshiped God anyway!
After all of this, Job was then tested again. Satan gave Job “terrible boils from head to foot. Job scraped his skin with a piece of broken pottery as he sat among the ashes (2:7-8, NLT).”
Job’s wife sees this and tells him to just curse God and accept his death; he doesn’t. Instead, after a period of mourning–thinking about all that had happened–he finally curses the day he was born. It basically starts with, “Let the day of my birth be erased… (3:3, NLT),” and goes downhill from there…for 26 verses. Heavy stuff. Still, though, Job refuses to curse God.
Job’s friends, who had been sharing in his suffering, don’t make this situation any better. They constantly tell Job that he must have done something wrong to deserve all of this. They say that he should go ahead and confess it all to God so that God will bless him again. One of them actually says, “Stop and think! Do the innocent die? When have the upright been destroyed? My experience shows that those who plant trouble and cultivate evil will harvest the same… (4:7-8, NLT).”
If you’re like me, you probably read that and think something like, “What an idiot! Of course the innocent die. It happens all over the world.” It’s true that it would be logical for the good to be rewarded and the evil to be punished. But that’s not how life works. Maybe in a perfect world…
Keep in mind, Job hasn’t done anything to deserve any of this. Through all of this suffering and bad advice, though, he still refused to curse God.
However, Job does seem to wonder if God is truly Just. At some point, he talks about taking God to court! And he adds, “Even if I were right, I would have no defense. I could only plead for mercy…I’m not sure he would listen to me. For he attacks me with a storm and repeatedly wounds me without cause (9:15-17,NLT).”
Later, Job again alludes to a courtroom:
“If only I knew where to find God, I would go to his court. I would lay out my case and present my arguments. Then I would listen to his reply and understand what he says to me… I go east, but he is not there. I go west, but I cannot find him… (23:3-8, NLT).”
Job talks and talks and talks. Finally, God shows up with some questions.
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me if you know so much (38:4).”
And again: “Can you direct the movements of the stars–binding the cluster of the Pleiades or loosening the cords of Orion (38:31)?”
And with sarcasm: “But of course you know all this! For you were born before it was all created, and you are so very experienced (38:21)!”
(Almost done! Bear with me!)
After God finishes, three chapters later, Job says, “I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance (42:5-6, NLT).” Because of this, “the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning (41:12).”
So, friend, here are some truths that I want you to take from this:
1. This world became broken–even cursed. And humanity did it.
At the beginning of all this, I referenced 2 verses: Genesis 3:17 and Romans 8:21-22. You may or may not have looked them up!
In Genesis 3:17, God tells Adam, “…the ground is cursed because of you [they disobeyed God]. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.”
In Romans 8:21-22, we see that all of creation “looks forward” to the day when it will be freed from “death and decay.” Creation has even been “groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”
2. Because this world is broken, sometimes bad things happen in this world that we can’t control, and we may not even understand.
You may have heard it said that “Everything happens for a good reason. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I don’t buy that. Try telling that to the couple who just had their second or third miscarriage. Tell that to the kids who feel unwanted because they bounce from foster home to foster home. Tell that to the mother whose child was killed by a drunk driver. Things like that seem absolutely senseless.
Sometimes there may not be a reason. Sometimes bad things happen for no other reason than that this world is seriously messed up.
3. This world may be broken, but God plans to fix it. There is hope!
In talking about the bad advice of one of Job’s friends, I said, “Maybe in a perfect world…” Well, God made a perfect world, and he intends to make it perfect again. On that day, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’ (Rev. 21:4-5).” It all starts with Jesus.
This is what awaits all who trust and follow him. Isn’t that awesome?
4. God is God, and I am not.
The very fact that God is God means that he is able to make (and remake) this entire universe. Look at God’s responses to Job in the Bible and read that tiny bit of God’s resume! God alone has the right to do whatever he wants. If we can do anything we want, it is because God planned it that way. We may not understand what God does or what God allows (Job sure didn’t), but God cannot be in the wrong; it’s not his fault. He doesn’t make mistakes.
In fact, James tells us just the opposite, “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow (1:17, NLT).”
Thanks for sticking with me! If this has blessed your day, share it with someone else! As always, if you have a question you want answered, send it to me, and we’ll look at it together!