We often don’t like to think of suffering as being given by God. We despise suffering. We hate it. We would do anything to avoid it. And if we see it coming we will run from it like it is the worst possible thing. And to be fair, sometimes it is the worst possible thing. Sometimes it’s not as big of a deal as we would like to make it. Regardless of which brand of suffering we’re talking about, Christians have a tendency to explain it away from God. You won’t find many books with titles like “When God Allows Suffering” or “When God Removes the Hedge” and the like. Those don’t tend to sell very well. People use terms like “God is for me, not against me” and “God is on my side.” Generally, what they mean is God doesn’t want me to suffer and God will do what He can to take care of me. And for those who believe these half-truths don’t’ know what to do with the story of Job.
Job is a story about God allowing the suffering of one of His. The narrative suggests that God is the primary mover in Job’s suffering. Nowhere in the text does it suggest that Satan came looking to start something with Job. God offers Job as a candidate. God is not causing Job’s suffering, but He does allow it. We hate this. Our self-centeredness can’t abide a God who would allow something like this. We cry out at the injustice of it, and then we settle in, wait for the end of the book and rejoice that Job is better off in prosperity after the suffering. Unfortunately, when we focus on the prosperous bookends of the story and miss the whole counsel of God’s working through suffering, we are in danger of creating a false God instead of loving God of the Bible.
Job teaches us to expect suffering, struggle, and even pain. Job teaches us that God will be faithful to give us these things. Job and the testimony of the Spirit through the Scriptures teaches us that suffering pushes us to Christ, challenges our false notions about God, our righteousness, and what is eternally important. Job is a story of primary importance for understanding the Cross. We must be ready to embrace suffering as a means God will use in the lives of His children to draw us to Himself. God is faithful to give us suffering, just like He is faithful to walk with us through it.