Job 30:26–31; 42:1–6 comment (0)
February 20, 2014
By Thomas L. Fuller
Related Scripture: Job 30:26–31; 42:1–6
Bible Studies for Life
Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
If God is Good, Why is There Suffering?
Job 30:26–31; 42:1–6
The human experience of suffering raises questions in many minds about the nature and character of God, and vice versa. The biblical account of Job’s suffering does not resolve this tension with rational explanations or philosophical arguments, but yields something greater: the assurance of God’s sovereignty over all that happens in His creation and of His presence with us in the midst of our darkest times.
In these closing verses of chapter 30, Job is midway through the last of two final speeches (chapters 28–31). He is describing and lamenting his suffering, which has come to him in spite of the compassion he showed others in their times of suffering (v. 25). For Job, however, there seems to be no such consolation or relief. Hopefulness and patience have not yielded improvement. Things only seem to go from bad to worse (v. 26). Like most who suffer pain and loss, Job’s suffering is multifaceted. There is the heart-pain of loss and grief that ties your stomach in knots (v. 27a); there is the dismal specter of living under a dark cloud, despairing that things will ever improve (v. 28a); there are the feelings of isolation and self-pity as he considers how others look upon him (vv. 28b–29); there is the physical pain of his affliction (v. 30); and there is intense sadness and loss of joy (v. 31).
In at least one respect, Job’s case is unique, for we know that God allowed Satan to test Job through intense suffering. Job’s story, however, is common to us all. For suffering, in various forms and degrees, visits all of us. It is no respecter of persons. Suffering is a byproduct of sin’s effects on the creation. The perfection of Eden was lost with humanity’s willful choice to disobey God. So we live in a marvelous but dangerous world and are thereby subject to all the wonders and horrors of life in that world. In affirming this truth, we should be careful not to discount the intensely personal and painful experience of others’ suffering. At the same time, we should also be mindful that God sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matt. 5:45) — that no one merits an exemption from suffering.
In chapters 38–41, the Lord answers Job, but He does not give Job the answers he seeks. In fact, the Lord responds to Job’s questions with questions of His own. In doing so, God is not dodging Job’s questions but calling his attention to a much larger, more profound truth that eclipses even the mammoth question of human suffering. God reveals to Job the boundless dimensions of His sovereignty over all creation.
Job’s response is brief but profound. He utters words of humble praise (v. 2), honest confession (vv. 3–5) and heartfelt repentance (v. 6). As Job proclaims, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (v. 2), he is acknowledging that God is sovereign and purposeful even in the very worst places and times of life. Job recites God’s own words back to Him (vv. 3a, 4) as pretext to confessing that he had been speaking out of ignorance (v. 3b) and with an anemic view of God (v. 5). Finally Job repents of what he now sees as the foolishness and irreverence of demanding rational explanations from the Lord, to whom all creation owes its very existence and unconditional adoration (v. 6).
Job’s circumstances have not changed; his suffering is real and painful. His questions have not been answered; Job still cannot explain why this has happened to him. But Job has a new and greatly expanded view of God, which changes everything. Regardless of our circumstances, God Himself, as revealed to us in the Scriptures and supremely in the person of Jesus Christ, should be the object of our faith, not His benefits. And even through suffering, our good and faithful God is able to bring about His redemptive purposes for the benefit and blessing of all creation.