Synopsis: We usually focus on suffering when thinking of Job, but it is the apparent break in relationship with God that hurts him the most. Where is God’s love, His care? Though I am in unspeakable emotional and physical pain, I can live without my children (oh, so much pain and sorrow!), my health, my money. But I cannot live without God. He is my Everything.
Many of the thoughts I share here I first heard in a devotional at the 2012 Mexico Branch of SIL conference held in Mitla, Oaxaca, Mexico. I would like to thank Pastor Ismael Cruz Solórzano for his beautiful insights into the book of Job. During the height of the COVID-19 quarantine Eric Young, the pastor of Discovery Church Tucson, the church I attend in Arizona, suggested I make a series of videos based on articles I had written on this blog giving a Biblical perspective on suffering. The one on Job was the ninth in this video series, and in it I combined the things I learned from Pastor Ismael’s devotional together with the theme I was focusing on during that difficult time.
Usually when we think about Job, the number one thing that comes to our mind is suffering. And it is true that Job suffered immensely. But the main theme of the book is actually not pain and suffering.
To begin, let us look at the setting, how all the events of the book got set into action. Job 1:6-12: One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 1“Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
As we think about this passage, we know that God knows what satan is going to ask Him. In fact, it is God who brings Job into the conversation, telling satan that Job is blameless, upright, a man of integrity who shuns evil. In response, satan accuses God, saying that is only the case because God “coddles” him, has blessed him, put a hedge of protection around him. Then satan assures God that if He were to take this away, Job would curse Him to his face. So the dynamic here is that satan is casting doubt on God’s honor. God implies that Job loves him because of Who He is, but satan claims that Job will curse God if he loses his things. We might compare it with a man who married the light of his life, a woman he was deeply in love with, only to later find out that she only married him for his money. The man had thought that she married him for who he is, for his character, because they had that “connection”, had such good times together, maybe he thought he was quite the romantic, or felt that God was leading in all this. But to think that from her perspective she was seeing him more like an ATM machine, that would really hurt. That is basically the dynamic going on here, what satan is saying to God: “Job just loves you for your “money”, because you bless him and provide for him, but take that all away and he will curse You.” This is attacking God’s honor. So God wants it to be clear that Job loves Him because of Who He is and not just because God gives him things.
In a previous article I wrote about the issue of blaming God. So in this case, what or who actually caused Job’s suffering? God? satan? Chance? Is God the one who sent these calamities onto Job? As we read the book, the Bible makes it clear that satan is the one who actually did the deeds. But someone might posit, “Well, God let the devil do all these things.” So are we now blaming God for all the tragedies the devil causes, thinking that it is God’s fault because He allowed it? If you have read my previous articles on “Blaming God”, “The Kingdom of God” and “Suffering and God attributes”, you will know that the devil has a lot of authority in this word because of sin, he has a foothold in the lives of many people, and the just right to cause all kinds of problems.
The Bible clearly states that God never leaves nor forsakes His people. Here also, God never left nor abandoned Job. And Job, though complaining, lamenting, and wondering what in the world is going on, stayed faithful to God and did not curse Him. He could not understand why God, whom he loved, would let all these things happen to him. In 13:15 he says: “Though He slay me, yet will I put my hope in Him.” Job could not think of anything, any sin he committed, to cause this drastic change and cause all this, despite his friends continual insistence that he must have done something really bad. But in the end, God reveals Himself to Job, shows that He loves him and never stopped loving him, and in the end, restores all that he had.
We know that before satan acted, life was going very good for Job. Then this drastic change. Let us look for a moment at some of the things Job lost in a very short period of time, and as much as Job can figure, for no good reason. 1) He lost all his oxen and donkeys and all but one servant who was taking care of them. 2) Then another servant comes and says “The fire of God came down and burnt up all your sheep and your servants. Only I escaped.” (Interesting here that the servant seems to blame God when we know that satan is the one who caused this.) 3) Then another servant says the Chaldeans came, killed all his servants and took all his camels. 4) Then the worst of these tragedies, another servant comes in and says all his children were together, a windstorm came down onto the house they were partying in, and killed them all.
