The story of Job is a familiar one. So familiar, in fact, that as we read through chapter 1, we might casually summarize, “God let Satan test Job and destroy everything he had and wipe out his children… blah, blah, blah, so on and so forth.”
The speed with which you read chapter 1, and the heartache that you feel is going to reveal something about you—that is, empathy. Can you put yourself in the shoes of another person? If so, if we can imagine losing our jobs, our resources, every prized possession and opportunity for livelihood, then we practice empathy. Likewise, look at the pictures of your children, or kids you love, and imagine them being ripped from your life. Some of you don’t have to imagine that at all because you lived it, and I am so so terribly sorry. But before we step into chapter 2, we need to read chapter 1 with the sorrow, heartache, and terrible hatred for suffering that it deserves. Job has had more than a bad day—his whole world is ruined.
We’re not sure of the timeline between chapters 1 and 2. The text simply says that it’s another day (maybe the next day, we can’t tell). However, in what seems like a short time, Satan is in the heavenly court and the same scenario as chapter 1 repeats. This time, however, Satan challenges God that if he would bring sickness and physical suffering, then Job would surely curse God.
Satan is given permission with one restriction—you can’t kill him (6). Job is inflicted with sores covering his entire body. At this point, his “loving” wife utters her famous words, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die” (9).
It is easy to criticize Job’s wife for her foolishness. In fact, Job does. However, we must remember as above, literally all the suffering that Job experienced in chapter 1 hit her too. It was her children that died. It was also her livelihood and provision that was destroyed. The only thing she had heading into chapter 2 was her husband and her health; and now her husband appeared on the verge of death. So how would we respond in her shoes?
Finally, in verses 11–13 we see Job joined by three friends. In these few verses, the friends respond exactly right. They came, they wept, they mourned, and they sat—this is a great recipe for helping friends in suffering. Once the friends open their mouths in the next chapters, they will insert their feet, but for now, they act in a way that is commendable.
The problem of suffering is the number one difficulty that many people face, leading them to reject God. It’s a difficult philosophical problem, but many people are dealing with the emotions of experience. Suffering isn’t philosophical for them, it’s personal. And, so they say, “If God were good, he wouldn’t allow that.”
God is not the author of evil. However, He allows suffering. Why? One reason is that many times suffering happens that leads to a greater outcome (Rom. 5:3–5). Secondly, the day is coming when sin will be judged and God will right every wrong. So, while suffering exists, we also have opportunity to share the Gospel and turn people away from an eternal suffering in Hell. When the gavel falls, and sin is no more, there is no more time to see people repent.
As much as we might understand the “why” of suffering. Let’s follow the example of Job’s friends as we encounter it. Don’t rationalize someone’s suffering, instead: come, weep, mourn, and sit.
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate