Some Additional Thoughts regarding Job's Sufferings
By Al Stoner
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).
Suffering is physical or mental pain, ranging all the way from distress to torture, and even to agony. Suffering can affect the body or the soul, or both. Men were not originally created to be vessels for suffering, even though they are able to endure suffering. They were made to partake of, and share in, pleasures that are everlasting, and of fulness of joy. However, sin entered into the world, and death by sin. And here lies the reason for all suffering. Seen in this light, suffering is not as mysterious as it might first appear.
As we have said in the past, the sufferings of Job are but an introduction to sufferings, and to the reality of suffering. Throughout the Book of Job the question of “why the suffering came upon Job” continues to surface repeatedly, both in Job’s expressions, and in the words of his three friends. Numerous assessments and speculations are made by Job, Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad in the light of what has been revealed of God and His workings at that time. (Elihu, who appears at the end, appears to be sent by God to apprise them of the error of their reasonings, and to prepare the way for God Himself to speak at the end.)
The Question of Why. The question of why the suffering occurred speaks of their awareness of a purposeful God being the source of all things. Men being constrained to reason in this manner attests to of their creation in the image and likeness of this God. It also attests to the fact that God does nothing without cause. From this perspective, if men can see a reason for their suffering, no matter how great, or “if they can make some sense of their suffering”, that in itself becomes a ground for comfort and for holding fast until the crooked ways are once again made straight. To say this another way, if men can somehow connect the difficult waters they are passing through with a purpose for which the trouble is occurring, they can comfort themselves that eventually they will come out of the trouble.
The reasonings that occur in the Book of Job are helpful to God’s people as an introduction to sufferings. If men perceive that troubles they are passing through are the result of personal sin, they must repent, and draw nigh unto God, recovering themselves from their waywardness, that they may once again walk in God's ways. But if the reason for the trouble is not evident, then they must commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well doing as unto a faithful Creator.
The error of the reasoning that takes place in the expressions recorded in the Book of Job result from a failure to comprehend the exceeding greatness of the One who is working all things after the counsel of His own will. This can be seen in the words of Elihu at the end of the book, and especially in the words of God Himself.
“Hast thou considered my servant Job?” “And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.” “And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.” Perhaps, one might reason that if Job had known about this conversation between the LORD and Satan, he would have conducted himself differently. But that would have taken the entire matter of what Job was called upon to endure out of the domain of faith and trust.
Two Different Assessments. We must be careful how we judge Job, because in chapters 1 and 2 he glorified God, conducting himself precisely as God said that he would. Job justified God as Satan looked on, seeking to devour him.
[Incidentally, to devour here does not mean necessarily to physically harm, but rather to move a person away from his or her implicit trust in the living God. Satan is seeking to bring men down into condemnation with himself. Methinks, that there is nothing that gives him more satisfaction than being successful, or even apparently successful, in this wicked endeavor.]
From this perspective there are two different assessments which can be made of Job; one with regard to his glorifying God in the fire of trial and testing. The other, with regard to how that he later reasoned about the reason why the trial come upon him.
God was well pleased with His servant Job with regard to way he conducted himself in the fiery trial that he was called upon to endure. But He mildly rebuked Job towards the end for the way that he wrongly reasoned about the cause of his trial. He also severely rebuke Job’s three friends for making wrong assessments as to why Job was being tried in this manner. And here we see that God is not a respecter of persons, in judgment. He does not play favorites, even in the case of Job.