So how did Job react to this awful mess, this complete disaster? Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. This was a sign of deep mourning at that time, and showing what was in his heart. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (1:20-22) Wow, his main response to this tragedy is to worship and magnify the name of the Lord. He also did not curse the name of the Lord as satan had predicted.
In chapter two, satan comes back, and still does not believe that Job has a strong faith, and so proposes that God do something else in 2:5-7: “But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.
Again satan predicts that if he loses his health, he will curse God, will turn his back on God, and show his true colors by losing faith in God. So God lets him do as “he” pleases, and satan strikes him with boils. It is not God who is afflicting him. Satan’s main goal is, again, that Job curse God. So from here the book takes on the theme, no so much of suffering, but what will be the result of all this suffering. The focus in on the relationship between God and Job. Will Job actually curse God and turn his back on Him? This chapter also says that, besides satan, Job’s wife was encouraging him to curse God, to which he responds in 2:10: “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. Job is despairing he is hurting, he does not know all that is going on in the background, of this interaction between God and satan. But He does know that God is God and did not sin by cursing Him.
When thinking about all that happened to Job throughout these 42 chapters, we do not know how long all this lasted. Weeks? Months? Years? We do know that three friends came to visit him and sat with him in silence for a week. And thinking about what they said once they started talking, it would have been more helpful to Job if they had just been there with him and supported him in silence rather than spouting out a lot of clichés and warped armchair theology!
The interactions with his friends begin in chapter three when Job breaks the silence and instead of cursing God, as satan and his wife were trying to get him to do, he cursed the day of his birth! 3:1-4: At last Job spoke, and he cursed the day of his birth. He said: “Let the day of my birth be erased, and the night I was conceived. Let that day be turned to darkness. Let it be lost even to God on high, and let no light shine on it.”
Job goes on, but suffice to say that he is despairing, he is suffering, he is having a really hard time. He doesn’t understand why this is happening to him. He lost his children and everything he owned, his wife gave him bad counsel, he has lost his health. Even those who have a strong faith may respond to pain and hard times by despairing, lamenting, crying, by even doubting, saying “What is going on? I do not understand. Why is this happening to me? Where is God in all this?” This does not necessarily show a lack of faith. Jeremiah also cursed the day of his birth. Some will say these types of reactions show weak faith. “You have to put on a good face! Just keep on going. God is in control! Don’t let your emotions affect you at all!” While inside our emotions are just going crazy. We are in desperation.
Some might even say to Job that he is being a bad example! “Potential new believers might think the Christian life is hard!” Well, it is! Trying to just hide our feelings and put on a “spiritual” face doesn’t really help things very much. So we could actually say, “Thank you Job. I can identify with you. You are expressing things I feel when I am suffering or going through hard times. I am encouraged that a man of strong faith can have these feelings. Too many times we try to put on a “Christian” face and hide and bury our emotions, not being sure how others, especially Christians, will react to our lamenting, despair and doubt.
In Job we see that we can be, and need to be honest with our feelings. God is the rock, not us. Our faith and trust in Him needs to be a rock, our firm foundation, but it is okay to pour out our emotions. David, Job, Jeremiah, even Paul poured out their emotions to God. He is big enough to take it! He knows our heart! He is the rock and we need to cling to Him and His truth. There is no faithful person in the Bible who did not suffer and experience hard times. There is a misguided teaching that makes false promises and says: “Come to God and you will no longer have any problems! You will always be blessed! You will always be healthy. Your children will always obey you! Your mother-in-law will love you!” But the reality is the Bible does not teach this. We live in a world of sin and suffering, this is not heaven. Revelation says that one day God will wipe away all tears and remove all suffering in heaven. But while we are here on earth, we will experience difficult things. What we will NOT experience is God abandoning us, forsaking us or not loving us.
