And 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, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And 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, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” (Job 1:8-11; 2:3-5).
Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:9-10).
The story of Job’s afflictions is a remarkable narrative that pushes us to the edge of believability. Could so many things go wrong in one person’s life? How is this even possible? How could God actually allow something like this to happen? How does Satan get so much freedom to inflict this kind of suffering with God’s people?
While all those are very critical questions, I want to focus for a minute on Job and his attitude in all of this. There are a couple of statements that are amazing. The first is his comment in verses nine and ten. “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”
Job did not see God as a concierge. He was willing to receive both good and evil, as he puts it. Remarkable in every sense of the word. He clearly had a high view of God’s sovereignty and believed God has his hand on his life for a purpose. Clearly, Job did not set up his own expectations as to what God had to do, or not do, in order to prove himself credible to Job. His faithfulness to God was not built on circumstances, no mater how much we would say he had every excuse to dump God because of these afflictions. When we pull back the curtain and see that God gave permission for Satan to bring these afflictions into his life, we are confused even more. That being said, Job seems to rise above the temporal elements, no matter how horrific, and “worship” and keep his integrity no matter what.
It is for this reason that many do not believe these were real events. But we have no reason to not believe them. There is nothing to prove this narrative is mere myth to make a point. After all, what would be the point of making up a narrative to make a point that is not real? The argument, of course, is that Job was grasping for reasons to make sense of all the chaos in his life. But we cannot keep vacillating between what is real and not real. We can’t chose to believe Job is real, but the events are not real. In all of this, I chose to believe that he was a real person and went through real catastrophes.
What do we learn? We learn it is possible to have a view of God that is greater than the circumstances of our life. If we determine that God’s main job is to make my life easier, this is not the book for you. If you believe that we can trust God regardless of the circumstances, then you will respond like Job.
Before we trivialize these events in our mind by treating them as “hum-ho” you need to take a read through the book. It is the book on suffering and suffering in an overwhelming manner. To learn how to help one going through suffering, or how not to help, this is the book to explore. Regardless if we are trying to understand the theology of suffering or the struggle and desperation of experiencing suffering, this is the book to read. What I am impressed about in this book is the integrity of Job that rises above the horror of suffering in the world (and in his life) to learn to trust God in the most painful experiences of his life. Job is remarkable.