When wicked people suffer, most people would be thrilled because they deserved it. However, when righteous people are suffering, one would wonder: Why would a sovereign and a lovely God allow His beloved to undergo suffering and pain?
What were Job’s characteristics in adversity?
- Reverent awe before God
In the prologue, after losing his wealth and all of his children, Job “did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:22). He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21). Job understood that everything he had come from God alone and God rightly had every right to remove them from him as He saw fit. Job also understood that he could not take his riches with him when he dies.
God was pleased and boasted to the Accuser that Job “still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason” (Job 2:3). In his loss, Job maintained his reverent awe and fear before God.
He was confident in who God was—that God was faithful and righteous in all His ways. When Job was struck with the next disaster, painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head, he cursed God not. He rebuked his wife, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10). Job “did not sin in what he said” (Job 2:10). In the prologue, Job did not do or say anything that jeopardised his relationship with God.
2.Wondered if God loved Him
Job’s 3 friends came and they sat with him. They then accused Job and said the reason Job was suffering was that he had sinned.
Job defended himself by saying that he was righteous. God could not possibly punish a righteous man. Job defended that he did not deserve these ‘punishments’ he was inflicted with, which should have been reserved for the unrighteous.
Job accused that God had shattering their relationship by tormenting him. He wondered if God loved him anymore. He accused God of waging a battle against him (Job 3:23), gnashing his teeth at him (Job 16:9). He said God has turned him over to the ungodly and thrown him into the clutches of the wicked (Job 16:11). God had crushed him (Job 16:12). He felt God was like an archer who was using him as target practice; or a warrior that has slashed open Job’s kidneys and spilt his gall on the ground (Job 16:12-13).
Isn’t it us today too? When something unexpectedly happened to us, we think that God does not love us anymore. We accused God of not loving, and that He is far away. But God is always near, as we see from the book of Job.
3. Lament but faithful
Job lamented. His relatives and closest friends had forsaken him (19:14). His guests and servants considered him as a foreigner (19:15). His own family too, turned away from him: his wife found him repulsive, his family loathed him and young children despised him (19:17-18). Those he loved had turned from him (19:19). But still, he had faith in who God was. He said, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God” (19:25-26). Though his loved ones left him, he remained steadfast and full of faith in God. He said, “I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:27). He held on to God although he did not understand God’s purpose for him.
In his adversity, he still remembered who he was. He did not ask for his wealth to be restored, or threatened God to give him another 10 children. He only asked that God would remember him (14:13). There was nothing he wanted more than being in a restored relationship with God once again. Despite losing everything, the righteous would not demand God for their properties to be restored but they would yield themselves to God in humble submission.
Above all else, he longed to restore his relationship with God. In his pain and suffering, Job did not forsake God. He wanted to be in a relationship with God again.
Finally, when God spoke to Job in the whirlwind, Job realised that he had a narrow view of God and believed that God functioned in a way that rewarded the righteous and punished the wicked. He finally understood that God’s purposes for this world (and even universe) are far bigger than just punishing wicked and blessing the righteous. God as the sovereign Creator had a purpose for all of His created beings which we human beings are incapable of understanding (Job 39).
The book of Job is not about suffering. It is about God—His character, sovereignty, justice, faithfulness, goodness and love. There is always a bigger picture which is the perfect plan of the Almighty God. After God had spoken to Job, Job realised who he was—a created being who had no right to question his Creator. Instead of demanding answers from God for his pain, Job’s response was to humble himself before God (Job 28), acknowledging that there was so much that he did not know and understand. “The fear of the Lord — that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding” (Job 28:28).
In times of adversity, the righteous person showed us that we should not act as though we could run the world better than God, because we as created beings never will. We are horrified by the helplessness of humanity in the face of natural disasters or outraged by the ruthless exploitation of the weak, or hopeless with the choice of the national leaders that we think we will do a better job than God in running the universe.
God’s ways are higher than our ways and He rules the universe with wisdom. Job realised that. He sets an example for us to remain humble before our Creator. Out of his suffering, he met God in a fresh way and re-established the Creator-created relationship. Suffering does not necessarily mean punishment from God but one thing for certain that God is with us every day. Let us remain steadfast in our faith, trust and love to our God like Job did.
May the Lord be praised!