Summary: What the book of Job teaches us about suffering
Job: The problem of Suffering
We have been going through the OT together, and we have been in the time frame of the kingdom. We have looked at King David and his son, King Solomon, and have learned from their wisdom and their foolishness. They wrote books of scripture, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon - that are part of what we call the Wisdom Literature of the Bible. But there is one other book in that section we want to look at today - the book of Job.
Job is one of the greatest philosophy books ever written, for it teaches us so much about life and what is really important. We don’t know when Job was written, but it was likely written back in the patriarchal period, the time of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. But Job helps us wrestle with the question of suffering, and we want to think about that together this morning.
Most of us already know the story of Job - the setting is found in Job 1:1-3 - In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had 7 sons and 3 daughters, and he owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen and 500 donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.
And chapter 1 continues to tell the story of Satan coming to God, and wanting to afflict Job - so God allows Satan to take away his children, his wealth, his earthly possessions. In chapter 2, Satan attacks Job’s health, and he is left sitting in a pile of ashes, covered from head to toe in painful sores, being left only with a contentious wife who wants him to die. Later we see some of Job’s friends come and simply tell Job he just needs to get his life right, that God only judges people who are sinful.
Now, think about this book in a modern context. Did you ever feel like God was unfair? Why do the evil prosper and the good suffer? Why, if God is good, does he allow evil in the world? Why do bad things happen to good people? There is a famous book written by Rabbi Kushner that answers that question - WRONGLY - by stating that God IS good, so therefore, God must NOT be all-powerful. But that is not the answer of Job.
Job starts out in the beginning of the book with good responses to his suffering: He begins with worship: Look at Job 1:20 - At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
He also begins with faith: Job 2:9-10 - His wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
Job models right responses, but he struggles as over time things do not get better.
He wrestles with the problem of evil - why do bad things happen to good people.
He struggles with the problem of experience - he knows by faith God rewards the righteous, but his
experience shows him he is righteous but he is not rewarded.
He struggles with the problem of meaning - where can he find an answer to what life means?
CS Lewis, in the Chronicles of Narnia, uses allegory to describe God, using the lion figure Aslan. As one of the children asks about Aslan he asks, “Is he a safe lion?” To which he receives the answer, “No, he is not safe, but he is good.”
In our experience of pain and suffering, sometimes we look to God to be safe, to give us lives free from all pain and suffering, to lead happy little lives where nothing much ever happens. But the reality is God is not safe, but He is good. And we know that when suffering and tragedy happen, it is good. Even when we do not understand
I want us to watch a video clip - it will be about 7 minutes - of the story of Job in the 21st century. Doug Herman married his sweetheart, went to Bible college, had two kids, but found out his wife and daughter developed AIDS as a result of a blood transfusion. Here is Doug’s story: