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The book of Job

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I used to think the book of Job is in the Bible because it presents a rare and extreme case of human suffering.  “Look at this worst case scenario.  If you can see the truth here, then surely in your comparatively small problems . . . .”

Now I think the book of Job is in the Bible because the story is so common.  Many are wondering, “What on earth has happened to me?  What have I done that explains this devastation?  Where is God in this?”

Enter Job’s three friends.  They were cautious at first.  But with their tidy notions threatened by his untidy realities, the moralism started pouring out of them: “Come on, Job, get real with us.  You must have some dirty secret that explains all this.  Admit it, and this misery will start going away.”  Their finger-pointing oversimplifications intensified Job’s sufferings, and this too is a common experience.

I don’t think the book of Job is about suffering as a theoretical problem — why do the righteous suffer?  I think it’s about suffering as a practical problem — when (not if) the righteous suffer, what does God want from them?  And what he wants is trust.  When the righteous cannot connect the realities of their experience with the truths of God, then God is calling them to trust him that there is more to it than they can see.  As with Job, there is a battle being fought in the heavenlies.

Trust in God, not explanations from God, is the pathway through suffering.

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