Why Did Job Suffer?
We desire to be righteous;
God desires, instead, that
we would know Him
Just about everyone, it seems, knows something of the story of Job and how God caused him to suffer at the hands of Satan. And many wonder, why did God bring Job through such a terrible experience?
It was not that God was punishing Job for being a bad person. To the contrary, at the very beginning of the book God Himself had spoken to Satan of Job’s righteousness:
“Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”
— Job 1:8; cf. v. 1
Clearly, Job was not suffering for his sin; as to his righteousness, there was “none like him on the earth!” Instead, in a very real sense he was suffering for that very righteousness —a righteousness that kept him from knowing God.
God’s desire in all He does in our lives is to bring us into relationship with Himself. It is crucial for us as Christians to understand this point:
This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.
— John 17:3
He created us to know Him. He does not want us merely to fear Him and turn away from evil—to be people, like Job, who are righteous, but without God. That is the concept of man’s religion, not God’s way, and it is a huge frustration to God’s desire.
Yet, quite often, aren’t we ourselves just like this? We have a good beginning by believing in Jesus for our salvation, but then we turn away from Christ to try to build up our own self-made righteousness, which usually involves some kind of self-improvement. We do not seek, as the Apostle Paul did, to:
…Know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.
— Philippians 3:10
Thus, God disciplines us and exposes us to turn us from such a false seeking, to be those who truly seek to know Him.
And that is also why He dealt with Job as He did.
In all his arguments with his three friends, Job had defended his righteousness. However, after God appeared and spoke to him from the whirlwind (Job 38:1), he was completely overwhelmed with the awesomeness of God’s presence, and by His questions. At that point he could only reply:
“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You.
Therefore I abhor myself,
And repent in dust and ashes.”
— Job 42:5-6
So, at the beginning of the book of Job we have a man who is satisfied with his own righteousness, but is without God. At the end of the book, after all his sufferings, through which God exposed and emptied him, we have a man who abhors himself, but who has come to know God.
The Apostle Paul had a similar experience. We referred above to how he sought to know the Lord, but he did not begin like that. Rather, as Saul the Pharisee he had become “blameless” concerning “the righteousness which is in the law” (Phil. 3:6). But after he saw the vision of the glorified, ascended Christ he boldly declared:
What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.
— Philippians 3:7-8
What a turn Paul had! Eventually, we all must have this same turn and give up on our self-improvement. This often involves the Lord’s discipline upon us, but may we still pray:
“Lord, help me to truly know myself, and show me a vision of who You are, to save me from my own righteousness and make me one who seeks You Yourself!”
Yet, there is a still deeper answer to the question of why we as believers in Christ suffer, which we will consider in our next Note, on the baptism of Jesus.
— Up Next —
“The Baptism of Jesus”
Sent to our mailing list on
— 20 October 2021 —