Job is the book of the Bible that raises the confusing question of human suffering. If God is in control and loving, then why does God allow human suffering? Clearly, Job is a perfect and upright man. Even God held Job up as model of goodness and integrity (Job 2:3). Job feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:8; see also Ezekiel 14:14–20 and James 5:11). Job’s life could not have been more blameless. He had done nothing wrong or sinful. Job was honest and totally devoted to God. Even more, Job lived a prosperous life with family, wealth, and high community honor.
Evil claimed that people like Job loved God only because of the good things God provided. Remove the good things, evil challenged, and Job’s faith would melt away along with his wealth, family, and health (Job 1:12-2:6). Evil asked God’s permission to attack Job. Job was unaware of the conference between God and evil. The Holy Bible records at least one other instance where evil specifically asked permission to attack an individual: Luke 22:31-32.
In this extreme test of faith, Job suffered the worse troubles. Job suffered the loss of his children, most of his servants, and all that he owned. Then, Job was inflicted physically with painful sores all over his body. Job’s wife scorned him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9). With all his losses, Job even cursed the day he was born (Job 6:9). Then, Job’s loss was compounded by the poor comfort of his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. In the beginning, Job’s three friends sat with him for a full week in shared, silent grief (Job 2:11-13). As it turned out, their compassionate silence was the best help Job’s friends gave to him – a good lesson to remember for any who works with suffering people. Eventually, Job’s friends tried to comfort Job in his suffering although they insisted that Job had sinned before God and done something wrong to deserve his suffering (Job 5:17). During three rounds of debate (Job 4-31), Job’s friends argue with Job over this common explanation of suffering.
Job defended his innocence and integrity. Job repeatedly looked to God and considered His creation as he struggled to make sense of the loss of his family, riches, and health (e.g., see Job 26; see also Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:17). Creation itself did not answer Job’s profound questions, but the heavens and the earth did point Job to God the Creator, who alone responds with help and hope. Creation testifies to God’s sovereignty, wisdom, power, goodness, and loving care (Job 38:4-39:30) and ultimately to God’s true justice in the world (Job 40:8-14; see also Romans 12:17-20).
Despite all his loss and suffering, Job NEVER cursed God and never stopped trusting God. Job expressed astonishing hope and belief in God, in the midst of suffering and agony (Job 19:25). He said with confidence, “For I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25 (NKJV). Job kept on believing and trusting in a loving, fair God even though all the evidence pointed against Him.
During the deepest moments of Job’s struggles, he wanted one thing: the appearance of God face to face to explain his miserable fate. Job got his wish. God appeared and spoke to Job (Job 38:1-42:6). The Theophany (appearance of God), consisted of two discourses or speeches by God (Job 38:1-40:2; Job 40:6-41:34) with a brief response from Job (Job 40:3-5; Job 42:1-6). God spoke to Job not to give Job any reason or justification of His ways. Out of the awesome majesty of the thunderstorm, God reminded Job that His ways, purposes, and His wisdom is greater than any human understanding (see also Isaiah 55:8-9).
In the end, Job emerged from this dramatic testing with a new reverence and honor for God and His greatness, sovereignty, and abundance for a person’s life (Proverbs 42:1–6). Job learned that God and His purposes are supreme (Job 42:1-6; see also Isaiah 6:5) and through faith he can always accept all God’s purposes, even suffering. God does not allow us to suffer for no reason because He is fair in all His ways even when we do not know or understand His purposes. Even though the reason for human suffering may be hidden in the mystery of God’s divine purposes, Job learned he must continually TRUST God and live righteous.
The book of Job reveals to humanity the inadequacy of human reason to understand human suffering. There is a mystery of God’s freedom that remains mysterious to humanity. Even more, the book of Job teaches that all of suffering must be seen in light of the cosmic struggle of God against evil. Job was involved in a cosmic test of good verse evil that he did not realize was happening. Therefore, humans must continually have an attitude of TRUST AND DEPENDENCE on a good God who ultimately rights all wrongs. Like Job, we must persevere and refuse to give up on God even when we do not understand the difficulties we face.
In the end, God restored Job with twice as much as he had before with more children, more property, and good health (Job 42:10-17). God blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first. Job learned the God is good all the time.
The tragic events related in the book of Job were started by God. God did not allow Job’s sufferings because of sin in his life. Instead, God acknowledged Job’s righteousness and honesty. A new reader of the book of Job can easily get lost because the complete “story line” of Job is found in the first two chapters and the last few chapters, Job chapters 38 through 42. Everything in between are a series of long speeches. The book of Job is one of the oldest books of the Holy Bible. Many people date the acts of Job very early, before the time of Moses.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
New Student Bible. New York, NY: Zondervan, 1992.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. New York: Zondervan, 2008.