Job – Why Suffering?


by John C. Westervelt


     In the same era as Abraham, in the land of Uz (southeast of the Dead Sea), lived a man named Job.  He was blameless and upright; he feared God and stayed away from evil.  Job had been blessed with seven sons and three daughters.  He owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred donkeys.

     Now it happened one day that some angels come to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them.  The Lord asked Satan, “Where have you come from?”

     Satan answered, “From roaming about the earth and walking around on it.”

     Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job?  For there is no one else on earth like him, blameless and upright, fearing God and staying away from evil.”

     Satan said, “You have blessed him with many children and livestock.  If You take these away, surely he will curse you.”

     The Lord replied, “Very well, everything he has is in your hand, but do not lay a finger on the man himself.”  With this, Satan left the presence of the Lord in gleeful anticipation of destroying Job’s faith in God.

     Job’s ten children had a tradition of gathering together to celebrate their birthdays.  Soon after Satan was given permission to test Job, the brothers and sisters were at the home of the oldest brother.  Tornadic winds struck the house killing all of Job’s children.  Nearby aggressor nations and a fire took away all of Job’s livestock, but Job didn’t curse God.

     On another occasion after these acts of destruction, the angels came before the Lord and Satan came along.  Satan told the Lord that Job could stand the loss of his children and livestock, but he would curse God if he suffered bodily pain.  God gave Satan permission to inflict Job with pain, but Satan could not take Job’s life.

     Satan gave Job boils over all of his body from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.  Dressed in a loincloth, Job sat in a pile of ashes.  The urge to scratch was irresistible, so Job scraped his body with a piece of broken pottery.  He would stop when the pain of touching the tender boils was too much.  A brief moment of relief was overcome by another urge to scratch.  Job’s wife, feeling the hopelessness of Job’s pain, said, “Curse God and die.”  But Job did not.

     Three close friends and contemporaries came to comfort Job.  After the three sat down with Job and said nothing for seven days, we should have suspected the comforting would take a long time, and it did.

     Each friend made a long-winded speech with the underlying premise that Job had sinned if he was being punished.  Job made his rebuttal to each.  A second round of extended speeches and replies was followed by a third.  A young man had waited until his elders were finished with their prolonged orations, then he declared in an even longer discourse that suffering is often a means of purifying the righteous.

     And finally God Himself spoke to Job, sharing details of His creation so Job would humbly understand his place in his relationship with God.  Job repented and found contentment in the knowledge that he had God’s fellowship and that God is sovereign.

     The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning.  He had seven sons and three daughters and twice as many livestock.  In all the land, no women were found so fair as Job’s daughters.  After this time of blessing, Job lived 140 years, seeing his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

     For all the years of Judaism and Christianity, Job has been an example of suffering.  Still, throughout those same years, man has asked, “Why suffering?”  I asked God why He lets Satan roam the earth and my mind and body searching for ways to cause suffering.  Then I considered that nature is built on competition among all species and asked myself - why not competition between God and Satan for me.  Competition builds strength and character.  Without Satan, I might be lukewarm in my love for God.  These are thoughts, not answers.  Job’s answer to “Why Suffering” was accepting it and moving on in his walk with God.


Book of Job


Copyright 2003 by John C. Westervelt


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