“You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.” (James 5:11))
People can relate to the story of Job. He suffered physical ailments, the loss of his family and all he owned. Many people have suffered similar losses, but what of the compassion of God?
Job is a long book. Most of it focuses on Job’s suffering and questioning – Why me?! We are told in the beginning that Job was pure and upright, but then he suffered terribly at the hands of Satan … while God looked on! His religious friends are not very sympathetic. They talked a lot, but they didn’t say much other than to question: “If you’re so good, why is God God treating you so badly?”
Job’s friends didn’t believe that Job was as good as he claimed. The truth is, he probably wasn’t, but that’s another story. The truth is also that “bad things happen to good people”. Life isn’t fair in the hard times it dishes out. “Good” people sometimes have the worst luck, and “bad” people sometimes seem to get all the good things.
That leads us to wonder, if God exists, we are things the way they are?! Maybe he doesn’t exist. Or worse, maybe He doesn’t care!
In the prologue, God boasts to Satan of Job’s goodness, and Satan responds, basically, by saying: “Well. Of course he honors you and is good! Look how you have blessed and protected him! Stop blessing and protecting him, and he will curse You!” So, God takes His hands off and allows Satan to do what he will to Job – everything but take Job’s life.
Many of us feel from time to time as if God has taken away all of his blessing and turned his back on his. For some of us, we feel that if we had any luck at all, it would be only bad luck. Sometimes really good people suffer, while liars and cheats and unkind people seem to prosper. Some people get way more than “their share” of pain and suffering. It is not fair! It really isn’t.
We are never really told why God takes his blessing and protection from Job. The text seems to suggest it’s the result of a conversation between God and Satan, and Job is just a pawn in their seemingly idle game. It seems like a cruel joke. Even Job’s wife tells him to “curse God and die’. Job seemed to have little reason to go on and no reason to remain loyal to God…. but Job refused to curse God.
One take away from Job is the reality that we are subject cosmic forces we don’t control. We don’t control the world around us, though sometimes we seem to think we do. Any of us could have been born into poverty, in impoverished or war torn lands, with disabilities or genetic defects, and many people are. We could suffer at any time some debilitating disease or condition, a catastrophic injury or financial ruin, and many people do. We have far less real control over our own lives than we feel at times.
Perhaps, when you get right down to it, the only thing we ultimately control in our lives is how we react to the circumstances we face. I am not going to get into “why bad things happen to good people” (here and now) other than to recognize that it is a fact of life that we endure suffering, hard times, difficulties and trials and tribulations. We all do.
If this life is all there is, it is a cruel joke indeed. But Job gives us a glimpse at an answer – not really an answer that might satisfy us intellectually, but a satisfying answer nonetheless.
The verse quoted from James at the beginning of this piece got my attention when I read it. What about the outcome of Job’s ordeal shows that God is compassionate and merciful?
Three things stand out to me in Job. The most obvious is that God restores everything Job lost, doubling what he had and making the end of Job’s life better than the beginning. But, there is something else. Job’s perspective changes completely after he hears God’s voice and sees God face to face. Although Job has no greater understanding about what he was going through after the encounter with God, it did not matter.
The encounter with God was enough!
And maybe most significantly, Job repents that he ever questioned God after coming face to face with God. We do not know exactly what Job “saw” in God, but it changed everything! His questions no longer mattered.
Paul tells us that “our momentary, light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison….” (2 Cor. 4:17)(NEV) I am sure Job’s suffering didn’t seem light or momentary when he was going through them. Neither do our suffering seem light or momentary when we are going through them. Consider, however, the infinite God of the universe. Even our time on earth, compared to the history that we know, is like a vapor in the wind. Compared to all eternity it is less than a vapor in the wind!
The suggestion is that this world will seem like a ghostly wisp of a memory in eternity.
In Job, God seems distant and unapproachable, but we know there is more to the story. In Jesus, God emptied Himself, taking on the form of a man; God humbled Himself, becoming a servant; and He was perfectly obedient, even to the point of dying on the cross! (Phil. 2:5-7) Amazing!
God knows exactly what we feel when we suffer. He demonstrated his understanding when He willingly suffering for us. We can trust a God like that.
As with Job, we need the perspective that an encounter with God gives. We need to abandon our limited understanding. We have a God we can trust because he demonstrated that He can be trusted. Even if we don’t understand Him or why things happen the way they do, we can Trust Him.
This life and world is not all there is!
Since the days of the prophets, we have been told that God will establish a new heaven and a new earth – a new Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12) – a Jerusalem from above (Gal. 4:26). We long for a heavenly country, a city prepared for us by God (Heb. 11:6); a city, whose architect and builder is God (Heb. 11:10); the city of the living God (Heb. 12:33); a place where the water of life is given to all who thirst (Rev. 22:17).
And God has prepared a room for you in that place!! (John 14:2-3)
Our riches do not lie on this earth; they await us when this life ends. The latter things will be greater than the first! Jesus conquered not only sin, but death!
He made the way for us and invites us in through that narrow door to life eternal with Him! The compassion of God is that He knows exactly what we go through; He experienced it Himself; and this life is not all there is. Thank the Lord! God has prepared a place for us.
Like Job, we need to encounter God. We need a heavenly perspective that can only be gained by encountering God. Then, we won’t simply know about and believe in God; we KNOW Him, and we Trust Him because we have tasted of the Living Waters! When we have encountered God, we know we don’t need to understand; we know that God is all we need and all we ever needed.