If you’d like to read Parts 1-5 of this series, you can do so here (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5). In Part 1 you’ll find an introduction to this series as well as a summary of the book of Job. Parts 2-5 each contain lessons from Job.
Lesson 9: Job’s First, Humble Response was Much Better Than His Later, Arrogant Response
I want to walk a fine line here. On the one hand, even when suffering people say really stupid things about themselves, their situation, or God, what they don’t need is for someone to take their words and use them to beat them over the head (see lesson 7). They need grace. On the other hand, in light of God’s response to Job in chapters 38-41 and Job’s subsequent humble repentance, it is clear that there is a right way and there is a wrong way to respond to suffering.
Job’s initial response to unthinkable suffering at God’s hand was this: “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (1:21). The narrator states, “In all this, Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (1:22). After a second round of suffering, Job declared, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” And again the narrator affirms, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (2:10). In the space of a very short time, however, Job began to call God’s actions into question and eventually accused him of being unjust. That is definitely not the right way to respond in the face of suffering.
Apart from a supernatural outpouring of God’s grace, a humble acceptance of God’s sovereign will in the face of suffering is an absolute impossibility, especially when it’s suffering on the magnitude of what Job experienced. Yet such a response is the right response. Any other response only shows man’s need to repent, just like Job had to do. And when you have to repent for responding badly in suffering, God is being gracious to you.
Lesson 10: God is the Hero in Every Story, Even in the Story of Your Suffering
Who was the hero of the book of Job? God was. It wasn’t Job. It wasn’t his friends. It wasn’t even Elihu, though I think he was on to something. God was the hero. He always is. A major theme of the book of Job and a very important lesson I think we can learn from it is that no mere mortal, no matter how upright and how just, deserves the praise that belongs only to God. No matter how much a person suffers and endures, God alone deserves the glory. Job was a good man, yet as I’ve tried to show previously, Job had some serious heart issues that rose to the surface as a result of his extreme suffering.
When you suffer, God will sustain you, but not in such a way that in the end you will be able to glory in your own strength or in your own righteousness. He will sustain you in spite of your imperfections. And he will sustain you such that he alone will be the hero. God is right and good in designing your suffering that way. He’s being good to you. Your being the hero wouldn’t satisfy the longings of your heart anyway.
Share Your Thoughts
1. What do you think caused Job’s outlook to change?
2. How have you seen God as the hero of your or another’s suffering?