What Job 1 Can Teach Us About Suffering

Suffering isn’t something we like to think of. Particularly if you live in a culture where the goal is happiness. In a naturalistic framework, suffering is the ultimate evil–killer of happiness. What does the Bible say about it? Quite a bit.

Lately, I’ve been camped out on two subjects: the problem of evil, and suffering. If you want to take Suffering 101, read the book of Job. That’s where we’ll be today, Job 1, and looking at the lessons from it.

A Philosophical Look At Job

It begins with an introduction to a man so righteous and good that only two other Old Testament characters can compare. Of course, it’s Job. Philosophically speaking, the question is, can you love God for who He is rather than what He’s done for you?

Job proves that you can. However, we learn something about the culture at the time. There were two lines of thinking then.

One is the Great Symbiosis, a line of cultural thought that says you seek favor from a deity or multiple gods by caring for them. Offerings were usually just cooking them dinner, or plying them with gifts.

A good modern day equivalent is talismans or offering something for a favor. How many of us have ‘negotiated’ with God? I have and didn’t keep my end of the bargain.

The second is the Retribution Principle. It simply states the righteous will prosper while the wicked will suffer. Karma follows the same line of thought, someone paying back what they did in a past life. You see calls for it online, “Karma will get them,” or “They’ll get what’s coming to them.”

My question is when they go through hard times, do they consider it to be their bad karma being worked off?

At the core of the Retribution Principle is justice. In a perfect world, it could work. However, we cannot avoid being affected by others’ actions, or our actions affecting others. The fact Job was the most righteous man to have ever lived at that point blew that principle out of the water.

A Personal Look At Job

This is where we turn from the philosophical to the personal. Job wasn’t guilty of anything, yet he suffered. Jesus wasn’t guilty of anything, yet the Son of God suffered. Not all who suffer are guilty of anything.

It’s not always punishment or the natural consequences of a sin. It can be because of this broken world, a personal or satanic attack. Supernatural beings aren’t using us as pawns in an undecided game. We serve an all-powerful, all-knowing God who sees and knows the end result.

Part of that was God the Son coming to earth to suffer and die for us. God knows suffering on more than an intellectual level. Suffering is actually part of the Christian life. 1st Peter is a pretty good book on it.

I don’t know who said it, but they put it like this: to the Christian, joy is at the center with suffering at the periphery. For others it’s reversed, suffering is at the center and joy is at the periphery. How can this be true?

The Christian’s joy comes from a relationship with an unchanging God.

What’s This Mean For Us?

We can’t comprehend the why of it in totality or see how far the ripples will spread. Romans 8:28 tells us God knows and He’s with us working all things–the good and bad–for the good of those who love Him, according to His purposes.

In this light, since I came with nothing, and will leave with nothing I have gotten for myself, I should–as hard as it is–give thanks in all things (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Because as Christians, we have our salvation to be thankful for, the good to enjoy, the lessons pain teaches us so we can help others, and can rely more on God.

So cry, and run to the Father, remembering He works all things for your good according to His purposes.

Retaliation and Love; Learning Under Jesus

Note: This series is written as a first-person narrative in order to present Jesus in the context he walked with the unknown disciple that narrates presenting my thoughts and sparking more thoughts with his questions. Enjoy.

Did Jesus really just challenge an ancient rule?

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.

This is a widely known principle of equal justice that he’s challenging, though only in Israel does it apply across class lines. Social standing can’t protect you, even a king can be punished…

I thought for a moment…if anyone was brave enough…

Not only that, Jesus challenged fighting for your honor. He knows it is an insult to be backhanded across the face. You can actually take someone to court for it.

Yet Jesus is saying don’t retaliate…

Jesus had paused to let it sink in, then continued, “And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.

“My coat!” a disciple exclaimed.

The Law says a creditor couldn’t legally take your coat, it may be all someone has. I’m not sure if it’s hyperbole, Jesus using an extreme to instruct us to cooperate above and beyond.

If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Seriously…when a Roman soldier makes me lug his junk one mile, Jesus wants me to carry it another mile? They’re invaders, an occupying army! He wants us to voluntarily comply, why?

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Oh…hating your enemy did come from a few of King David’s Psalms according to a few Jewish groups. Loving my neighbor came straight from Leviticus.

Nonresistance wasn’t unheard of, some saying that if something that can be taken away, it didn’t matter. Yet, Jesus is going deeper, telling me to love my enemies so I can follow God’s example.

Even tax collectors and Gentiles, unclean as they are, do good for those connected to them. Jesus wants us to be and do more than they. To be perfect as God is perfect. No small thing…

Matthew 5:38-48
Exodus 22:26-27
Leviticus 19:18

The Burden of Life’s Frustrations

Life is frustrating. I see so much, and it hurts. I actually hurt for the world. The headlines are filled with violence, evil, corruption, and hate. Closer to home, a lot of friends and family are dealing with sickness.

It irritates me…because I can’t fix it.

I do what I can, and that takes its toll as well. In a tired moment, I wrote this poem:

I’m Tired

I’m tired
Tired of the world’s pain
Tired of unrepentant sin
Tired of the anger
Tired of the lack of personal responsibility
Tired of the drama
Tired of the brokenness
Tired of sickness
Tired of the weight on my shoulders
Tired that I can’t help them all
I hate the fact I don’t have the energy
That I don’t have the resources
That I don’t have the ability
That when I do have it, no one listens
Tired of being used as a cab
Just tired…

Dealing With Frustration

I looked up the Bible’s answer to frustration. Exodus 2:3 shows where Moses’ mother did something about her frustration, along with two midwives who refused to kill the children like Pharaoh ordered (Exodus 1:15-22).

The answer is to find ways to act against the evil that frustrates you, trusting God to use the effort. Ezra 5:3-5 says no one can stop God’s purposes. God, after all, plays the long game. Jesus has already won it, it won’t be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Until the end, remember this verse from Galatians, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up.”