Even in the best of times Job is a difficult book to read. How does one come to grips with a God who at times appears to be simply playing a game against Satan, and using Job’s life to do it? What the reader knows, but Job is clueless to, is that Satan has entered the throne room of God after traveling around the earth seeking whom he may devour. God goes out of his way to point out the righteousness of Job, what a great man of faith he is. Satan questions God, thinking Job is only faithful because he is blessed. After arguing back and forth for awhile God and Satan put it to the test…let’s just see if Job is truly righteous, or if he is only serving God because God has been good to him. And with that the game begins.
In a matter of minutes Job loses everything. Oxen, donkeys, sheep, shepherds, camels, servants, sons, and daughters, all destroyed, all taken, all consumed. In a matter of minutes Job goes from being on top of the world to his world coming crashing down around him. In a matter of minutes Job is put to the test, and the question quickly becomes, how will he respond. Will Job stand up and curse God? Will Job give up on the one he has put his trust in? Will Job take back everything he has ever said about the goodness of God and consider his life a waste and the realities of God a forgotten dream?
I’m not sure what part of the story bothers me most, the fact that God allows a righteous man like Job to suffer so much damage in a single day, or the fact that it all seems to happen because of a bet with Satan? I mean if Job, a righteous man who seems to be without blame can suffer to this degree, what keeps me from suffering? And if God will sit back and allow this to happen to Job, what chance do I have to avoid the suffering of life? Often the book of Job brings up questions about the will of God and the way God works. And even though it brings up question after question about the heart and character of God it rarely if ever answers them. We go through the book with Job debating his friends (if they can be called that) about whether Job has sinned or not. The friends say he has, however, Job maintains his innocence before God. The debate rages on with no one ever being able to come to an answer, no one being able to out philosophize the other one. And while Job continues to question and wonder the reader sits back and says, “Job, we have the answer, and you may not like it. It has nothing to do with your sin, but everything to do with your righteousness.” It doesn’t seem fair.
There are a few things though that the reader must keep in mind. God does not abandon Job. Sure, it looks as if he does, it seems on the surface he gives Satan free reign, but remember, God does make some stipulations. Satan can only go so far, God sets the boundaries. While God says, “ok, Satan, we’ll play you’re game” God still remains in control of the ultimate outcome. And maybe that leads us to something else that is important to remember, there is something bigger going on here than just Job and his life. This is a cosmic battle between God and Satan, between Good and Evil. Sadly, Job finds himself in the middle of it, but it’s not about Job, it’s about God and God ultimately putting Satan back in his place.
Too often we think it’s all about us, when very rarely it is. That doesn’t make the pain or the suffering any easier. In fact, sometimes it may make the pain harder to bear. However, we must remember the story is not about us, but about God. And God will do what he needs to do to conquer evil and conquer sin and move and conform us. He would never completely destroy us, just like he won’t allow Satan to destroy Job, but he won’t shelter us from pain or disaster if it’s going to impede his ultimate story. And his ultimate goal is for the Kingdom to Come and God’s will to be done, that is all that matters.
Does that make the story of Job any easier to read…I don’t know. I still find myself at times not liking the story, not liking the outcome, wishing God would work in a different way. But then I’m reminded, I’m not God. So I keep reading, and I learn, and I grow, and I trust that my Father in Heaven knows what he’s doing, even if it doesn’t make sense to me, and even if I don’t particularly like it.