Today, we conclude our reflections on the book of Job.
What the book of Job CAN do for us:
1. It teaches us to be careful and compassionate in how we respond to people who are suffering. When people are suffering, they don’t need theological debates (“maybe this is an attack from the devil”), personal accusations (“maybe God is punishing you for sin in your life”) or advice for a ‘quick fix’ to their calamity (“if only you had more faith in God …”). They need our empathy, our support, and our friendship. In the end, Job’s friends became his enemies and ‘worthless physicians’ who crushed him with their words. Can we do better than Job’s friends?
2. It shows us that the world does not operate by justice. This world is broken and incomplete. It still needs attention. Injustice is still part of the system as it is. This means that suffering should not lead us to look back on our behavior in search for a cause; rarely is there any identifiable one-to-one connection. The world, though under the control of God, is fallen, and as it awaits redemption it is often more chaotic than ordered and coherent. Like humanity, God’s world is a work in progress. Alleviating a measure of suffering, when and where we can, is part of our mandate to 'subdue and rule' the earth. God will eventually align all of Creation with his attributes and establish absolute order in the new heavens and new earth. Until then, we should expect continued manifestations of disorder, which include pain and suffering.
3. It reminds us that God rules the world with a wisdom that is beyond our understanding. When we begin to blame him for our suffering or think that we could do a better job of running the world than him, we move into dangerous territory. God's wisdom is far beyond our ability to comprehend.
4. It raises the question of 'why' we place our faith in God. Is our choice to believe in God only for reward and blessing, either in this life (prosperity) or the next (to gain heaven and avoid hell)? Is it for self-interest, as the Challenger believed it was for Job? Is our faith sustained when our desires are not fulfilled, when healing does not come, when broken homes are not restored, when the goals we pursue remain beyond our reach? Is Christianity merely a 'benefits system' of incentives that results in us losing motivation when there is nothing in it for us? Job shows us that true righteousness should have its desired end in a relationship with God not in gaining reward from God. That is a huge challenge in our consumer driven world.
5. It teaches us to trust that God loves us even when we go through painful situations and we do not understand the reasons why. Like Job did, we can direct our confused questions and perplexing musings to him. During suffering, choose to trust God and believe that he is good and that he loves you ... even when you do not understand. Trust is the way through the struggles of life.
Pain and suffering enter every one of our lives from time to time. I have only lived 55 years and yet I can look back at the death of family members (my own mother died of a sudden heart attack in 1990 and Nicole’s mother died quite suddenly from cancer in 2007), car accidents, personal sickness, mental and emotional challenges, stress and burnout, disappointment, criticism, gossip, slander, conflict and many other challenges that have touched my life and our family. Of course, some other people suffer far worse and much more deeply.
I still don't understand ‘why’ all of these things have happened. Yes, I have grown and they have developed character in me, as well as empathy for the struggles that other people go through. But I don't fully understand the reasons behind them nor God’s purposes through their occurrence.
Like Job, I have many unanswered questions. Yet I choose to place my faith in God, regardless of my feelings or the perplexity in all this. It’s not easy but I truly believe that God is good, that he loves us and therefore I choose to trust him even when I do not understand. I feel just like the apostle Paul did …
“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:12-13. NLT
May you too be encouraged in your faith - in the good times and the bad.
P.S. Read Part 1 if you missed it.