Job doesn’t teach that God can’t be understood, but God is misunderstood sometimes. Job didn’t sin by questioning God; it was Job’s friends who were required to atone for their sins (42:7). God did challenge Job’s assumptions. Eventually Job understands that God is just despite Job’s undeserved suffering. Our demands for an all-powerful, invulnerable God as opposed to a vulnerable God can only come at the expense of freedom. There is no other path to true intimacy, as not even God can force genuine love, or God would have chosen it. God’s alternative was to not create or override freedom. Destroying freedom is to destroy the higher good that results from free, moral decisions.
God Does Not Cause All of Suffering
Job 2:10 hints of things to come in the story: “shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” This passage doesn’t declare God the cause of evil and sufferings that result though God allows trouble. God can’t create and guarantee life without death, violence, suffering, and struggle and yet there be free will necessary for genuine relationships. Freedom causes a complicated world for us and God. All sufferings are not some cosmic play between God and Satan, but readers are privy that Satan was the cause of evil in Job’s situation. God allowing Satan to test Job severely does not make God responsible for Satan’s actions. The Bible nowhere says God originates or causes our suffering unless for clear discipline reasons. Evil originates out of the hearts of men and women. God also doesn’t cause natural disasters, diseases, or accidents that lead to so much suffering. It is a complicated world of God and us.
Suffering is Not Evidence of Sin
God rejected Job’s friends’ assumption that suffering is evidence of sin and God’s displeasure. Is cancer or lack of healing because of sin in one’s life? Please! Suffering doesn’t prove you have sinned or deserve to suffer. God in this story is very clear that Job “…is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (1:8). The suffering that Job experience is totally undeserved as is a great deal of suffering at the hands of evildoers. Bad things happen to good people in a broken world.
God Can Be Just And Caring Despite Suffering
God also rejected Job’s assumption that the wicked must be judged or the righteous rewarded immediately: “…Why should I not be impatient…Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment? Why must those who know him look in vain for such days” (21:4, 24:1)? Job perhaps began to wonder if God was in control and cared by not intervening in his suffering sooner. God defended Himself to Job: “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself” (40:8)? God’s justice doesn’t means the righteous never suffer here on earth or the unjust don’t seemingly prosper. God apparently doesn’t react to suffering, inevitable in a free world, as we humans do.
Job Recognized God Knows How To Best Run A Free World
Job says “my ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen you” (42:5). God did not say Job sinned by trying to understand God. Job just needed to hear from God and reminding that God was the Magnificent Creator of all (Chapters 39-41). Job perhaps began to realize that he was ultimately challenging God’s wisdom on how to run the universe. God may know a thing or two about running a world that has chosen to rebel again their Creator. Instant justice does not allow room for mercy.
Can Job’s Suffering Provide Insights For Our Sufferings?
God wants us to be comforted by Him in our sufferings by not making any false assumptions, and understand He suffers alongside of us. God wants us to understand our sufferings which are inevitable in a free world, though not caused by God, can serve a purpose in our life and the lives of others we influence. Are there rational reasons that God allows suffering and doesn’t intervene immediately?
- Most understand deserved suffering. Cheat on your partner and all hell can break loss. God never says all of suffering is deserved so shut-up! Job’s suffering was clearly not deserved. Suffering obviously is not always retribution or correction from God. God allows suffering but does not will suffering in the same way.
- Suffering enables us to not fall in love with temporal existence and love what the world offers. We are more likely to look to God, who desires our everlasting happiness, during adversity than prosperity. I am better off when my prayers are not answered. Suffering brings to light our defects so to examine and overcome our weaknesses. No pain no gain is true both physically and emotionally. Profound trust in God during suffering can lead to wisdom about life in general.
- Our suffering can empower us to better serve others. Did Martin Luther King have to suffer to move the scales from the eyes of many how they tolerated bigotry? Personal tragedies or undeserved insults can make us more sensitive to others in similar situations. Miracles turned heads but Jesus’ suffering turned the hearts of billions of followers. Suffering, inevitable in a free world, is necessary if you are going to be of much use to others.
- God could annihilate people at the first sign of evil, but don’t we give our wayward children chances to change no matter the harmed caused to themselves or others? God is merciful and patient in trying to change lives. Our demands for an all-powerful, invulnerable God comes at the expense of trusting God know best how to run the universe and change as many lives as possible through their own volition.
- Job gave up trying to control God, accepting God knew better how to run the universe. Satan had a point. True love in any relationship is determined when you suffer and yet still love. But Satan’s evil brought the exact opposite intended. Ultimately, we may not know all the reasons for why God allows evil to continue or be so random, as Job, but we know one reason is not because God doesn’t love us as evidenced by suffering Himself through Jesus.