“Why did this happen to me?”
Over the centuries people have cried that question while agonizing in pain, weeping from grief, languishing over loss.
Emergency major surgery; a protracted terminal illness; a sudden loss of possessions by fire, earthquake, or flood; the premature death of a child; divorce; a recalcitrant teen; a son killed in war; a teen critically injured in a car áccident; a child born with brain damage; a setback in business—these are some of the many adversities and heartaches shared by the human race.
If we could see direct relationships between our sufferings and sins in our lives—connections between our tragedies and our transgressions—we could more readily comprehend the whys of our troubles. But usually problems intrude without explanations. And when we cannot relate our woes directly to some known acts of sin, we conclude that the afflictions are undeserved.
The wail, What did I do to deserve this? reveals a sense of injustice, a feeling that the problems exceed what we rightfully deserve.
Perhaps the most intense example of undeserved suffering is recorded in the book of Job. In a matter of minutes, Job, a wealthy and godly man, lost all his material possessions, all his children, and his health. Then, adding anguish upon anguish, his friends accused him rather than consoled him. Furthermore, God, from all appearances, was intentionally absenting Himself from Job’s problems, refusing to hear and rise to his cause.
Yet Job was “blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil” (1:1). Could any tragedy be more unmerited? Should not a godly person be blessed, not badgered, by God?
Throughout the ages, a strange magnetism about the book of Job has pulled people to its pages. Certainly many individuals have discovered a degree of solace by identifying with Job, whose distresses were agonizingly prolonged; manifestly unfair, as is all suffering for righteousness’ sake; and unbelievably intense.
Zuck, R. B. (1978). Job (pp. 5–6). Chicago, IL: Moody Press.
Job has challenged God’s justice repeatedly, declaring that if he only had his day in court, he could prove his innocence to God. Job calls on God to respond, confident in his case against the way that God has been running the world. God is about to show up, as Job has requested repeatedly, but things are going to go rather differently than Job expects.
God certainly has a sense of humor. In 9:16–17 Job declared poetically, “Even if I summoned him and he responded, … he would crush me with a storm.” Then in the final flowery speech of Elihu, the young speaker describes the power of God by connecting God to the lightning, wind, clouds, and rain of a storm (37:1–24). So it is rather ironic that when God does appear, he comes blasting down out of a storm, demanding, “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me” (38:2–3). Job has been wanting his day in court when he could pepper God with questions and present his rational and reasoned defense. Now finally God is here, but God declares that he himself will be the one to ask the questions. God immediately fires off question after question at Job. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!” (38:4–5). All these initial questions deal with aspects of God’s great creation. Job has challenged the way God runs the universe. Therefore, God is asking Job just how much he knows about the universe. “Surely you know,” God states sarcastically, “for you were already born! You have lived so many years!” (38:21). God continues for two long chapters, poetically describing the wonders of creation and stopping to ask Job if he understands all of these things—the seas, the stars, light, the animal world.
Finally, in 40:1–2 God pauses and gives Job a chance to answer. After all, Job has been demanding an audience with God for chapters. Now, however, with God speaking from the storm and pointing out to Job how ridiculously little he really knows about the world, Job probably realizes he has made a big mistake in demanding an audience with God. He wisely covers his mouth and hushes (40:4–5).
Hays, J. D., & Duvall, J. S. (Eds.). (2011). The Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook (pp. 261–262). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
The problem, of which the book of Job is the profound discussion, finds here its solution. Brought into the presence of God, Job is revealed to himself. In no sense a hypocrite, but godly and possessing a faith which all his afflictions could not shake, Job was yet self-righteous and lacking in humility. Chapter 29 fully discloses this. But in the presence of God he anticipates, as it were, the experience of Paul (Phil. 3:4–9), and the problem is solved. The godly are afflicted that they may be brought to self-knowledge and self-judgment. Such afflictions are not penal for their sins, but remedial and purifying. The book of Job affords a sublime illustration of the truth announced in 1 Cor. 11:31, 32, and Heb. 12:7–11. Best of all, such self-knowledge and self-judgment is the prelude to greater fruitfulness (vs. 7–17; John 15:2). Cf. Josh. 5:13, 14; Ezk. 1:28; 2:1–3; Dan. 10:5–11; Rev. 1:17–19.
Scofield, C. I. (Ed.). (1917). The Scofield Reference Bible: The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments (p. 597). New York; London; Toronto; Melbourne; Bombay: Oxford University Press.
“The door of repentance opens into the hall of joy,” said Charles Spurgeon; and it was true for Job. In the climax of the book, Job the sinner became Job the servant of God (Job 42:7–9). Four times in these verses God called Job by that special Old Testament title “My servant” (see 1:8; 2:3). How did Job serve God? By enduring suffering and not cursing God, and thereby silencing the devil! Suffering in the will of God is a ministry that God gives to a chosen few.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be Patient (pp. 152–153). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
In Job 42:1-6 Job’s discipline was completed and in Job 42:7-17 Job’s restoration was completed. Job 42 Ministry is about proclaiming God’s restoration power.
“Then Job answered the LORD and said, “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ “Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.” It came about after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has. “Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, and go to My servant Job, and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves, and My servant Job will pray for you. For I will accept him so that I may not do with you according to your folly, because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.” So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did as the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job. The LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the LORD increased all that Job had twofold. Then all his brothers and all his sisters and all who had known him before came to him, and they ate bread with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him for all the adversities that the LORD had brought on him. And each one gave him one piece of money, and each a ring of gold. The LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had 14,000 sheep and 6,000 camels and 1,000 yoke of oxen and 1,000 female donkeys. He had seven sons and three daughters. He named the first Jemimah, and the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. In all the land no women were found so fair as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them inheritance among their brothers. After this, Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons and his grandsons, four generations. And Job died, an old man and full of days.” (Job 42, NASB95)