Daily Devotional January 18th
“Now summon me, and I will answer! Or let me speak to you, and you reply. Tell me, what have I done wrong? Show me my rebellion and my sin.” (Job 13:22-23)
During my morning Bible reading, I have found myself back in the book of Job and I have been struck anew with the challenge that is suffering. For those who aren’t familiar with Job, he was a righteous man by God’s standards who went through unparalleled suffering. In one day, he lost all his possessions to raiders and natural disaster; then came the devastating news that all ten of his children were dead due to a house collapse. Job’s response at the news of these calamities, delivered in quick succession, was one of grief and worship. Grief at his loss, but worship of God. Job understood that God did not owe him; who was he to tell God what He could and could not do? He came into the world with nothing; why shouldn’t he expect to leave the same way?
However, after an unknown amount of time, in addition to all of this loss, Job finds himself inflicted by excruciating boils, all over his body. He can find no relief from his suffering, not even death—a condition he considers better than the one he is currently forced to endure. His wife tells him to curse God and die, but he refuses. Three good friends hear of his misfortune and when they come to console him are aghast at his suffering; they sit with him for a week in silence, not knowing what to say, having no comfort to give. When they do finally speak it is to bring accusation. They begin with the suggestion that God is good and will forgive Job if he confesses whatever sin he is being punished for. Job is adamant—he has committed no sin for which confession is due. He recognizes his imperfection, especially in comparison to God, but he refuses their judgment that his suffering is for some hidden sin. It gets ugly after that. Job’s ‘friends’ accuse him of being nothing more than an arrogant windbag, obstinately holding onto a pretext of righteousness; Job responds that he wishes they would just shut up and leave him alone.
This morning, I came to realize something new. It wasn’t just Job’s friends who assumed suffering was punishment for sin; it was also Job’s understanding and it left him bewildered. Everyone ‘knew’ that God blessed the righteous and judged sinners, but Job knew he had no unconfessed sin and he felt betrayed not just by his friends but by God.
I wonder how often we’ve felt like Job—betrayed by God. We have been blindsided by life and can find no reason for it. We don’t want to suffer, so we try to understand it. If we can understand why suffering happens, we can avoid it. If suffering can be explained as a result of punishment for sin, not only can we avoid it, but we can let ourselves off the hook of helping others when they find themselves in the midst of suffering.
There is much about the story of Job that leaves us puzzled, but one thing should be crystal clear—while suffering can come as a result of punishment for sin, it is not the answer in every instance. Some have suggested that suffering is as a result of living in a fallen world. That too is true, but doesn’t answer the question of why the unevenness of suffering around our globe exists; while some on the face of our planet appear to glide through life, others must fight for survival from the moment of their birth. In the case of Job, his suffering comes as a result of a wager of sorts. Satan accuses God of playing favourites to gain favour and compliance from Job; God stands up for Job’s character by permitting the enemy to test him—up to, but excluding, bringing about his demise.
When Job demanded to know why he was being treated so, God refused to give him an answer; but He did remind Job of his place. No, Job’s suffering was not as a result of punishment, but no answer God could give to Job would have seemed fair or right. Job’s limited capacities as a created being would have in all likelihood prevented him from being able to understand God’s ways, which we are told are beyond our comprehension (Isaiah 55:8-9). We may not like the answer, but the fact is that we will often not understand the why of suffering; and quite frankly, God does not owe us an explanation. He is God, we are the created. He is master, we are His servants. He is Father and we are His children. God is loving, compassionate, gracious and just; He is also incomprehensible and Sovereign. Ours is to trust and obey.
~ Pastor Jane
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!