The Book of Job, like Ecclesiastes, is an oft-forgotten book; however, its message is so important. I feel that many who comment on this book focus on the wrong question. Most people would say that this book is centered on the question: Why is there suffering in the world? I argue, though, that the question that this book really deals with is this one: Who is this God who allows suffering in this world? I say this because God never tells us why there is suffering, but He does reveal much about Himself. We also learn how not to comfort someone who is suffering. But right now, I think I’ll focus on the nature of God as revealed to Job.
Job was ready to confront God. “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (23:10). But when God answers Job, the latter has nothing to say. Suddenly, Job realizes that he was wrong to question God. “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (42:3b). Yet, from this encounter, Job learns much about God and the relationship He has with his creation. For one thing, God does in fact care about Job. Eliphaz asks, “Can a man be of benefit to God? Can even a wise man benefit him?” (22:2). The answer is yes. Firstly, the fact that God cares enough to respond to Job’s complaints is an outward sign that one man is very important. And we know, although Job does not, that God needs this man’s loyalty to prove Satan wrong. How Job responds to his suffering, does matter to God because it affects Him. Job learns that God is caring and yet more awesome than any other being in the universe. God made all the little details of the world. Even the smallest of creatures are important to Him. God’s ways are not man’s ways. He uses His power to confound human standards. Like Mary sings in the Magnificat, “He has shown strength with his arm: He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree. He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He has sent empty away” (Luke 1:50-52).
Job never does find out why he suffered; however, he realizes that the God who created the heavens and the earth does not owe an answer to Job. But also, and most importantly, God sees the world in a way that Job can never see it. Because He is not bound by the limits of time and space, God knows what is best. This is what we can learn from this book. No one can explain away suffering except God; and He has chosen to keep this a secret. This may not seem fair by human standards, but this is God, and we cannot control or change Him. This is a very difficult book, but it is worth reading. Especially for us Christians, this book is of immense value; we have a God who suffered, and thus knows us intimately. We know that even Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46b). However, we know that through Christ’s suffering, we were given new life. We can be sure that God desires the best for us even if at times this may not seem so.