What is the message of the book of Job, for those of us who are enduring unjust suffering? Perhaps we can hear what the Lord would tell us more clearly from summarizing the story from a slightly different angle.
Job was blameless and upright, and his righteousness was the boast of the angels of God. In the fullness of time, God humbled him to a lowly state, with Job becoming as poor as any man. Then God crushed him with horrible wounds in his flesh, so that he suffered agonizing pain. Though Job prayed that God’s wrath would be taken away from him, he finally resigned himself to God’s will – remaining obedient in the face of death.
His friends, who had once praised him, now hid their faces from him. They esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. They renounced him as wicked, and numbered him with the transgressors. The wrath of God was poured out on him. Job cried out to God for deliverance, but no help came. He had made great claims, as if he was in some special status before God, but events apparently proved that God’s affections were elsewhere.
His accusers were wrong. Job was more righteous than they ever knew, and in cursing Job, they had cursed God’s chosen agent – bringing God’s anger and judgment upon themselves. Yet Job himself, in the midst of his affliction, interceded and atoned for the sins of his friends, offering forgiveness for those who would come to him. In the end, God exalted Job to his former splendor. People came from far and wide to pay homage to him who the Lord had afflicted, laying treasures at his feet. And he brought many sons and daughters into glory.
In an almost stigmatic sense, Job was given the wounds of the Lord. Though he was blameless and upright from the beginning, his righteousness was elevated to a whole new level by participating in the redemption of the world.
What comfort is this to us who also suffer? I think of George MacDonald’s famous quote at the beginning of C. S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain:
The Son of God suffered unto the death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His.
The curse of man becomes the gift of God, once we’ve drunk the cup to the bottom. It’s a hard and high calling, and we may scream to be left alone. Like Job, we may also cry, “What is man, that you make so much of him, and that you set your heart on him.” But we can take comfort in being in far better company than those who are at ease. Like Job, we must wait for our renewal to come, knowing that our redeemer lives. Then, though broken by despair, we will have our hearts kindled by a strangely familiar voice:
O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he will interpret to us in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself – including, of course, the testimony of the prophet Job.
Wonders for Oyarsa is a blog by a Christian computer professional preparing for cross-cultural work in East Asia. The purpose of the blog is to facilitate a journey through the Bible – reading it in its entirety, reflecting on it, honestly writing what comes to mind, welcoming conversation from all. The author hopes being swept up into this story will help him and others not take for granted the wonders of the story we humans inhabit.