How to Deal with Suffering (A Mini-Commentary on the Book of Job)

Every one of us has probably wondered why there is so much pain and suffering on earth. The explanation appears to be continuously beyond our reach, especially when we are the ones in agony. Can we get any answers at all? The book of Job tackles the subject head-on, and from its pages, we can glean a few principles to help us get a handle on this baffling mystery.

You probably know the story of Job. Life was good. He had wealth beyond measure and a large happy family. Then one day, he lost it all. What’s more, his health soon deteriorated to the point where he just wanted to die. All his worst nightmares had come to pass, and then some.

Job’s friends arrived to comfort him, and a series of conversations followed where they tried to make sense of what had happened. Since they differed in their interpretation, their debate became more and more heated until another friend appeared on the scene and rebuked them all. Finally, God himself addressed Job.

Here are a few observations that came to me as I read through the book:

  • Job never found out the reason for his suffering. The scene in heaven between God and Satan where they wager over Job’s faithfulness was never revealed to him. His agony had a purpose, but God never explained it to Job. Instead, the veil that covers what happens in the spiritual world remained fastened shut before his eyes, and it was only pushed back for a few seconds in the first two chapters for our benefit.
  • God didn’t cause Job’s suffering. Satan did. Sure, God allowed it, but he was not the one who rained down death and destruction. Job was wrong to blame God, and in the end, he repented of his accusations.
  • Both Job and his friends were wrong in their analysis of what happened. The friends assumed that Job had committed some major sin to incur God’s wrath, whereas Job vehemently defended his innocence and accused God of mistreating him.
  • Human understanding and knowledge are minuscule in contrast to God’s infinite wisdom and power. When God addressed Job, he asked him a long series of questions that Job could not answer. The statements Job had so confidently declared only a little while earlier only proved his complete ignorance, which he readily admitted.

So what are some applications for us today as we grapple with the same questions that tormented Job?

  • Don’t analyze the “why’s” too much because we are bound to come to the wrong conclusions. We would be wise to remember the limits of our understanding.  It also wouldn’t hurt to be humble about whatever opinion we may have. We don’t want to be rebuked like Job or his friends, do we?
  • Remember that God is good. He is the sovereign Creator of the universe and is infinitely more powerful than we could ever think or imagine. He desires our well-being and not our misfortune. I don’t know why he doesn’t explain more to us, but he has his reasons.
  • Trust God despite everything. Amid his doubts and anger, Job was still able to say, “I know that my Redeemer lives,” and “after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God.” He never wavered in his faith in God’s salvation, although he was bewildered and confused. Trusting God is a decision we make even when we don’t understand what’s happening.

When all was said and done, God lifted Job out of his despair and gave him back twice as much as he had lost. We may never experience such a dramatic turnaround, but the conclusion of Job’s story illustrates one crucial truth: God will defeat all suffering and evil. For those who trust God, suffering is temporary and will come to an end.

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