The lessons we can learn from Job and his suffering is how God is full of compassion and mercy. This is in accordance with James 5:11.

Source: The Banner of Truth, 2008. 2 pages.

Lessons on Suffering from Job

You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.

James 5:11

Job apparently lived some four millennia ago at the time of the patriarchs. Like Abraham who reached the age of one hundred and seventy-five years (Gen. 25:7), Job lived at a time when God gave to humanity incredible longevity in comparison with the average lifespan of a man or woman of our times (Job 42:16). It was the time before Moses and the Levites, the era in which men of God would readily take on the functions of priests. Job was one such man of God. Festive occasions came and went, his children gathering to eat and drink. The pattern of Job was ever the same. He would arise early, offering burnt offerings, realizing that his children may well 'have sinned and cursed God in their hearts' (Job 1:5). He would act in their behalf providing an atonement for their sins.

The Suffering That Came🔗

What may we learn from this man of antiquity, 'the greatest of all the men of the east' (Job 1:3)? Job shows that a person of deep piety and high morals may undergo suffering beyond the imagination. The book opens with the affirmation that 'Job was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil' (Job 1:1). God himself even expresses his delight with the designation 'my servant Job' (Job 1:8). Yet as soon as we learn of heaven's approbation the narrative suddenly turns to the storms of adversity that poured upon him in rapid succession. There were the raids of the Sabeans and the Chaldeans. There were the disas­ters of nature. Blow after blow soon reduced a great man to nothing. Wealth and family had become a thing of the past (Job 1:13-19). The aftermath of the first wave of destruction brought no relief. A second wave surged forward without warning. Satan now smote Job. Boils erupted from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head (Job 2:7). Itching ensued (Job 2:8). Maggots crawled in his sores (Job 7:5). His skin peeled off, turning black and fell from him (Job 30:30). Infection ran through his system. His bones burned with fever (Job 30:30). A prince was now disfigured beyond recognition (Job 2:12). His friends made their way to him, an outcast seated among the ashes. They lifted their eyes upon him. Overcome by horror and grief, 'they raised their voices and wept' (Job 2:12).

The Cause of it All🔗

In the days to come his friends would begin to reason. Their thought was that Job must have sinned. Life, however, is not quite so simple. While there were those among the ancients who believed – as many do today – that health, wealth, and prosperity inevitably follow the life of faith, the reality is that mystery tends to dominate in history more often than we care to admit. The life of Job teaches us that conversations and determinations in the world above directly impact the turn of events here upon the earth.

The suffering of Job was due not to anything that he had done or forgotten to do. The Scripture traces his misery to Satan, the great Adversary of the human race, the one who like a beast spends his time 'roaming about on the earth', seeking someone to devour (Job 1:7). The tribulation that came upon Job was rooted in diabolical slander, the impugning of motives for serving the LORD: 'You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land' (Job 1:10). In other words, Satan told God that Job loved him only because of what he gets from him! 'But put forth your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse you to your face' (Job 1:11). A fallen angel, focused only upon himself, could not imagine that a mere man could actually love God simply for who God is.

But beyond even the activity of Satan, the affliction of Job is traceable to the permission of God (Job 1:12; 2:6). Although Satan the prowling beast was let loose upon Job, he ever remains on the divine leash. The agony that overcame Job was ultimately due to the purposes of God. The Almighty would magnify his own name; he would shape Job into a profound man of God; and he would humiliate Satan by showing how wrong he really was.

The Way to Respond🔗

How shall we respond to an avalanche of suffering in a way that pleases God? No doubt the proposal of Job's wife is all too frequently uttered. She wondered why he kept on holding to his integrity. Why did he not seek relief for himself and for her? Her mighty husband, her pride and joy, had been reduced to a mere shadow (Job 17:7). Would it not have been easier simply to curse God and then die, as she suggested (Job 2:9)? Sometimes it is hard for us to trust in the midst of suffering. At such times let us remember the father of the boy with demon possession. Let us make his prayer our own. 'Help my unbelief' (Mark 9:2.4).

Job, who was crushed by affliction, shows us a better way. This is not to say that Job was a Stoic. He expressed his grief in a way that was typical in the ancient Near East: 'Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head' (Job 1:20). Tears and strength may be found in the same man. There is no question that Job had a stronger faith than did his wife. 'He fell to the ground and worshipped' (Job 1:20). He confessed the sovereign rights of God who ultimately controls all things: 'The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD' (Job 1:21). This perspective should likewise be our own. Life after the Fall means that possessions, and people, and we ourselves do not have permanence in this world. Wealth and loved ones may be given; but they may also be taken away. Whatever comes, may our testimony be, 'Blessed be the name of the LORD.'

The suffering of the present order ought also to lead us to remember Jesus, 'a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief' (Isa. 53:3). As we contemplate the man Job, let us look past him to Jesus, the fulfilment of what Job foreshadowed. Like Job in his integrity, Jesus the innocent one suffered (Job 2:3, Isa. 53:9-10). Like Job treated with contempt, Jesus gave his cheeks to those who plucked out his beard (Job 16:10, Isa. 50:6). Just as Job became one from whom men stood aloof, so also Jesus was 'despised and forsaken of men' (Job 30:10, Isa. 53:3).

Let us be thankful for the suffering Christ who spares us from damn­ation and brings us into his kingdom. In the ages to come he will pour out the riches of his kindness upon us (Eph. 2.7) – the very thing fore­shadowed in the great restoration in which the twofold blessing of God came upon Job at the last (Job 42:13-15).

What We are Taught🔗

The central message of Job is not that we ought to fear the malevolent power of Satan or the inscrutable will of God; it is not that disaster may strike without warning. The fundamental teaching that we ought to embrace is provided in the New Testament. 'You have heard of the en­durance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings,' wrote James. What conclusion ought we to draw from the way in which the story of Job ends? What is to be seen from the way in which the Lord dealt with him? We here learn, James affirms, 'that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful' (James 5:11). May our souls be comforted in the believing appropriation of the truth of what God is for those who trust in his Son, the Redeemer who lives and who 'at the last will take his stand on the earth' (Job 19:25). We may look forward to the future with hope knowing that in our resurrection bodies we shall see our God, the Messiah Jesus who will come again (Job 19:26). We shall then ever reflect upon the ways of the Lord with us his people, acknowledg­ing that he indeed is full of compassion and is merciful to his own.

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