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Lessons From Job Wednesday Writings

Lessons from Job: Why Do We Suffer?

Why do we suffer? 

This is a question that every one of us asks at some point in our lives, whether in the face of our own suffering or the suffering of someone we love. Job asked it after he suddenly and (seemingly) unfairly lost his possessions, his children, and his health (Job 23:1-7).

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Or, more generally,

Why does human existence come with pain and hardship? 

Earlier this year, our pastor taught a Sunday School series on God’s will, and one week he drew from the life of Job to address suffering and its place in God’s will for our lives. He gave four reasons for suffering. With his permission, I’m sharing these four reasons, with my own explanations.

1. God’s chastisement

None of us is truly “good” (Ro 3:23). We all sin, and both by nature and by judgment, sin brings consequences.

Let’s look at Scripture:

When God established His covenant with the people of Israel, He promised them blessing if they obeyed His commandments and curses (suffering) if they disobeyed (Deuteronomy 11:26-28). 

Fast forward to the end of II Kings, or II Chronicles, or to any of the prophets, and we see this promise fulfilled as God’s people refuse to turn from their sins and, as a result, experience destruction, captivity, loss, and dispersion.

Let’s look at today:

The same general principle of obedience = blessing, disobedience = suffering applies today. All of God’s laws (specifically from the New Testament for us living in the church age) are designed for our good, so when we obey them we’ll naturally find blessing. Conversely, when we don’t obey them, we can expect to have a rougher time of things.

That’s not to say, however, that obedience guarantees a suffering-free life. I will be much safer driving on the correct side of the road than if I drove against traffic, but even driving in the right direction doesn’t make me immune to accidents. 

Besides, no one is perfect. Even after we accept God’s salvation and become His children, we continue to sin. And in both His justice and His love, God must chastise sin. 

I want to make something clear, however: God’s chastisement upon believers is not judicial punishment; Romans 8:1 emphasizes that “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,” because our sins were duly and completely punished on the cross (Isaiah 53:5). God’s chastisement is, rather, loving correction designed to purge our sin and restore us to Him. 

Hebrews 12:6 says, “For whom the Lord loves He chastens.” The passage goes on to explain that chastening, even if it hurts, indicates God’s love for us and confirms our status as His children. Verse 10 says, “For [our earthly parents] indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but [God] for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.”

As Pastor Cary Schmidt writes, “Chastening is not God’s fury–it is His favor!”1

Takeaway: We may suffer because of God’s chastisement.

2. Satan’s affliction

We live in a spiritual battle between God and Satan, the ultimate forces of good and evil. When we take the name of Jesus for ourselves and determine to live for God, our enemy will do everything he can to distract, discourage, and even defeat us.

Let’s look at Scripture:

Job stands out as the most obvious biblical example of someone suffering direct attack from Satan himself. Satan hates Job’s testimony before God and wants to destroy that testimony. (He thinks Job just worships God because of the blessings God has given him.) God gives Satan permission to take away every one of those blessings–everything except Job’s life–and Satan does. In the face of incredible loss and difficulty, Job still worships God and keeps his testimony.

A New Testament example might be Paul, who writes in II Corinthians 12:7, “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure” (emphasis mine).

Let’s look at today:

While we may not experience personally targeted attacks like what Job suffered, we do know that “our adversary walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (I Pet 5:8), “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (II Tim 3:12), and “in the world you will have tribulation” (Jn 16:33).

Suffering is par for the course for Christians–especially for Christians.

Takeaway: We may suffer because of Satan’s affliction.

3. Others’ sinfulness

Part of living in an imperfect world means living with imperfect people. Sometimes we suffer because of others’ imperfect choices. 

Let’s look at Scripture:

David suffered both physical and emotional hardship during the years he spent fleeing from Saul: hiding in caves, separated from his friends and family, an outcast from the respected life he’d once had–all because of one man’s jealousy (I Samuel 19-31).

Joseph suffered separation, enslavement, false accusations, imprisonment, and a host of other trials–all because of his brothers’ envy (Genesis 37-45). 

Fair? No. Reality? Yes.

Let’s look at today:

We all suffer because of other people’s sin. A bitter coworker on your job might be backstabbing you or slandering your reputation. A drunk driver may have hit your car and left you with severe injuries. An unkind person may have spoken words that hurt you deeply.  

It’s unfortunate, and it’s hard, but it’s reality.

Takeaway: We may suffer because of others’ sinfulness.

4. Personal consequences

Sometimes we suffer because of our own imperfect choices. While God may not directly chastise us for these choices, He may simply let us experience their natural consequences.

Let’s look at Scripture:

Samson finally gave in to Delilah and chose to tell her the secret of his strength. As a result he suffered not only the loss of his hair but also the loss of his pride, his legacy, and his sight (Judges 16). 

Jephthah made a vow to God, and keeping this vow required him to give up his only child, most likely in dedication to celibate service at the tabernacle. He lost the company of his daughter as well as the potential of grandchildren to carry on his legacy (Judges 11:29-40). 

The lazy man of Proverbs 20:4 experiences hunger and shame because he doesn’t tend his fields.

Let’s look at today:

The other weekend I was using a (serrated) knife to pry apart some frozen meat, and I ended up stabbing myself. God’s chastisement or Satan’s attack? Not likely–just me reaping the painful consequences of my choice.

Similarly, smoking will lead to lung problems. Harsh words will lead to broken relationships. And a variety of other choices will lead to difficult consequences, whether long-term or short-term, immediate or distant.

Takeaway: We may suffer because of personal consequences.

Note: We live in a sin-cursed world. Nothing is perfect. Sometimes bad things happen simply because our world isn’t perfect and doesn’t function perfectly (Lk 13:14, Ro 8:22). Natural catastrophes, road accidents, health conditions — these may occur without any specific agent. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that everything happens within God’s sovereignty, and He can use any pain for good (Ro 8:28).

I’d like to leave you with one final thought on suffering as we begin this series from the book of Job:

“Finding meaning in suffering is a feature unique to Christian psychology. Thus we find [William Kirk] Kilpatrick concluding, ‘The real test of a theory or way of life, however, is not whether it can relieve pain but what it says about the pain it cannot relieve. And this is where, I believe, psychology lets us down and Christianity supports us, for in psychology suffering has no meaning, while in Christianity it has great meaning’” (emphasis mine).2

David Noebel, Thinking Like a Christian

1Cary Schmidt, Off Script: When God Rewrites Your Life. Striving Together Publications, 2011, pg 133.
2David Noebel with Chuck Edwards,Thinking Like a Christian: Understanding and Living a Biblical Worldview. B&H Publishing Group, 2002, pg 75.

2 replies on “Lessons from Job: Why Do We Suffer?”

[…] While sometimes rain is used as judgment, such as in Noah’s flood or the 10 plagues of Egypt, many times rain is simply a fact of life. (God doesn’t punish His children. He may, however, permit or orchestrate difficulties to purify us. See Lessons From Job: Why Do We Suffer?) […]

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