Job's Life & Suffering


Today's Reading: Job 1:1-2:13; 42:10-17

The big question of the story of Job is "Why do bad things happen to good people?"  That is an enormously big question, it's a very old question, and it's a question that has resulted in at a few thousand attempts at trying to find a satisfactory answer.  And if we're honest, no one has yet to come up with an answer that actually is satisfying.

The thing about Job, is that despite it's location in the OT, there considerable opinion that it may actually be the oldest book in the Bible, pre-dating Genesis-Deuteronomy.  Yes, Genesis deals with creation and nothing in human history pre-dates creation, but it's thoughts that somewhere in those earliest days, perhaps somewhere in the vicinity of Genesis 4-6, the story of Job occurred.  

Another common opinion (and I recognize that this can be quite controversial) is that Job's story has been highly edited, if not completely made-up.  It reasonable to think that at some point in the very distant past there was a man who experienced much of what Job experienced.  His experiences raised the question of suffering and evil, and resulted in an oral tradition that attempted to bring some meaning and explanation for what had happened.  Pieces of the story were tweaked and elaborated, or perhaps even added altogether.  And the result is a story about God and Satan making a bet and Job becomes the unfortunate science experiment in this bet.

Does that mean that Job should be cut out of the Bible because we can't trust it?  That depends on what you believe about the Bible's inspiration.  I believe that the entire Bible is inspired by the Spirit and it's there (even Job) because God wants it there and it teaches us something about God.  I don't consider God's truth compromised in way by a story that may actually be some weird combination fact and fiction, if that is in fact what Job is.  Job still teaches us something about suffering and how God works.  I will also admit that from my messed-up human perspective, while I can find some comfort in this story, the explanation for bad things happening to good people contained in this story is unsatisfying.

Job was a man of great faith who routinely went above and beyond in his worship in order to make sure that all the bases were covered.  He was probably the best God-fearer that's ever lived, which means that if anyone could be certain of God's protection, Job was that person.  But then God takes Satan up on his challenge and Job, unjustly, loses everything!  His farm, his house, his kids...everything!  His wife and his closest friends who know full-well what kind of man Job is, push him hard to curse God because obviously none of this would happen God really was as good as Job believed he was.  In the end, God wins the bet, and blesses Job by repaying him for everything he's lost.  It may be a bit crude, but the whole almost reads like the experience of a miscarriage could be wiped away simply by having more one who has ever experience a miscarriage has found the birth of another child to fix the pain and loss of earlier.

What's worse is God's own explanation in chapters 38-41: "I'm God and you're not. I can do what I want.  Deal with it!"

I don't have a satisfying answer for Job.  But I accept it as part of God's word and revelation to us.  And I continue to believe, much like Job, that God is still good and worthy of my worship and glory even when I don't feel like he deserves it.