The Mystery of Suffering . . .
At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”
In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. Job 1:20-22 (NIV)
(Today’s entire passage is Job 1:8-22)
Even those unfamiliar with the Bible have heard of the “patience of Job” (see James 5:11), a man whose suffering was so extreme that everyone knows at least a little of his story.
Job was a man of wealth and integrity, “blameless and upright,” who, because of a drama unfolding between God and Satan, had his family and health and possessions taken away. He found himself not only in the mystery of suffering . . . but in what Eugene Peterson called “the mystery of God.”
Satan was sure Job would curse God if Job suffered enough. But Job didn’t. He didn’t blame God. Instead, as we will see in the weeks to come, he confronted God, went straight to the source of all wisdom itself. He suffered as we do and he asked God the questions we should ask if we had the courage.
At the end of Chapter 1, Wiersbe suggests in his commentary that Job, though stripped of his family and possessions, with deep faith looks back to his birth (“The Lord giveth”), ahead to his death (“The Lord taketh away”), and up to the Lord—“Blessed be the name of the Lord” (v.22)
What can we learn from Job’s trials and from his response? Well, don’t wait for him to explain suffering, because he never does. Nor does he suggest how we can avoid it. Instead, he accepts “the mystery.”
“Perhaps the greatest mystery in suffering is how it can bring a person into the presence of God in a state of worship, full of wonder, love, and praise,” Peterson writes. “Suffering does not inevitably do that, but it does it far more often than we would expect. It certainly did that for Job. Even in his answer to his wife he speaks the language of an uncharted irony, a dark and difficult kind of truth: ‘We take the good days from God—why not also the bad days?’” Job 2:10 (NIV)