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Learning How To Suffer Well: “Have You Considered Job?”

man holding head in worry

In Job 1:8 the Lord says to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? 

If God asked me that same question, I’m embarrassed to say that my answer would be, “No, I haven’t.” Or at least not recently. And I’m a pastor! The truth is I’ve avoided preaching or teaching from the book of Job over the years because I assume I know the main point: My suffering in this life can’t even compare to Job (nor my righteousness for that matter) and so I just need to suck it up and stop complaining. Maybe you’ve thought the same thing.

Time To Consider Job

But I think it’s time we “consider Job” and reexamine the meaning of what is believed to be the oldest book in the Bible. Especially now. In fact, during the pandemic, one of the most searched for books online has been the book of Job. And no wonder. It’s been a very tough time for many. In reading Job again with fresh eyes I’ve realized that my assumption about the book has been wrong and I actually think we need its message now more than ever.

Many of you know the story. Job was a righteous man and he loved God. He had great wealth and a large family—certainly God had blessed him in many ways.

But one day Satan tells God that Job was only faithful to Him because he had a good life. Strip it all away, Satan said, and he’ll curse you. God decides to test Job, and in His sovereignty allows Satan to take away everything from Job but his life.

And that’s exactly what happened. Job lost everything — his wealth, his children, and even his health as he developed painful sores all over his body. Think of a terrible case of the shingles times 10. And if that wasn’t bad enough, even Job’s wife told him to curse God and die.

But he didn’t. In Job 1:21-22 we read those famous words where Job says, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, may the name of the Lord be praised.”

Job remained faithful to God and passed the test. And in the rest of the book we get an honest glimpse of his ongoing struggle with the problem of suffering, his conversations with friends about God (that weren’t helpful by the way), and finally a conversation with God himself that would change his life.

We Can Identify with Job

Here’s where my assumption was wrong. The book of Job isn’t a message that others have it worse than you so grit your teeth and get over it. No, Job suffers in every conceivable way known to mankind so that we can all identify with him in our suffering. Keep living long enough in this fallen world and you’ll experience the same things Job went through. Maybe not exactly, maybe not to the same degree, but we all experience the loss of health, the loss of loved ones, the loss of friends. And just like Job, we struggle with why God allows suffering to come our way. Just keep breathing and you’ll be there too.

God appears to be silent as Job questions the reasons why he’s suffering. But he finally shows up in chapters 38-42 and turns the questions around on Job. In that dramatic confrontation Job learns that there is a God and it’s not him. Job learns that God’s ways are higher than our ways. He’s God. And the sovereign God who made the universe may allow things to happen to us that we’ll never understand. But we can know that he is good. He loves us and is with us. And — one day — he’s going to come back and make this world right again.

A lot of times, we’re tempted to turn to Job’s story to answer the question: “Why do good people suffer?” But that’s not the question God answers. Instead, he uses Job to answer the far more practical question: “How can we suffer well?”

Suffering well can mean trusting God regardless of our circumstances. Jesus calls all of us to trust him, but in the trenches of real life, doing so can be hard. Click below for 16 Bible Verses about Trusting God.