Clues from the Book of Job.
“But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction.”
“Why me?” Almost everyone asks that question when great suffering strikes. An earthquake in Mexico, a diagnosis of illness—in circumstances large and small we face anguished questions about why God allows pain.
Ironically, suffering Christians often gain help and comfort from the Book of Job. I say “ironically,” because Job actually raises more questions about suffering than it answers. One setting in the book seems perfectly stage managed for an enlightening monologue: God’s personal appearance in chapter 38. But he avoids the question entirely. And all theories about suffering, fine-sounding theories proposed by Job’s friends, are dismissed by God with a scowl.
The Book of Job contains no compact theory of why good people suffer. Nevertheless, this amazing account of very bad things happening to a very good man does give many “over-the-shoulder” insights into the problem of pain. My own study has led me to the principles that follow. They do not answer the problem of pain—even God did not attempt that. But they do shed light on certain misconceptions that are as widespread today as they were in Job’s time.
1. Chapters 1 and 2 make the subtle but important distinction that God did not directly cause Job’s problems. He permitted them, but Satan acted as the causal agent.
2. Nowhere does the Book of Job suggest that God lacks power or goodness. Some people (including Rabbi Kushner in his best seller, When Bad Things Happen to Good People) claim that a weak God is powerless to prevent human suffering. Others deistically assume that he runs the world at a distance, without personal involvement. But in ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more