Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Job and Suffering

I've always been under the impression that Job's friends were idiots.  I have usually skimmed their speeches because Job said they were wrong, and because God rebukes them in the end.   So I was surprised yesterday when I was reading the first speech to Job and thinking, "This sounds pretty good, actually."  I felt a little... unsettled.

Job's response didn't help.  Job didn't say "You speak falsely."  Job's response is basically, "This does not apply to me."
I've finished the first round of speeches, and so far I'm observing that Job's friends are correct in what they actually say in a broad, general sense (as in, they are speaking proverbs and maxims about God and life that usually apply) but the distortions creeps in in what they don't say. They have seen God, but not clearly. They understand part of God, which is very different from understanding all of God. From a Christianity Today article on Job and his friends:

Where then did Job's three friends go wrong? They reduced all evil to "retributive suffering," which is caused by sin and disobedience to God. But there are seven other types of suffering mentioned in the Bible: educational or disciplinary suffering as in Proverbs 3:11 or Hebrews 12:5-6; vicarious suffering, as in the case of our Lord's death on the cross; empathetic suffering, where one person's grief affects many others, as Isaiah 63:9 illustrates; evidential or testimonial suffering, as in the first two chapters of Job; doxological suffering for the glory of God, as in the man born blind in John 9; revelational suffering, as in the case of the prophet Hosea's wife abandoning him; and apocalyptic or eschatological suffering that will come at the end of this age.

While we cannot deny that the issue of suffering in the lives of God's people, such as Job, still contains a good deal of mystery, it is just as much a horrible misconception to declare that suffering is God's normal route for every believer as it is to declare that God's goodness means life will always result in prosperity and riches for those who serve the Lord.


  1. So you are up at all hours sometimes? :)

    So question on the blog.... but if it is true that we grow through suffering ...than those who don't experience suffering ...where will they experience growth..
    Can some people, just have a blind faith and learn from others experiences?

  2. That's a great question. I would think we can grow from observing the experiences of others, or from finding the enjoyment and pleasure of doing good to be so compelling that it moves us closer to God at every level. However, if I'm honest, I think suffering is one motivator we pay attention to above all others. It is God's megaphone for a deaf world, to paraphrase Lewis.
    This question must be answered biblically: Do people in the Bible experience significant spiritual or emotional growth without enduring suffering? That's the big question....