As we continue our study through the book of Job, this week we’ll travel over several chapters in Job to learn this one lesson: Why do the righteous suffer? Why couldn’t God allow only the evil to suffer and reward the righteous with a pain-free life?
In answer to the problems of life, it’s best to always look and see what the Word of God tells us. Now, the Bible isn’t going to tell you how to fix the refrigerator. But the Bible does address you about how you should deal with the broken fridge from within your own heart.
For example: “those who wait on The Lord will gain strength” and that we should “exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance”. (Isaiah 40:31 and Romans 5:3)
Also consider: “do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God”. (Phil 4:6)
So the Bible often doesn’t deal with your situation directly (“How to fix the Fridge” isn’t found in the Bible), rather the Holy Spirit through the Bible gives us instruction to change our hearts as we deal with the situation.
Let’s look and see what God says about suffering and the righteous.
Job suffers and mourns his suffering
Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him.
And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven.
So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great. ~ Job 2:11-13
After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. ~ Job 3:1
Job has suffered some horrendous tragedy, worse tragedy in such a short time than anyone I know. He’s lost all of his possessions, his servants, and his family (save his wife) in the same few moments of time. He is now incredibly sick and afflicted with a disease that results in horrible boils all over his body.
With Friends Like This, Who Needs Enemies?
Job’s friend Eliphaz now accuses Job of some sort of wrongdoing or sin.
Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright ever cut off?
Even as I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.
~ Job 4:7-8
Eliphaz is one of the three friends that have come to comfort Job. After some time of watching his friend suffer, Eliphaz comes to a conclusion: That Job must have done something wrong to be punished by God like this. He says “who ever perished being innocent” as if the only folks that die or are killed are those that are guilty. His other question, “were the upright ever cut off?” suggests that God wouldn’t abandon someone who was righteous and certainly God seems to have abandoned Job, Therefore Job must have done something wrong.
Eliphaz then asserts that in his experience (“even as I have seen”), you reap what you sow. This is a general principal that, while true, isn’t a rule. Jesus sheds some light on this in Matthew.
For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. ~ Matthew 5:45
Sometimes the shining sun is a blessing as it helps crops to grow, but there are other times it is a curse as when there is drought and starvation in the land. Often the rain is a gift from heaven as it waters the soil and provides for a community, other times it floods an entire town and destroys homes and businesses.
Often, life simply doesn’t seem fair. We see a worldly and evil person succeed in life and a beautiful and God-loving person die a tragic death. The lesson God wants us to learn from suffering is not one of evil and good, but rather a lesson for our own hearts and how we respond to suffering.
The Bible tells us that even though he’s suffering, Job’s heart remains right before God:
In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong. ~ Job 1:22
David Guzik offers some insight on this spiritual battle of suffering that Job goes through:
In this first round of spiritual warfare Satan was singularly unsuccessful in shaking Job from his standing in faith. Job successfully battled against spiritual attack and fulfilled the exhortation that would come many hundreds of years later from the Apostle Paul: that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand (Ephesians 6:13).
– Job made his stand against fear and did not give into panic.
– Job made his stand against make-believe pretending and appropriately mourned.
– Job made his stand against pride and humbled himself before God.
– Job made his stand against self and decided to worship God.
– Job made his stand against a time-bound mindset and chose to think in terms of eternity.
– Job made his stand against unbelief and did not give into vain questionings of God.
– Job made his stand against despair and saw the hand of God even in catastrophe.
– Job made his stand against anger and did not blame God.
Bildad Tells Job to Repent and He’ll answer you
If you would earnestly seek God and make your supplication to the Almighty,
If you were pure and upright, surely now He would awake for you, and prosper your rightful dwelling place. ~ Job 8:5-6
Now joining Eliphaz in accusing Job of some kind of sin is Job’s friend Bildad. Have you ever asked “what have I done to deserve this?” You’re not alone. It’s a question that’s been asked by countless people over thousands and thousands of years.
(Don’t misunderstand me here. There are absolutely times when God allows suffering because of what a person DID sow, and they are now reaping the consequences. The person that commits the crime does the time, so to speak. Again, God wants us to seek His heart and His Word in everything. If we seek God and we read and study the Bible, God will provide comfort, He may provide answers, and He will give reassurance to our questioning souls.
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. ~ Hebrews 4:12
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~ Romans 15:13)
Now it seems that Job agrees that God blesses the righteous, but asks “how can a man be righteous?
Truly I know it is so, but how can a man be righteous before God? ~ Job 9:2
Of course, Job’s friend Zophar has a response and says if you try hard enough you can do it!
If iniquity were in your hand, and you put it far away, and would not let wickedness dwell in your tents; then surely you could lift up your face without spot; yes, you could be steadfast, and not fear.
~ Job 11:14-15
Zophar says you need to get away from that sin in your life (“If iniquity were in your hand, and you put it far away, and would not let wickedness dwell in your tents”). In Zophars mind, that should do the trick! Just get rid of the sin, you’ll then be righteous (without spot), and then God will bless you.
Is Zophar right? What does God say in the Bible about our righteousness?
But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away. ~ Isaiah 64:6
For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. ~ Matt 5:20
Our righteousness is worthless compared to God’s righteousness. We have nothing of worth to offer God as we were all born with a sin nature. Zophar is wrong. The Bible tells us: “There is none righteous, no, not one” in Acts 4:10.
The only way we can be righteous is by believing and trusting in Jesus’ death on the cross to take away our unrighteousness.
And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.
So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:31
There is one way to righteousness, and it’s not the way of Jobs friends. We cannot be sorry enough, we can’t do enough right, we can’t make up for our wrongs. The only way to become “without spot” is in Jesus Christ.
Again, we come back to the Bible and the heart of God is to save us and also to change us. God uses trouble and suffering in our lives to change our hearts. At times, he even uses the pain and suffering of others to change what is in our own hearts. There is no other book like the Bible that can work in our hearts and create change in us.
Love God and trust Him that He is in control and on the throne. I know it sounds too simple for a heart that is hurting and seeking answers. God intentionally keeps things simple so that we can understand. The Creator of the universe cares about everything you’re going through, and you can trust Him with every part of your life.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. ~ Jeremiah 29:11
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. ~ Romans 8:28