When I was reading through the Bible in 2011, and posting my reflections on the passages, for the book of Job, I wrote extensively (and intensively!) on suffering, as well as on helping and encouraging those who suffer, with Job’s friends, unfortunately, providing negative examples after the second chapter.
I want you to know the 2011 posts from Job 1 through chapter 26 were written in real-time suffering. They didn’t come after the fact, but from the midst of my own valley of affliction. I’ve heard the lectures and moralistic platitudes that Job heard, and you also may have endured them. The posts I later added on Job are the fruit of years of God’s work and His help in the valleys of my life. In 2023 I’m posting through the Bible again. I’ll be taking the 2011 posts, edit them as needed to add new thoughts, and changing the links to the 2023 posts. Links to the original posts will still be available under the Bible menu at the top of the header image in Read the Bible in 2011 in the Winter and Spring Quarters.
I consider the book of Job to be God’s gift to those who suffer intensely without apparent or traceable reason, because in Job we hear the words of a man, a good man, who struggles in pain with his doubt and his longing to trust God. Job’s horrific circumstances drive him to grapple with life at its depths. There are no glib answers here, and the fact that there are no glib answers means our pain is not trivialized and that in turn offsets the depersonalization that suffering afflicts on our heart because we see that what we are going through is taken seriously by God.
I cannot tell you how comforting I have found the book of Job as I have read, studied, and written on it because I have heard the speeches Job heard, and I have know the emotions and struggles he felt. His eloquent, and at times biting words, in both their expression and intensity give words to my own feelings. Indeed, when I cannot find solace anywhere else, I still find it in Job.
We serve as lights, you and I, as we persevere in the midst of anguish, to those in darkness who are crushed and broken by evil. As they are, we, too, are caught up in living in a world that groans in its rebellion against God, and ofttimes reasons for suffering are beyond ourselves and our understanding. We demonstrate an authenticity to others when we don’t hand out platitudes, but instead with love identify with them and in our patience and endurance point them to God who is full of compassion and mercy. We serve as an example and pattern of walking with God to our fellow believers.
Finally, and most importantly, as we persevere in our suffering—even though we wrestle with our doubts and despair—we prove ourselves servants of God. Do you know what God calls Job over and over again? “My servant Job.” At the beginning of the book and at the end of the book, God gives Job that accolade. You and I, my dear friend, as our eye weeps to God in our suffering, and as we bear the scoffing of others, can also be servants of God; there is no greater purpose, there is no greater praise.
Below are links to the posts. I’ll be adding a sentence or two from each one. Because the posts build on each other, I’d suggest starting with Job 1–2, and reading from the beginning.
“My friends are my scoffers;
My eye weeps to God.”
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked I shall return there.
Yahweh gave, and Yahweh has taken away.
Blessed be the name of Yahweh.”
His friends search for a defect in Job that will explain his suffering—not to alleviate his anguish, but to relieve their own fears.
While pious words present a façade of spirituality, there is no comfort there for pain.
Job’s need was to believe in God’s goodness, benevolence and personal care for him in the face of God’s inscrutable sovereignty in allowing his suffering.
From Job’s perspective he is at the point of finding no help from these men and believing there is none to be had from God.
Someone like Job, however, who suffers without overt cause or comprehension, needs help trusting God in the face of no explanation of his affliction.
Those who suffer do not need pat answers, indeed, there are none to be had, for you cannot explain the inexplicable, and to attempt to do so is to find yourself in ashes and clay territory.
Job is grappling with life at its depths as he struggles with his inability to bring into accord his horrific circumstances with his understanding of God.
It’s shocking to see the way in which Bildad doesn’t even take the time before he speaks to think about who Job is and what he knows about Job from the past. He has no empathy for Job and doesn’t bother to understand Job and to consider whether or not his words are even appropriate. Job is the invisible man to Bildad.
Job feels God considers him an enemy, and he tells of his abandonment by relatives and friends and being despised by all whom he knows.
Eliphaz’ words reveal the sin of his own heart, not Job’s, because making these unfounded charges reveals he would rather lie than acknowledge that his explanation for Job’s sorrows is wrong.
Job knows Eliphaz’ ideas about God’s providence are wrong; Job can look at his own life and his affliction, and he has also seen the prosperity of the wicked, and the reality is that sometimes the righteous suffer greatly, while those who are evil do not.
Bildad’s purpose in speaking was obviously not to help Job or provide counsel or insight—it was more of a feeble protest to Job, as if Bildad knew in advance what he would say was insufficient—hence Job’s scathing opening in chapter 26.
And when we enter that eternal glory, we will hear the Lord Jesus say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Job at Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center: Avishai Teicher via the PikiWiki – Israel free image collection project. (CC BY 2.5). Click the photo to enlarge.
Job and his friends, Ilya Yefimovich Repin: Public Domain.
Original content: Copyright ©2011–2023 Iwana Carpenter