Everyone at one point in time has endured suffering. Followers of Christ often wonder why God continues to allow suffering to happen if they are considered righteous in the eyes of God because of Jesus sacrifice on their part. The life of Job is arguably the best place to look for answers to these questions to develop a biblical theology of suffering. In the book of Job we see three aspects of suffering develop, which are the purpose, theme, and theology. Today I will take a look at the purpose and theme and then tomorrow at the theology and conclusion of the book of Job.
In the life of Job it is seen that it is God who allows Satan to test Job, but God also places restrictions on how Satan can test him (Job 1:12). The book of Job addresses the problem of suffering for all people of faith universally. It shows God and man’s relationship and is written to help those struggling understand how the justice of a sovereign God applies in a world filled with pain and suffering.
Job investigates two ways God’s righteousness is implied when it comes to justice. First, Satan implies that because of God blessing one as Job is the reason he is righteous and follows him, but if God would allow suffering to enter his life then he would curse God (Job 1:9-11). Second, Job questions how God can allow a follower of Him to suffer. Here what is seen in the life of Job is observed in the life of every individual who has ever followed God. It is important to note here that God is never under any obligation to make sure His followers only receive blessing because that will come when Christians are spending eternity with Him, not during their life now. Even though Job questions God at one point, he keeps his integrity and shows a triumph of faith during a time of suffering (Job 19:25).
The overarching theme in the book of Job is faith in a sovereign God, but the question remains can He be trusted? The misconception of man, especially today, is often that if righteous in the eyes of God then one will prosper and continually receive blessing upon blessing. The book of Job represents this attitude in regards to Job’s friends and their response to his suffering (Job 2:11; 21:34). This represents a misunderstanding of suffering in regards to what the Bible has to say about it. As seen in the book of Job, often one will not know what is the cause of suffering or the purpose behind it, but everyone who follows Christ can continually take comfort that God is omniscient and omnipresent being wise and sovereign as His providence is over everything.
Three key ideas are seen in the book of Job that not only the wicked suffer, God’s justice cannot be reduced to a simple formula, and God’s infinite wisdom is the key to acknowledging his justice. Although God provided a way for man to be restored to Him and be viewed as righteous, there is no promise in the life on this earth that man will not endure suffering. Man often fails to remember that even upon following Christ, the world one lives in is still corrupt and full of evil that is the reason bad things happen, even to “good” people.
It must be remembered as seen in the book of Job that God is not the one who causes the suffering, but God is sovereign and providential in allowing the suffering to occur. Job along with all of mankind need be reminded here that there is an enemy out in the world, Satan, who has not been removed yet (Job 1:6). This should not discourage one as it did not discourage Job because he remembered that he had a firm foundation of hope in a redeemer (Job 19:25-27).