When it comes to suffering, there are no easy answers.
What can we learn from Job’s life? A man whose name is synonymous with suffering?
In my forty years of church attendance, I can’t remember ever hearing a sermon series on Job.
The Book of Job contains 42 chapters, so it’s not as if there’s not enough content to work with. I have, of course, heard snippets of his story referenced or individual verses quoted. But for the most part, Job is not a popular guy to preach about in a sermon.
I have a theory for this.
Simply put: Job is a downer. It’s understandable why we don’t spend a lot of time on Job. I mean, who wants to preach a sermon that’s depressing?
Yes, in the end, God restores Job to health, and God blesses him with more children and more wealth than before. But it’s still a long road getting there — one that teaches us several important things.
Job’s Story Teaches Us Three Things
1. The righteous suffer as well as the unrighteous.
Job’s story defies the commonly held belief that only the righteous prosper while only the wicked suffer. Throughout history, this idea of you-must-have-done-something-to-deserve-it was widely accepted as absolute truth. Job’s friends believed it, preached it, and condemned Job for it.
2. The reason for our suffering will not always be revealed.
As readers of Job’s story — thousands of years later — we have the benefit of knowing the conversation that occurred in the throne room between God and Satan. We know Job was innocent. We know it was a test, provoked by Satan, to see if Job would remain faithful.
When we get to the end of the book, however, we realize that Job was never informed of that conversation.
Personally, I think this would have been helpful information for Job to know. But God never gave Job an explanation for his suffering. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t an explanation. There was. But Job would have to get to heaven to find out what all that suffering was about.
In my life, there are times when I can look back and see how God orchestrated events, almost like pieces on a chessboard, to bring about amazing blessing. There are other times, though, when I have no such consolation.
Sometimes we get an explanation for why things happen the way they do. And sometimes we don’t.
3. Job’s story teaches us to trust in God’s sovereignty.
We’ve learned from Job’s story that things happen in the heavenly realm that we don’t know anything about. Sometimes all we can see on earth is suffering. But because of Job, we can lean not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). We can trust in the sovereignty of God.
In this way, we have benefited from Job’s suffering. And it feels wrong to benefit from another person’s suffering. But then again, this has been God’s message to us all along: An innocent man suffering for the benefit of others.
In the ancient story of Job, we see the first glimpse, the first prophetic whispers of the One and Only Suffering Servant, Christ, who would suffer on a cross — for our benefit.
What has God taught you through Job’s story?