The book of Job opens in verse one by telling us that Job was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He was a prosperous farmer living in the land of Uz; he had seven sons and three daughters, owned several animals as well as had a large number of servants. Suddenly, Satan came before God claiming that Job was trusting God only because he was wealthy and everything was going well for him. [Note: although God loves us, believing and obeying Him does not shelter us from life’s setbacks, tragedies and sorrow]. In the space of a few verses, his life unraveled [and the testing of Job’s faith began]. Job lost everything, from the animals he owned to his sons and daughters. But Job continued to trust in God. Next Satan attacked Job physically [covering him with painful sores] but Job suffered in silence.
As Job’s going through all this, three of his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, come to “mourn with him, and to comfort him”. A series of conversations eventually ensue where Job begins to express his pain. Throughout the book Job’s friends insist he must have brought this upon himself through sin [see Job 4:1-21; 8:1-22]. Job was by no means perfect, but he was a man of God. His suffering was not punishment but intended to prove and purify his faith.
When we experience difficulty or hardships, we can often be quick to assume God is punishing us for something we’ve done. But life isn’t so black and white. This book serves as a reminder that we live in a fallen world; and while we do not always know why we suffer, we can bring our pain and grief to God and trust that He is wise and knows what He’s doing. Job did not give up on God, despite all of his shortcomings. God is capable of rescuing us from suffering, but He may also allow suffering to come for reasons we cannot fully understand. We live in a society that tries to ignore pain and suffering [but it cannot be ignored]. Job’s story shows us that in this life bad things will happen to “good” people, and at the same time addresses the doctrine that no one is truly “good”, we all have sinned and can’t stand before God’s judgment without Our Redeemer [Jesus Christ].
In Matthew 16:24 Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me…” and in John 16:33 we’re told in this world we will have trouble. If we embrace Jesus, we embrace suffering as a consequence for following Him. And while His Lordship over our lives invites hardship and requires perseverance. When we give our life in service to Christ, we discover the real purpose of living.
Jesus’ disciples also assure us that trials can be blessings because they refine our faith and make it mature, to God’s glory and our good. In James 1:2-4, it reads
‘Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.’
Our hardships are times of learning. Tough times can teach us perseverance. So the next time you’re faced with a setback, try and avoid complaining and view it as an opportunity for growth. Thank God for promising to be with you in rough times and ask Him to help solve your problem. Then be patient. God will not leave you alone with your problems; He will stay close and help you grow.