Dealing honestly, wisely, and compassionately with human pain is an integral part of our job description as followers of Jesus Christ. No one gets through this life unscathed. Everyone deals with pain and suffering at some level. If someone insists they haven’t, they are either lying, in denial, or have amnesia. And since God’s second most important command is for us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, it behooves us to learn how to better comfort ourselves as well as our neighbors—both those we rub shoulders with daily, and also our global neighbors, who make up the lost and dying world we’re called to care for.
But let’s deal with the proverbial bull in the china shop, which is the fact that what happened to Job wasn’t what we like to think of as “fair.” I mean, Goodnight! The very beginning of this Old Testament book describes Job as a really good guy who was doing really good things with his life. The mention of Job rising early to pray for his kids (Job 1:5) is a common Hebrew idiom denoting a conscientious habit, which means praying for his family was something he did consistently. Reading about this righteous guy losing pretty much everything—his wealth, his health, and all ten of his children—it’s like biting into a warm brownie and breaking your tooth on a rock. This “divine test” is surprisingly unfair. Surely Job didn’t deserve such devastating loss.
In the New Testament, Jesus blows the idea of human deservedness right out of the water. In His Sermon on the Mount, He teaches that God throws fairness out the window to bless even the unrighteous (Matthew 5:43–45). In the Gospel of Luke, He explains that bad things do indeed happen to good people (Luke 13:1–5). And in His parable about the workers in the vineyard, He thoroughly deconstructs any notion that we can earn God’s blessings (Matthew 20:1–16). Job proves that “good” people, including people of faith, can and do experience horrific things through no particular fault of their own. And Job chapter 1 is one of those passages that will really blow your mental hard drive, suggesting that while Job’s faith was truly strong, it did not safeguard him from hardship (v.8).
Unspeakable pain occurs in this fallen world, a truth our Savior knows all too well (Matthew 26:38). But our God is good and His character does not change, nor does His love for us (Malachi 3:6; Psalm 100:5). The same Good Shepherd who leaves the flock of ninety-nine for one lost sheep (Matthew 18:10–14), is the one who gives and the one who takes away with an eternal perspective we do not have (Job 1:21; Isaiah 55:8–9).
It is because of God’s constant character that we can trust Him in all things, even suffering, and declare, “Blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). If we’ve known Him to be good in our joy, we can trust Him with our pain, when all seems lost, because He does not abandon His own (Psalm 9:10; Deuteronomy 31:6). In fact, He moves toward us, stepping into the pain for us, even to the point of death on the cross (Philippians 2:5–8). The One who was without sin and blame suffered for us (2 Corinthians 5:20–21), and He knew we would suffer too (John 16:33). And in those moments of despair and pain, He promises to be near in our brokenness, “our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble” (Psalm 34:18; 46:1).
Written by Lisa Harper