You are pretty much required to look at Job anytime you talk about suffering from a Biblical perspective. There is so much we learn about suffering, God and man as we look at Job. In studying Job we learn that Job was a righteous man that faithfully served the Lord (Job1:1). This will be very important as we look at what happens to Job.
He was a wealthy man with a large family. He also was very concerned about his children. He made a point to make sacrifices to God on their behalf. In my mind, I see this as Job’s way of praying for the safety of his kids. He knew that if they rebelled against the Lord they would suffer consequences for their actions. He sought to spare them from this.
Job lived what we might call a charmed life and then one day everything changed (Job 1:13-19). One minute Job was a wealthy man with 10 healthy children. The next minute he gets the report that a tragic accident has taken the life of his children. He is also told that fire fell down from heaven and killed his sheep and the shepherds. Not only that but his land has been raided, his livestock has been stolen and his servants have been murdered. Notice the wording in this passage. As one messenger was still speaking, another message came. These reports were all given within a matter of minutes.
Then on another day—that doesn’t seem to be that many days later—he is struck with oozing boils from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet (Job 2:7-8). The rest of the book of Job gives a fuller description of the effects of the disease he was struck with and they were pretty bad. While we aren’t sure what the disease was, we can be pretty sure it was bad.
One of the main ideas we see throughout this passage is that God was always in control. There was never a time when God wasn’t in control of the events.
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. And the LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” So Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.” Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” So Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. Job 1:6-12 (NKJV)
The picture here is that all the heavenly host has to come and give a report to God. It’s almost the picture of God being a commanding general and calling all of his troops in to get a report. Yet, unlike most generals, God’s enemy also has to come and report to Him as well. Part of what we are to understand from this is that Satan is not God’s equal. Instead of being God’s equal, Satan is inferior to God. We see that Satan has to give an account to God about where he’s been and what he’s been doing.
I love God’s testimony about Job. Wouldn’t it be great if God could give this same testimony about us? Then Satan makes an accusation against God. Basically the accusation is that Job only worships God because God blesses him. So to prove Satan wrong God allows Satan to strike everything Job has but He forbids Satan from doing anything to Job himself. One thing that we see here is that God initiates the conversation and God ends the conversation.
What happens to Job happened with the express consent of God. He allowed it to happen and He put limitations on what Satan could do. As much as we might not like it, God was fully in control in this situation. Part of what I see here is Satan acknowledging that God had always protected Job up to this point. How would Satan know that there was a hedge around Job if he hadn’t tried to get to Job before and couldn’t? God absolutely could have kept Satan from doing all these things but he didn’t. He allowed Satan to bring suffering into Job’s life.
In Job 2:1-7 we see the same sort of conversation as we saw in chapter 1. It follows the same pattern as the conversation in chapter 1. God initiates the conversation and God ends the conversation. Satan again accuses Job of worshiping God because of the things that God gives him and God again allows Satan to bring suffering into Job’s life. Once again, God limits what Satan can do to Job. He allows Satan to strike Job’s person but he cannot take his life.
There is something specific I want to point out about this passage. I want you to see something that God says.
Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.” Job 2:3 (NKJV)
Who was responsible for the suffering that came into Job’s life? Satan brought it didn’t he? Yet where does God lay the “blame.” God accepts responsibility for it.
Does this mean that God is the one that moved the raiders to take Job’s stuff?
Does this mean that God made the wind that collapsed the house Job’s children were in and killed them?
No but it does mean that since God is sovereign He allowed it and He accepts responsibility for what happens in His world. If that doesn’t mess with your head and your theology, then I don’t know what will.
God is sovereign over all things and is always in control of everything going on in the world He created. God being in control does not demand Him being the primary agent of every action on the planet. Instead, God is in control because He has set limits to what can and cannot be done. We see this very clearly in Job. He can also intervene at any time He wants and He can do anything He wants.
The reason I want to take the time to explain this is because it’s important that we understand and trust that God is sovereign in this world. The suffering we face in life will almost always be far beyond our control. If it was in our control we would probably choose to end the suffering or to avoid it all together. If we don’t understand and trust God’s sovereignty then it can lead us to despair over our circumstances and situation.
For many of us this will require a massive shift in our thinking. I say this not because we don’t believe in the sovereignty of God but because our worldview only finds comfort in the sovereignty of God when things are going well. Many Christians can only find comfort in the sovereignty of God when they find money they didn’t know they had at just the time they need it. They can only find comfort in the sovereignty of God when their car slides off the road and no one is hurt. They can only find comfort in the sovereignty of God when a previous bad test result suddenly turns good. However, the sovereignty of God brings no comfort or encouragement at all when things go bad.
What we want to think, whether we say it or not, is that God is in control when things go good for us and He’s not in control when things go bad. The problem with this is that it does not describe the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is just as much in control when things go bad as He is when things go good. Before we will ever truly know who God is and be able find comfort in who He is, we must move to the place where we trust God’s sovereignty as much when everything goes wrong as we do when everything goes right. No matter what kind of suffering may come in your life remember that God is still in control of your life and circumstances. No matter how severe your suffering is, God hasn’t lost control not even a little. He is still God, and He is still in control. Knowing and embracing this about God will enable you to trust Him no matter what kind of circumstances come into your life.
For further study read Lamentations 1-2.
What is going on in this book?
What are some of the things that Jeremiah said that God had done?