Suffering comes to all of us; it doesn’t discriminate. In the midst of pain we cry out to God, “Why me? What have I done to deserve this?” When you need him most, he seems most remote. Today we are going to examine the problem of pain and the dilemma of maintaining faith in the midst of such suffering. Unbeknownst to Job, God selected him to play a key role in history. Job was a godly man (1:1). He also happened to be quite wealthy (1:3). God had greatly blessed Job. He was holy, happy, healthy and wealthy. Job had it all! That is the background; the drama is found in v. 6-11. Satan told God that the only reason Job served him is because God had blessed him. He taunted God that if he took away his hedge of protection, Job would surely turn against him. Do we view worship and religious devotion as a coin which purchases God’s blessing? Have you ever put money in a vending machine and the product you are purchasing doesn’t fall down? Satan is attacking man’s motive for worship. Satan said that we worship for hire. “What is in it for me?” Satan also attacked God’s character, implying that God is unworthy of worship in and of himself and that the creature owes his Creator nothing in terms of worship or service. But God was confident that Satan would find in Job more than mere surface devotion, so he gave Satan permission to test his theory (1:12-19; 2:6-10). Can you imagine Job’s emotional state at this point? Shock, despair, panic, disbelief, a profound sense of loss, deep sadness, depression. What was Job’s response? Did he curse God as Satan insisted he would? No, in fact we are told that Job fell to the ground in worship (1:20-22).
We learn that bad things happen to good people (2:3). Job once believed that God always blesses the righteous and always punishes the wicked, so he had to adjust his thinking when his circumstances failed to fit his theology. Like Job, some of us need to overhaul our theology of suffering. We also learn that we must not judge a person’s relationship with God on the basis of what they may be experiencing. In Job 4-28 his “friends” come to comfort him. But they end up condemning him! Like Job, their problem lay in their defective theology of suffering. The book of Job reveals four distinct views of suffering: (1) Satan’s view is that people believe in God only when they are prospering and not suffering. This is wrong. (2) The view of three of Job’s “friends” is that suffering is God’s judgment for sin. This is not always true. (3) Elihu’s view was that suffering is God’s way to teach, discipline and refine. This is true, but an incomplete explanation. (4) God’s “view” (aka “the truth”) is that suffering causes us to trust God for who he is, not for what he does. So we have got to be careful about offering pat answers when those around us are suffering. This is especially true when it comes to the “Why” of suffering
The reason for your suffering may not be revealed in this life-Job never knew what was going on behind the scenes! Job didn’t get to read the first two chapters. He had to live out chapters 3-42 without the aid of divine perspective. That’s what made Job’s suffering all the more unbearable. Like many of us, he believed that the faithful were supposed to be blessed by God. It was the wicked who were supposed to suffer. Job knew that he was a righteous man. Not a perfect man, but a truly moral, loving, God-fearing man. He also knew that God was just and loving. What he couldn’t figure out was, how to put those two things together in light of his suffering. It just didn’t make sense. And God never explained to Job the reason for his suffering. It remained shrouded in mystery. We too must learn to live with the mystery of suffering. It is futile to criticize God’s ways; we sin when we accuse God of injustice. Despite all of Job’s suffering, he never cursed God. Although he wavered, he maintained his faith and God won his wager with Satan (13:15).
But Job did sin. His sin didn’t cause his suffering, as his friends supposed, but Job sinned by demanding that God explain and justify his actions. As each calamity strikes we wait for Job to turn his back on God, and he comes perilously close to doing so. You see, in this book, it is really Job who is on trial, not God. The test is this: Can a person remain faithful to God, even when God appears to him as an enemy? In the midst of suffering and pain, we feel as though we are being picked on. It may be that, rather than being picked on, we are in the privileged position of being chosen by God to demonstrate that faith is possible, even when the grounds for faith seem absent. When we suffer, rather than criticize God, we need to learn to trust him, knowing that he is good and loving and there is a greater purpose at work.
In the midst of suffering, it is more important to know who God is than to know why you are suffering. That is what Job learned (see chapters 38-42). Job repented of his arrogance in demanding that God answer the “Why” question, and so must we. We must not demand that God answer us. Even if we knew the reason for our suffering, I’m not sure that it would satisfy us. But in the midst of our pain we can gain comfort in knowing that a wise, loving and benevolent God is in control, and that he does care. We can trust him with our lives. When suffering, don’t demand that God answer the “Why?” question. Rather rest in a God who is sovereign, loving and good. God is more interested in our faith than he is in our pleasure. For each of us, the pressing question is this: “Will we worship and faithfully serve God when the grounds for such faith appear lacking?”