If Job’s life teaches us anything, it’s that we don’t have to do wrong to suffer. Indeed, that’s the point of Job — to show us that righteous people will suffer.
Read Job chapter 1 and there are several striking ironies. Even though Job is blessed greatly, he takes none of his blessedness for granted (vv. 1, 5). Job’s children are not pure, but somehow, they are sanctified by the sacrifices he makes for them to God (v. 5). God is found in discussion with Satan (v. 7). God also appears to think Job is beyond reproach (v. 8). Satan, in accusing Job, appears to correct God (vv. 9-11). God is one with all power and apparently empowers Satan to test Job (v. 12). The theology here is amazing.
And, the most striking irony of all; Job always did what was right, and he was about to be cursed as much as anyone could be — in this life!
We should always ask ourselves why accounts like Job’s life made it into the Bible and stood the test of time and have been retained. Especially when the theology in such a compressed unit seems bizarre to our western twenty-first century minds.
Consider also the running cliché just about everyone has heard: if you’re suffering you must have some sin in your life that God is punishing you for, or God cannot and will not heal you because of the sin in your life. Most Christians have heard about this dumb and insensitive theology. From a ministry viewpoint, it has become folklore for what not to do. Yet, we still hear of it occasionally. The best thing we could ever say in response to such false teaching is to point them in the direction of Job.
Let us set the record straight, theologically and biblically, using Job. Here was a man that had every reason to complain, yet he suffered in silence. He had no idea why God had allowed him to suffer, and he suffered not only loss on a cataclysmic level, but he suffered fools as friends who were poor comforters.
God has given us the book of Job so we can be encouraged when we suffer, with the sufferings of a friend in Job, whose sufferings exemplify Jesus’ sufferings in so many ways — they did not deserve to suffer, and we may not deserve our suffering either.
Job is given to us to prove that good people do suffer, and, when it occurs without cause, it is always a mystery. Such is the sovereignty of God.
Nobody can say for sure why it is that God lets people suffer. But we can postulate, and the Bible gives us its view. Based from my own experience, my theological reflection is that suffering draws us into the mystery, where we may ultimately accept the mystery of suffering. Acceptance. The object of suffering is to lead us on a journey to acceptance. Acceptance of the mystery draws us into a journey with God where we learn the blessedness of God reliance — which seems to reconcile all manner of problems we have in this life.
Suffering for no good reason is a humbling reality in life, in a life where humility is a virtue we never have enough of. See the kind of life suffering produces? We do well not to resent it, but we are forgiven for our complaints when we do. Not even Jesus enjoyed suffering.
Perhaps the only encouragement we can receive when we’re suffering for no good reason is that it is not sin that has caused it.
It is enough to suffer, and more than enough to suffer without apparent cause. It is too much to believe that sin causes all suffering.