Job 30:26-31; 42:1-6: February 23—If God is good, why is there suffering?
Feb 16, 2014
By W. WILEY RICHARDS

RICHARDS
The presence of evil in the world is probably the single, most critical argument against the existence of God. You may have heard someone in deep sorrow or agony of soul make a statement like this. “If I were God, I would not allow bad things to happen to good people. So, why should I try to be good?” Upon mature consideration that negative spirit will probably lose its appeal. After all, if being good guarantees we will not suffer, the Gospel is reduced to a divine insurance program and not a message of hope no matter what the circumstances. Further, most of us can cite instances in which God’s grace worked powerfully in and among us when life seemed to collapse around us, an example of His sustaining grace. Job learned that lesson and passed on to us the battle he fought and won in spite never being told the circumstances. We know what was going on, but God never explained it to him. We are sustained by faith, not by an explanation of why the hard times arose. James 5:11 speaks of the patience of Job. The word then means to hold to one’s faith under misfortunes and trial.

One of the best principles we can learn from Job’s experience is to be careful about bad advice (30:26-31). As my wife’s father, Glen Hargrave, used to say, “Many a lie has been spoken between false teeth.” In other words, just because people are old does not mean all their advice is sound. Take a look at Job’s advisors. The Bible calls them his friends. It so designates them as it identifies where they lived (2:11). Eliphaz the Temanite came from Teman in Uz (Edom), famous for its wise men (Jer. 49:7). Bildad came from Shuah, a decendant of Abraham by Keturah (Gen. 25:1-2). Zophar, the Naamathite, came from a village about 22 miles west of Jerusalem. All of the men likely were community leaders responding when they learned of Job’s calamities.

With slight variations among the three men, their words reflected an understanding about suffering which was common in their times. They argued that Job was suffering either (1) because of unconfessed sins against God, or (2) sins of omission for acts of goodness he had failed to carry out. The passage we now study comes in the middle of Job’s defense of his conduct following Zothpar’s last speech. Job’s defense is a general refutation of accusations his  friends raised against him. For example, as recorded in 20:19, Zophar accused Job of violently taken the lands of the poor and oppressing them. In his third speech Eliphaz charges Job with withholding bread and water from the weary and hungry (22:7-9).

In the midst of his suffering, Job utters a sublime insight about the end time: “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand in the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (19:25-26). We readily see an allusion to the Messiah.

At this point we could do well to survey briefly the role of suffering in the New Testament. Jesus taught it is inevitable for these professing loyalty to Him (Matt. 5:11-12). They will suffer tribulation as the Gospel is preached. Nevertheless, God works things together in believers to bring about His purpose (Rom. 8:28-29).

Some suffering results from a person’s poor choices, such as cancer caused by use of tobacco and other drugs. Yet, suffering cannot be compared to glories believers will experience in the life to come in heaven (Rom. 8:17-18).

This belief provides the key to the way we handle suffering, namely our relationship with God (42:1-6). C. S. Lewis wrote in his book A Grief Observed (p. 61) that God did not try him by suffering to find out the quality of his faith, God already knew that, but Lewis did not. God knew his temple was a house of cards. For Lewis to realize that, God had to knock it down. This was the sentiment admitted by Job. He confessed to speaking about things which were too wonderful to be understood by him (v. 3). As he looked deeply into himself, he began to abhor what he learned. His only recourse was to “repent in dust and ashes” (v. 6).

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