The Pastor’s Pen: September 9, 2018

The book of Job grapples with the difficult issue of the causes of pain and suffering. Job is a blameless man who has been faithful to God. Because of the Evil One’s deception, Job encounters horrendous tragedies, starting with the loss of property, then family, and ultimately physical health. When all of these calamities arrive, Job is forced to come to grips with the ultimate purpose of suffering. Three so-called friends come to offer him counsel. Instead of comforting him, they accuse him, establishing a wide-held belief in that time that all suffering must come from someone’s transgression, either known or unknown. It is in that scenario, that Job plaintively cries out to God, “If I could find him I would plead my case before his face.”

The story ultimately is about faithfulness in the face of calamity. The story does not attempt to answer the causes of suffering, but to affirm that even in suffering, God remains sovereign and is in touch with our condition. For any who have dealt with suffering of any kind, there is always the temptation to believe that some action precipitated it. There is no question that certain behaviors do have consequences. A life of excessive drinking, smoking, will surely weaken one’s heart. Heart disease could very well eventuate. Any intemperate act can lead to inordinate suffering. It is important for us to remember that events do have consequences. However, there are certain tragedies that cannot be the result of any of our actions. An example would be if someone runs through a red light and causes a serious accident. The suffering of healing, rehabilitation and recovery could not possibly be the results of transgressions of anyone in the car that was hit.

What can we take away from Job’s experience of suffering? The first take away is that we must never believe that the universe is fixed and all events are planned in advance. The universe is random, and accidents do happen. The second thing we can learn is that suffering can be our mentor. As we go through discomfort and pain, we learn what true faith is. And, we use our misfortunes to bless others. For instance, going back to example of the car crash, we might testify, give talks or write books and articles on car safety, the need for seatbelts, and which cars are the most crash-prone.

This is exactly what Job has done. The scribes who retold his story have authored encouragement for over 2,000 years. Suffering is not always the result of sin. God is completely in touch with us in our difficulties. The book of Job does end on a hopeful note. God restores everything that Job had lost sevenfold. When we go through challenging times, we must never forget that God can bless us in or through our struggles. That is good news!