This is a book about the suffering of one man, Job. On one level, the story is about how he was visited by evil and misfortune, and he struggled to justify such treatment from him. He also suffered from frequent pain from his disease. His family life was disrupted, and his friends were not offering any comfort. Eventually, God spoke out of a whirlwind and gave Job an explanation for why he had been allowed to suffer all this misery in his life. The second part of the book is an expanded commentary on that explanation of suffering in human life which we call “theodicy.” There two things we can say about suffering. First, it ought to be avoided; second, it is unavoidable.
Job’s Response to Suffering
Job’s response to suffering is to ask why. Why did God do this? What did I do wrong? Where is God in all this? Job’s response to suffering is natural, human, and honest.
Job’s response to suffering is also one of hope. While he can’t understand why God has allowed him such hardship—and may never be able to understand it fully—he does know that he still has the support of his friends and family as well as an ability to rely on his own inner strength when it comes time for action. His friends are there for him even though they don’t have answers either; they just want to help him through this difficult time in any way they can because they love him deeply and want justice served regardless of their own personal situations or feelings on the matter at hand
The Idea of the Lord’s Vindication
In the midst of suffering, it is important to remember that God is a just God. He promises to vindicate those who are righteous, and he will punish the wicked. The Lord’s vindication does not mean that every injustice will be corrected for us here on earth; however, it does mean that in the end, justice will prevail and we will see our enemies fall at our feet.
God’s justice may not seem apparent in this life but it certainly exists in eternity.
Two Views of Divine Justice
- God is just.
- God is merciful.
- Both are true, and your understanding of God’s justice and mercy should be reflected in how you treat others (especially those who suffer).
The Case for the Divine Presence
The idea that God is present in the world is important because it means that God is not distant from us. This can be hard to understand, but it’s something we must accept.
The scriptures say that “God has made everything beautiful in its time; He has also set eternity in their hearts.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) That means that even as we experience pain and suffering, there are times when we feel joy and happiness—and those things are just as real as the negative emotions we experience too.
The Case Against the Divine Presence
The argument against the divine presence is simple: if there is a God, he must be benevolent. If he is benevolent, then he would not allow suffering to occur. But since we see so much suffering in the world, it’s reasonable to conclude that there isn’t a benevolent God.
In response to this argument, Job argues that even if you cannot understand why some people suffer more than others (or even why they suffer at all), we should still trust that God has our best interests at heart when he allows us to suffer. His reasoning goes like this: while you may see the world as unjust—where some people are treated better than others—God sees things differently: those who are treated better often become worse off because of their pride; meanwhile those who are treated poorly often become better off in life because they learn humility and seek justice rather than selfishness and greed. Thus although it may seem unfair for someone like Job or any human being on earth to go through such suffering for no reason at all, if one looks beyond oneself and considers how one’s actions affect everyone else around them (including future generations), then we can see how each person’s suffering helps us all grow closer to God.”
There are two things we can say about suffering. First, it ought to be avoided. Second, it is unavoidable.
First, suffering is unavoidable. Some of it is a consequence of the human condition, like disease and death. But some of it comes from our own choices and actions—for example, when we sin against God or others. Even then, though we bear responsibility for our sins, God still has a role in their occurrence: We are free to make our own decisions (even if they’re bad ones), but only because God gave us that freedom in the first place! So even when we suffer because of our own decisions, there’s still room for divine providence to play out in how those decisions affect us later on down the road.
Suffering is the most universal of human experiences. It is also the most difficult to understand and accept. We have looked at three responses to suffering: Job’s, the idea of God’s vindication, and two views of divine justice. I believe that this passage presents a choice, between these two views of divine justice or between God’s presence and His absence. In my view, though it may be necessary and unavoidable from time to time, suffering should not be sought out or encouraged any more than necessary for the sake of growth and maturity.