The Book of Job has often been misused as a way to explain the mysterious ways of God in suffering and pain. The truth is that the Book of Job is there to teach us that God does not inflict pain and suffering, rather it is the cosmic warfare that we cannot see which interferes with God’s true will for his people.
The Book of Job is one of those Scriptures that has been twisted throughout history and can often result in creating a distorted picture of God. In particular, the inappropriate use of the verse in which Job declares, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” This verse spoken by Job is often used as a way of explaining suffering and pain by placing the blame of the pain and suffering onto God. The problem with this interpretation is it takes the words of Job completely out of context and disregards the whole picture of the book.
The Book of Job is written within the genre of epic poetry. This type of literature is not intended to simply tell us an account of a real character, but rather it is a God inspired poetic dramatization meant to teach a lesson to all that hear. This type of genre begins with a prologue which sets up the story. Satan has accused God of being a Machiavellian ruler (a ruler who manipulates people into worshipping him). The only way to prove the accusation false is to put it to the test. Everything that was done to Job flowed out of Satan’s power; the pain and suffering Job endured was not part of God’s great plan, nor was it God who took anything away from Job.
The story then tells of the aftermath of Job’s pain and suffering. It put forth two competing theologies—Satan’s theology and Job’s theology. Job’s friends ascribe to a theology that God blesses the righteous and punishes the sinner (a twisted version of Satan’s theology). By blaming Job’s pain on his lack of righteousness, the friends have found a sense of security for themselves. As long as they remain righteous they will avoid being punished. Both of these theologies are incorrect.
We know this theology is mistaken, because Jesus refutes it through his actions found in the New Testament and God refutes it at the end of Job’s story. God shows up in a whirlwind to correct both Job and his friends in their versions regarding what has occurred. It is within these final chapters that the main point of the story is revealed. The point of this epic poem is for us to know that the universe is far too complex to fit the formula that says all blessings are rewards for righteousness and all troubles are punishment from sin.
As Christians, we should keep this framework in mind as we interact with the suffering. It is okay to admit that we do not know. Our job is not to understand all the answers about why bad things happen in the world. Our job is to focus our eyes on the cross and remember that our God is the kind of God willing to die for the very people who crucified him.
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