Enduring Suffering

The first chapter of the book of Job ends with success. Job has shown that he does serve God for nothing. He does not serve God because of the hedge God had around him, blessing the work of his hands and increasing his possessions. Job has lost his children, lost his possessions, and lost his wealth. Yet Job did not sin or charge God with wrong (1:22). Further, and more importantly, God has been vindicated. God was charged with doing too much good for the righteous so that they cannot serve God for who God is but only for selfish reasons. Satan (the accuser) has pointed out that God’s policy of rewarding the righteous actually undermines, if not subverts, the very righteousness that God seeks to foster. People will act righteously to gain benefits, not out of love for God. But God has shown that his wisdom is right and true. God is able to bless his people and they will still serve him even if those physical blessings are removed. We would hope that this would be the end of the book. But the discussions of God and Satan are not done.

The first three verses of chapter 2 start again just as we read in Job 1:6-8. It is a day when the sons of God were presenting themselves before the Lord. Satan is still doing all what he does: going to and fro through the earth. He is the roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). God draws Satan’s attention to Job again. He is blameless, upright, fears God, and turns away from evil. There is only one new statement made in this discussion which is found in verse 3. “He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.”

Notice that God takes ownership of what has happened. God does not blame Satan for what happened. God does not say that Satan did this and he is really upset that Satan did this and now he has to fix it. We cannot try to justify or defend God by saying that Satan did this action against Job outside of the power of God. Satan is not more powerful than God. Satan needed permission to do what he did. Not only this, God constrained what Satan could do to Job (1:12) and will constrain him again in 2:6. What God says here is important for our consideration about how God runs the world particularly in regards to suffering. This action against Job did not happen without God’s knowledge or agreement. God takes responsibility for what happened in Job 2:3. God does not say that Satan did it (though he did). Rather, God says that he did it himself: “You incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” This is not the only time where the book tells us that God was ultimately behind what happened. Look at Job 42:11.

Then all his brothers and all his sisters and all who had known him before came to him, and they ate bread with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him for all the adversities that the Lord had brought on him. (Job 42:11 NASB)

Please note again that the book clearly states that the Lord brought the adversity on Job. Now we are not given a solution to these words in chapter 2. But it is important to observe that God does indicate that the answer to the problem is suffering is that it is not his fault. The book of Job will never give the answer that Satan is the cause or blame for suffering. God does not answer suffering by saying that he is not responsible. God’s answer is not that things in the world operate outside of his control. God is pictured as fully in charge in the book of Job. God even takes responsibility for what has happened. Though Satan is the one afflicting Job (1:12; 2:7), we must also see that God declares that he himself afflicted Job also when Satan did this (2:3; 42:11). Further, Job also states that God did these things to him.

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:10 NASB)

As we mentioned in the first article, there is a reason why the book of Job is 42 chapters long. The answer to suffering and how God runs the world is not an easy, cliche answer. The problems that come from this issue cannot be solved in two or three chapters. We must be patient and let God explain as one moves through the whole of the book. At the moment we are left with the knowledge that Satan afflicted Job but also that God says he afflicted Job.

We learn something about endurance and how to have it. Endurance will be built into our faith when we recognize that everything we possess belongs to God, not us. We are not owed anything. God can give and God can take away. God does not have to give to us at all. We may just have a miserable life from start to finish. We are not in control of this. God is in control. Our righteous life and faith in God does not compel God to meet our life expectations. He does not have to give us a spouse, three kids, a house with a white picket fence, and a great career. Life does not owe us. God does not owe us. Anything we have is from God’s generosity and is not something that is deserved to us.

Endurance is built into our faith when we have a determination to worship God no matter what happens, like we see Job doing. We must have a mental fortitude to be willing to live for God and continue to worship him, even if that means we have lost everything in life, including our health. Our health is also part of the blessing God gives. We must be prepared to praise God no matter what we gain or what we lose. Therefore, endurance is ultimately submission to our sovereign God. Whatever God gives us, we will worship and serve the Lord. Whatever God takes away, we will worship and serve the Lord. Endurance is what we are called to have in Christ. We have the strength to endure because we know that what has happened to us is not outside the knowledge or power of God. God is in control and we trust what he is doing in our lives.

Or to say this as Job did: “Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive adversity” (2:10). Or again, Job said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:21).

Therefore, in all this Job did not sin with his lips (2:10).

— Brent Kercheville

www.westpalmbeachchurchofchrist.com