Lessons from the Book of Job
Through Job's story, God offers paradigm-shifting insights to face suffering. In the first chapter, the drama’s Director tells us what the characters don’t know—what’s really going on. Job knew nothing about God commending Job to Satan and calling him blameless. God let Job face terrible trials with no explanation.
We share this in common with Job—God doesn’t specifically explain why He permits evil and suffering to fall upon us. He wants us to trust Him. In one sense, Job is everyman.
Bruce Waltke gives a helpful summary of Job:
In the prologue we observe Job as an idealist in elementary school (chaps. 1–2); in the dialogue, Job is a sophomore in college on the way to becoming wise (chaps. 3–3 1); finally the I AM speeches address him as a student in graduate school, where he is humbled and accepts that there are sufficient reasons to trust I AM without demanding of him rational explanations (37:1–42:6).
God values Job’s faith to the extent that He leaves out what to us seem critical parts of the explanation: God’s wager with Satan, and the fact that God had defended Job as blameless. But the Creator knows what Job needed to know and what he didn’t. He knows the same about us.
My study of Job has taught me many valuable lessons, including these:
- Life is not predictable or formulaic.
- Most of life’s expectations and suffering’s explanations are simplistic and naive, waiting to be toppled.
- When the day of crisis comes, we should pour out our hearts to God, who can handle our grief and even our anger.
- We should not turn from God and internalize our anger, allowing it to become bitterness.
- We should weigh and measure the words of friends, authors, teachers, and counselors, finding whatever truth they might speak without embracing their errors or getting derailed by their insensitivities.
- We should not insist on taking control by demanding a rational explanation for the evils and suffering that befall us.
- We should look to God and ask Him to reveal Himself to us; in contemplating His greatness we will come to see Him as the Answer above all answers.
- We should trust that God is working behind the scenes and that our suffering has hidden purposes that one day, even if not in this life, we will see.
- We should cry out to Jesus, the mediator and friend whom Job could only glimpse, but who indwells us by grace.
Finally, check out this powerful rendition of the final chapters of Job, one of my favorite passages of Scripture. Similar to how life sometimes happens, you may or may not like this at first, but keep watching and I think you will.
For more on suffering, see Randy’s book If God Is Good, as well as the devotional 90 Days of God’s Goodness and book The Goodness of God (a specially focused condensation of If God Is Good, which also includes additional material).