Job 3:1 After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.
Job was not cursing God, as the devil intended, but only the day of his birth. The loss of health, wealth and family were so overwhelming that he wished he had never been born. Life in a fallen world is so painful, at times, that many have come to the same conclusion.
The Apostle Paul was familiar with suffering, but also with heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). And when he compared the two, he was greatly encouraged. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18), he said. The worst possible life on earth is nothing compared to the glory that will be ours forever. Ten minutes in heaven will make all the sorrows of earth pale in comparison. This is a great encouragement to all who suffer in faith.
Job 3:25 What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.
From Job we learn that believing in God is no guarantee against disaster, and this is crucially important for maintaining our faith. If we think that nothing bad will happen to us, because we believe in God, then we’ll stop believing in God when something bad happens to us. Mature faith believes that God is in control (Matthew 10:29-31), and is always working for our good (Romans 8:28). This kind of faith enjoys the best, endures the worst, and always gives glory to God.
Job 10:3 Does it please you to oppress me, to spurn the work of your hands?
Job did not have a Bible, so it is no surprise that he drew some wrong conclusions. His suffering made him think of God as an oppressor, who enjoyed watching his servant suffer. Suffering can deepen our knowledge of God, but can also distort our theology. We might conclude that God is good, but not entirely powerful; or that he is powerful, but not entirely good. But the Bible insists that God is both good and powerful, and that he allows suffering to help us become like Christ (Romans 8:28-29).
Job 19:25-27 I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
Throughout his suffering Job’s faith went up and down, but this was a high point. He looked ahead to a time when he would see his redeemer on earth. God would raise him from the dead and make everything right again. This is our greatest comfort in times of loss.
A young lady earned a doctorate in literature and became a university professor. She was a brilliant wordsmith until a brain tumor eroded her ability to think and speak. Toward the end of her life she only quoted Scripture. Her last words were, I know that my redeemer lives. There is no better way to die than with blessed thoughts of Christ.
Job 23:10 [W]hen he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.
Job was starting to see his hardship as a form of purification. Gold must go through fire for dross to be removed; and Christians must go through suffering for their faith to be purified. The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart (Proverbs 17:3), says Proverbs.
Job 38:1 Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm.
After thirty-five chapters of speeches from Job and his friends, God finally had something to say. He refused to explain why a good and powerful God would allow the righteous to suffer, but simply reminded Job and his friends that his wisdom is beyond our comprehension. If children cannot understand everything their parents do, why should we expect to understand everything God does? What we know of his goodness, power and wisdom ought to be enough for us.
Job 42:5-6 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.
Throughout the story, Job insisted that he was a pretty good person. And compared to everyone else, he was. But even though he was the most righteous person around (Job 1:8), Job was still a sinner who fell short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It was not until he saw himself in the light of God’s glory that he could say, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.
This is why it is never wise to compare ourselves to other sinners. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise (2 Corinthians 10:12), wrote Paul. Most people think they are better than average, but God’s standard is perfection (Matthew 5:48). When we compare ourselves to other sinners, we think too much of ourselves. It is only when we see ourselves in the light of God’s holiness that we can say with Job, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.
Job 42:12 The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.
God gave Job twice as much as he had before, and many more years to enjoy it. Whenever we go through difficult times, we might think they will never end—but they usually do. We went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance (Psalm 66:12), wrote the Psalmist. Suffering is never the last word for the people of God. Even if we suffer to death, we will wake up to eternal joy. Tough times never last. God’s people do.
Reflection and Review
How does suffering affect our faith?
How does faith help us when we suffer?
Why did Job despise himself and repent?