Job: Thoughts on Suffering

7 Dec

This is a post about the book of Job (like robe with a J, not like my workplace.. haha), but like all of my posts… there’s a backstory:

I go to this incredible church in Boston called Park Street Church and we have an AWESOME ministry of about 200+ people in their 20’s (or in their 30’s and think they’re in their 20’s) that I’ve been pretty involved in since I moved here.  Tuesday nights myself and a few other people lead a Bible study called “Connecting Group” for people in their 20’s looking to connect – not just a clever name!  I’d say we average about 30-50 people each week that are either new to the city, new to church, don’t have a small group, or all of the above; the range of faith is unreal and I love seeing everyone interact.   That said, I also happen to have some hilarious stories from Connecting Group – awkward would be an understatement 🙂 Kind of like the time my icebreaker question was “Say your name, where you’re from, and your worst/best/embarrassing/hilarious injury.”  Yeah… we changed the question after the first girl to talk gave us a detailed account of a spinal tap and everyone either stared at the ground as to focus their thoughts away from vomiting, or at me begging me with their eyes to stop her.  It’s always an adventure and it always keeps me growing – I love my Connecting Group family! 

We are currently doing an Advent study and this week’s topic was Job.  If you know anything about Job… think of trying to lead a discussion about it in a group of people that you’ve never met, that are from literally all over the world, you don’t know if they even believe in God, most of them are well-dressed professionals, but the unsettling question lingers if one of them even has so much as a place to rest their head tonight.  Talk about tough stuff.  “Oh and make sure you come back next week, we’re going to talk about gouging out your eyes!!”  haha…  Job is not the easiest topic to present to a group when you want to impress them with how fun/family friendly your church is.  Anyone disagree??

Now I went to a Christian university, but I am by no means even remotely close to a Bible scholar… the mandatory Bible classes that I took freshman and sophomore year were great and all… but they were also at 8a :/ I don’t have all the answers to the questions of faith/God/religion (praise God) and I find my faith to be extremely different than a lot of Christians I’ve met… for better or for worse, we may never know.  So last night before our Bible study on Job, the only thing I could really think to do was what I do every week: pray that God’s truth be revealed and that the people in my group would leave encouraged.  How can Job be an encouragement, right???  I had an intense struggle with this story in college and have found great encouragement from it believe it or not!

So before I share my thoughts on Job, let’s get on the same page and briefly recap the story together (in Sarah terms).  Job is this super great guy that loves the Lord and has everything you could ever dream of… huge house, manservants, maidservants, great family, hot wife, vacation homes, boats, cars, in-home movie theater, gadgets/gizmos of plenty, whose-its and whats-its galore… thingamabobs?  He had twenty.  He was a big deal and incredibly blessed.  Satan, seeing how faithful Job was to God, attacked (of course) and said to God “There’s no doubt that Job is going to worship You, You’ve given him everything.”  God is offended and knows Job better than that… so he says “Satan.  Get real.  Job loves me, not for the fancy stuff I give him or the nice things he has” (sounds like a few past relationships I’ve had… haha).  Satan, out to prove a point, challenges God and says “Alright.. if you think he’s so faithful, I’ll take away everything you’ve given him and we’ll see how faithful he is then.”  Game on.

Obviously that’s not an entirely accurate recount of the story (the quotes might be a little off), but it’s the jist… trying to accommodate all walks here.  So God allows Satan to strip Job of everything… all his material things, even his family, even his health.  WTF, right??  Job is a great guy!!  People in his life have different responses to this suffering (for lack of a better word… frankly ‘end times’ seems more appropriate); his wife tells him “God did this to you.  Curse God and everything will be back to normal.”  His friends pull the karma card and say “All have sin and fallen short… you must have done something horrible that you’re either not telling us, or that you just don’t remember.”  Real encouraging, friend.  Thanks.  Job won’t curse God, but he also doesn’t seem to feel like he’s really done anything wrong.  I don’t know about you.. but I can honestly say that I’ve had each one of these responses at various points in my life.