A lot of the book of Job comes down to identifying the root of our despair. Over a lifetime there will be many things that can cause us to despair and complain to God, be it something that happens to us personally, or to a loved one, or someone close to us passes away. In 3:25 Job talks about his greatest fear: “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.” Now what is this thing that has happened that he dreaded so much? Earlier we looked at the list of all that Job lost in the first two chapters, he lost almost all his servants, all his livestock, his crops, his children, his health, his wife turned on him, but in the following 39 chapters, none of these things are mentioned again. Job’s greatest fear is: “What has happened with my relationship with God? I thought that he loved me. He is my only source of hope and protection. Why is this happening to me?” His focus is on his relationship with God. To him It seems that, and he feels that God is no longer with him, that He has abandoned him. All the logic that he knows, that God’s love and presence expresses itself by His blessing and protection, seems to indicate that His love is gone, and he has no idea why. God feels very far away. This is so hard for him because it is such a drastic change from the way things were just a little while ago. What has changed? He is not focusing on the “things” he lost, but on apparently losing his relationship with God, even though losing his children was unbearable. “Where is God? If He is not with me, I do not even want to live. I do not want to continue if He is not with me.”
Basic to the book of Job is worship, his dependency on God. As we saw in chapter one, after all those awful things happened to him, he bowed down and worshiped God. Even though it is incredibly hard and painful, Job can live without his children (oh, so much pain and sorrow!), his riches, his health, “but I cannot live without God. He is my everything.”
So where is our heart when it comes to this basic question? Some people can live without God, but they cannot live without their children, their parents, their health, their financial security. These are super hard things to try and live without, to lose, to see those close to us suffering or even dying. Too many have even committed suicide when they lost their children, their parents, their health, their money. Or if they go on, they turn their backs on God and blame (curse) Him, because they were living for these things, and God was not the most important thing in their life. The most important thing for us not to lose is our trust in God. Other things pale in comparison. The worst thing we can say is that we can live without God.
The big advantage we have over Job is that we have the whole counsel of God, we have so much more revelation than he ever had. We have the Bible and know about how God has shown His love to us through Jesus dying for us and rising again, the greatest example of love ever! We know about the cross and how Jesus left His place of glory and power in heaven, and gave Himself to suffer and die for us and make us right with God. We know John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Job did not know about this unbelievable love of God through Jesus. And of course Job did not know about the interactions between God and satan. But despite all that, he still held onto God in the middle of it all and eventually God restored all that he had lost.
It is wonderful when God delivers, and it would have been great if God had healed Job in an instant as soon as satan inflicted him with boils from his head to his feet. Or if God had miraculously protected his children, his servants, his livestock, his land. And if He had done so, we could have thanked Him with a grateful heart, and given Him the glory, which He always deserves no matter what happens. Yet it is even more impactful when you have someone who, for example, has suffered for many years with really bad health, say that they love their Lord as much as when they first believed. That faithful faith, that trusting in God and clinging to Him no matter the circumstances, as Paul says: “I am content whatever the circumstances.”
Only God can give us inner peace, inner joy, hope, encouragement, comfort. When we are praying for something or someone else and it does not happen or does not happen as we wanted, let us do as Job prayed after he lost everything, and say wholeheartedly, “Blessed be the Name of the Lord.” Or if we are praying and we see the answer we sought, “Blessed be the Name of the Lord.” No matter how our prayers are answered, “Blessed be the Name of the Lord!” The Lord is always worthy of thanks, praise and glory. Job also told his wife: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
So when we face hard times and suffering, let us think of Job, and know that it is okay to despair, to complain, to doubt, to wonder why, to lament, to cry. But at our core, we need to hold onto a trust and faith in God that is unshakeable, that no matter the circumstances. In the end say, “Though He slay me, yet I will love Him.” Let that be our prayer. However we express our emotions, at the core let us have an unmovable faith that He is there, that He is with us, and hold on to that sure hope that we will one day be with Him forever and ever, in that place of worship where there will be no more sorrow, suffering nor tears. Click here to see the video version of this devotional on YouTube