Looking at Job
In times of suffering where can we look? Many look to the story of Job, as he obviously suffered greatly and wrestled with the hard questions.
BTW, many of my thoughts on Job come from reading Gregory Boyd’s observations in his book “Is God to Blame?”
Here are a few of those thoughts:
Job was written to highlight the encounter in heaven while leaving characters and events on earth in the dark, showing that suffering is sometimes caused by things about which people know nothing.
Job and his friends were of the “blueprint worldview” – that God is behind (rather than against) Job’s losses and suffering.
Job’s friends therefore state that he should actually be happy and accept his plight as discipline from God (5:17-18)
They insist that if Job “learns his lessons” that he will get back his protection and blessing (5:19-20, 22, 24-27)
You can see why we use “Job’s comforters” to indicate people we’d rather not have around =)
Job views God as being his adversary rather than his advocate (10:8, 16, 20; 16:7-9, 30:21)
God answers, never acknowledging He is the one behind Job’s suffering, but rather, appealing to factors in creation to explain why Job can’t understand suffering (chapters 38-41)
Job spoke honestly in the middle of his suffering, and God answered with what Job needed to know – mostly addressing why Job couldn’t understand his suffering and perhaps most importantly correcting Job’s image of God.
When God is done talking Job confesses “I have uttered what I did not understand”, states that he can now see God clearly, “You instruct me… no my eyes see you”, and repents (42:3-4)
Job’s repentance was connected with his faulty perception of God and the causes of his suffering, including his original confession “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (1:21)??
God wants us to view suffering as not always caused nor desired by Him?
There are factors we will never understand?
Suffering is not always a part of God’s discipline (compare Hebrews 12:7-11 and John 9:1-3)?
Some suffering is the horrible reality of living in a fallen and broken world (John 16:33)?
Some is caused by poor choices (Galatians 6:7-8), some a part of ongoing kingdom conflict (Ephesians 6:10-18, 1 Thessalonians 2:18), and some a precursor to blessing (John 9:1-3)?
I gather from looking at Job that God is not always the author (nor desirous) of our suffering. And that no easy answers await us. Our sin marred all of creation, we’re in a spiritual battle, and as a result this world is largely messed up.
About the time I think I’ve got some aspect of suffering figured out, I discover I’m wrong.
What I hold on to is that God is good, and works everything together for good.