We’ve talked about suffering in the last posts, and whenever someone talks about suffering in the Bible, one has to mention Job.
You probably know Job’s story: God allowed the devil to destroy everything he owned and everyone he loved, even attack his body. He just didn’t allow him to die. In a short while, Job lost all his possessions, his family and his health.
But what was the point of such suffering? In fact, we can learn important lessons from the story of Job, and we will explore that in this post and in the next few posts that I am writing in this series.
First of all, I’d like to talk about one thing that many people still struggle with, which is when good people suffer.
That issue comes from a notion that we get what we deserve out of life. If we are good, then we get “good” things; if we are bad, then we get punished for that. Based on that, many people think that if we are good people, then nothing bad will ever happen to us. If it does, then we did something bad to deserve it.
If you read the book of Job, you will see that this is exactly what his friends thought. When they saw what happened to Job, they immediately concluded that he did something wrong to deserve it. When Job insisted that he was a righteous man, his friends insisted that he was wrong.
For example, in this sentence Zophar makes it clear that he thought that Job needed to repent from a sin that he had committed that caused all the trouble he had:
Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then, free of fault, you will lift up your face; (Job 11:13-15)
Eliphaz’s accusations are even harsher:
Is it for your piety that he rebukes you and brings charges against you? Is not your wickedness great? Are not your sins endless? (Job 22:4,5)
But Job hadn’t sinned. That’s what they didn’t get.
Job’s friends also thought that, as soon as Job would repent of his alleged sin, God would make everything right, because He had to do it. They thought it would be the right thing to do. They’d never considered that God had a plan that they had no idea about it.
The so-called friends, who were supposed to bring comfort to a suffering man, failed miserably:
Then Job replied: “How long will you torment me and crush me with words?” (Job 19:1,2)
Instead of helping him through that difficult situation, Job’s friends made it even worse, for one simple reason: they assumed something wrong about God and about Job. They judged him even though they had no evidence to support their claims.
When God shows up at the end of the story, this is what he said about Job’s friends affirmations:
After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:7)
I want to make it clear that one day God will judge every single person, and that’s when we will get our reward, not based on whether we deserve it or not, but based on whether we accepted Jesus or not, and whether we did God’s will in our lives.
So the first lesson we learn from Job is that good people do suffer, even though they didn’t do anything to deserve it. We must not judge other people based on their situation. We have no clue of what is really going on.
And if God called us to offer a helping hand, let’s do that. In moments like this, our focus shouldn’t be to win an argument, but to bring comfort to a suffering person.