Children never tire of asking “Why?” Yet the question produces a bitter taste the older we get. Children wonder about everything; adults wonder about suffering. We notice that the world seems to run by a system of cause and effect, yet there are some effects for which we can’t find a clear cause, and some causes that don’t lead to the expected effects. We would expect Job’s wealth and family to give him a very happy life, and, for a while, they did. But the loss and pain he experienced shock us. The first two chapters of his story are more than we can bear. To those so quick to ask “Why?” at the smallest misfortune, Job’s faithfulness seems incredible. But even Job had something to learn. We can learn with him.
Our age of “instant” everything has caused us to lose the ability to wait. We expect to learn patience instantly, and in our hurry, we miss the contradiction. Of all that we want now, relief from pain is at the top of our list. We want an instant cure for everything from toothaches to heartbreaks.
Although some pains have been cured, we still live in a world where many people suffer. Job was not expecting instant answers for the intense emotional and physical pain he endured. But in the end, what broke Job’s patience was not the suffering, but not knowing why he suffered.
When Job expressed his frustration, his friends were ready with their answers. They believed that the law of cause and effect applied to all people’s experiences. Their view of life boiled down to this: good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people. Because of this, they felt their role was to help Job admit to whatever sin was causing his suffering.
Job actually looked at life in almost the same way as his friends. What he couldn’t understand was why he was suffering so much when he was sure he had done nothing to deserve such punishment. The last friend, Elihu, did offer another explanation for the pain by pointing out that God might be allowing it in order to purify Job. But this was only partly helpful. When God finally spoke, he didn’t offer Job an answer. Instead, he drove home the point that it is better to know God than to know answers.
Often we suffer consequences for bad decisions and actions. Job’s willingness to repent and confess known wrongs is a good guideline for us. Sometimes suffering shapes us for special service to others. Sometimes suffering is an attack by Satan on our lives. And sometimes we don’t know why we suffer. At those times, are we willing to trust God in spite of unanswered questions?
Strengths and accomplishments:
- Was a man of faith, patience, and endurance
- Was known as a generous and caring person
- Was very wealthy
Weakness and mistake:
- Allowed his desire to understand why he was suffering to overwhelm him and make him question God
Lessons from his life:
- Knowing God is better than knowing answers
- God is not arbitrary or uncaring
- Pain is not always punishment
- Where: Uz
- Occupation: Wealthy landowner and livestock owner
- Relatives: Wife and first ten children not named. Daughters from the second set of children: Jemimah, Keziah, Keren-Happuch
- Contemporaries: Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, Elihu
Key verse: “Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:10, 11).
Job’s story is told in the book of Job. He is also referred to in Ezekiel 14:14, 20 and James 5:11.