Three Lessons From the Book of Job
The book of Job raises many questions. Why did Job have to suffer? What can we learn from the life of Job? Let’s take a closer look at three things this book can teach us.
Job was an extraordinary person. He is described by God as being a “blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). The book of Job describes a long and difficult trial he experienced. His life continues to serve as an example of perseverance for Christians (James 5:11).
The story begins by describing an encounter between Satan and God. God asks if he’s considered Job’s righteousness (Job 1:8; 2:3). Satan responds by accusing Job of only serving God because of the blessings he had received (Job 1:9-11). God allows Satan to take these physical blessings away, beginning with Job’s livelihood and children (Job 1:14-17, 18-19) and then his health (Job 2:7-8).
As Job’s going through all this, three of his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, come to “mourn with him, and to comfort him” (Job 2:11). A series of conversations eventually ensues, beginning with Job cursing the day he was born (Job 3:1).
His friends then share their opinions of Job’s trial. They reason that such a calamity comes from God upon the wicked, and they accuse Job of having done something evil to deserve all this. As the accusations escalate, Job asserts his total innocence, maintaining that he has been unjustly afflicted with this suffering.
The book raises many questions about suffering that people still debate today. Our purpose isn’t to explore all these questions in this blog post, but to explore practical lessons we can learn from the book of Job.
Lesson 1: We don’t have all the answers
Job’s friends were sure that his sins had caused his suffering. They presented Job with many reasons they believed he had brought this ordeal on himself. They were certain they were right. But after God intervened, He rebuked the friends for speaking falsely about Him and the situation (Job 42:7).
At times we, like Job, don’t know why God allows certain situations to happen.And Job didn’t have all the answers either. At one point he cursed the day he was born—which questioned God’s providence (Job 3:3). As his friends suggested the sins that may have caused his suffering, Job responded by overly justifying himself and his own righteousness (Job 13:22-24; 32:2).
At times we, like Job, don’t know why God allows certain situations to happen. We often ask “why” when we see (or experience) intense suffering. We have to remember that we won’t always discover the answers—at least not immediately. In those times we must remember that “the secret things belong to the LORD our God” (Deuteronomy 29:29).
Lesson 2: Comfort those who suffer
When Job was at his lowest point, what did he really need? Was it correction? Was it theories on the cause of his suffering?
What Job needed the most was comfort. Job even called his friends “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2). Instead of comforting, they added more grief to his situation. What he needed was friends who would increase his faith in God’s providence, pray with him and encourage him to hang in there. When people are suffering, sometimes the best thing we can do is say nothing. There are times when just being there is the best comfort we can give. His friends were at their best when they first arrived and silently mourned with him (Job 2:13).
The Bible advises that sometimes the wisest course of action is keeping silent (Proverbs 11:12; 17:28). We should learn how to “comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).
Lesson 3: Suffering should cause us to search for answers
It’s natural to ask “why” when we suffer. Why is this happening? How long will this continue?
The conversation between Job and his friends went back and forth until God finally intervened and questioned Job. God did not answer Job’s questions directly, nor did He provide a reason for his suffering, instead He described the wonders of creation to show Job just how small he was. This taught Job to see himself in comparison with God and realize that God’s wisdom was beyond his comprehension.
He needed to really learn that “as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). Job repented not just for what he had said, but for what he was (Job 42:5-6).
Though the world is full of suffering, God has a future planned that’s too wondrous for humans to fully comprehend (1 Corinthians 2:9). When we are suffering, we should focus not only on God’s power and goodness, but on the future He has in store for those who endure “to the end” (Matthew 24:13).