I’m going to let you read/research the end of the story for yourself… it’s pretty awesome.  If we’re being honest with ourselves though, most of us don’t get that far, the end of the story that is – we get caught up on the ‘Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?  Why does God allow suffering?”  Those are pretty huge questions, and I think they’re worth discussing.  Like almost everyone that’s reading, I’ve endured some suffering and at times in my life felt like I’ve lost everything.  Here’s my take on it in relation to the story of Job…

First and foremost, we tend to forget that God has an enemy.  As real as God is… Satan exists and will do anything in his power to remove us from the love of God.  One of the women in the group last night mentioned that for the most part believing in God is pretty socially acceptable (people may not agree but it’s accepted as normal); believing Satan exists is like believing in a fairytale, and I totally agree – what have we done to this story!?  Satan is at the root of evil and HE is the one that strips Job of everything, not God. “The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world that he did not exist.” ― Charles Baudelaire   So my answer to ‘why is there suffering in the world??’ would be: Satan exists and is very real, and shame on us for our selfish hearts, influenced by Satan, to allow children in this world to suffer from starvation.  Seriously.

God and Satan are in a constant battle for our hearts and Satan found someone that had no reason NOT to trust God.  The guy had everything.  If we wanna be real… Satan kind of has a point there – wouldn’t more people love God if he was a genie that gave us everything we wanted?  God’s promise to the world is salvation, He does not promise worldly blessings… now if you try to tell me that you’re not blessed we’ll start a whole new conversation.  How exactly did you tell me that? Oh with the air in your lungs?  Point Sarah.

The question still remains: Why did God allow it?  At the root of it, I believe that God trusted Job.  Kind of crazy to think about… God trusting one of us enough to take on Satan on behalf of Him!  Reread God and Satan’s conversation (my version above is great and all, but I recommend reading it in true form here); my take is that God was so confident in Job that he said “Alright, go ahead and try to make him unfaithful.. but Job’s love for me is real and it’s not the blessings that he loves, it’s Me.”  Try to imagine God saying that about YOU.  How honored would you be to hear God speak of you that way and to trust you that much… Maybe he has!  What if God’s response to Satan’s challenge was “Ummm actually… can you go for Blobe across the street?  I need to get some stuff squared away with Job”  I’ll say it again: I believe that God allowed Satan to strip Job of his earthly blessings because God trusted Job.  The creator of the universe trusting one of us to withstand the attacks of Satan so He may be glorified.  So He may win the battle.  So the world may know Him.  Evil does not win.  (No pressure)

I can’t say that I’m always encouraged when I suffer, or that I don’t ask questions, or that I don’t lose faith, or hope, or even sight of the big picture… but my encouragement from Job is that in my suffering, God has told Satan… “You can go ahead and try, but this one’s mine.”  When we are faithful to God, Satan loses.  God wins.  Humbling to say the least.  Even more humbling to know that we have a Savior that blamelessly walked the earth, understands our suffering, and we have a God that is close to the broken-hearted.

Needless to say – Connecting Group got REAL last night.  Mad love to my brothers and sisters that participated in the discussion 🙂


5 Responses to “Job: Thoughts on Suffering”

  1. Brian Yu December 7, 2011 at 5:43 pm #

    You’re quite the funny writer! I chuckled more than once as I read your article. Job is definitely one of the harder books of the Bible to read and understand. I read the entire book of Job (which took about 8 hours!) this past summer because a youth camp asked me to speak on it. Boy was it tough!

  2. Dan T. December 7, 2011 at 6:10 pm #

    Hmm, apropos. Great take!

    I wonder though, how long should one expect God to be hands-off in opposing His/our enemy? … Just something I’ve been mulling over.

    All the same, an encouraging post… I need to read Job again!

  3. Jen December 9, 2011 at 10:32 am #

    I love this, lady! You always crack me up in your posts and this was one so poignantly written as well. Def gonna read Job again, yo.

  4. Denver December 10, 2011 at 8:56 am #

    I am proud to call you family. My heart swells with pride when I read your thoughts. This post and your “T” lessons post are two of my favorites.
    As always, you are an amazing story teller. I believe God trusts you with the events of your life and your willingness to share in your funny, witty way.

    Regarding your post…
    I accepted the story of Job early in my life. From the outside, I suspect other people would think I had a charmed life. I like to think it is because God can trust me. I know he has blessed me in amazing ways in my life. The part of this story I have always struggled with is how to handle the people like Job’s wife or his friends. I take refuge in God’s grace and peace when I suffer, but what is the appropriate response when I am in the shoes of his wife or friends. I know better than to give their response or the standard “church” response, but what do you say. Silence and empathy have been my response, but it does not feel like enough.
    Thoughts anyone?


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