As we learn in the beginning of the book of Job, the devil roams the earth looking for whom he can devour, or at least torment (as he most enjoys doing with God’s people).
As we learn in the book of Job, it is important to God that we not judge incorrectly when someone is suffering in some way, nor speak incorrectly of God to the one suffering (as Job’s 3 friends did).
Job’s three friends saw Job’s suffering as God’s judgment on Job’s ‘secret’ sin/sins. Yet, Job himself knew otherwise because Job’s heart did not condemn him. God Himself said of Job: “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Job was so obedient in repentance that he even sacrificed for his kids after they had partied together in case any of them sinned by getting drunk or doing what they should not do.
We can not know why someone else is suffering, not like God knows. In fact, it’s not for us ‘to know.’ We know our own suffering, and maybe even why – as it’s been revealed to us by God. We can only comfort, help and pray for those suffering – in the way the Holy Spirit leads us. Really, what else do we have to truly comfort others with?
“God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)
“God is the Father of compassion and the God of ALL comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3)
Reading through all the conversations between Job and these three friends (28 chapters of it – not including Job’s fourth friend who waits to speak), not only did Job suffer from what God allowed Satan to do to Job, but also suffering the persecution of his three friends who saw Job’s suffering due to some ‘secret’ sin in Job’s life that had all caught up to him. They saw Job’s good deeds and piety, so what else could it be (they reasoned to themselves) than some ‘secret’ sin that God was judging him for! Right?
Job’s fourth friend, Elihu, also the youngest of the four friends, doesn’t enter in to any of the conversations for days between Job and the other three. He sits patiently and listens until the truth is burning inside him, and then he speaks. But he doesn’t see Job’s suffering the way the other three see it. In fact, he doesn’t understand why this has happened to Job either, just like Job doesn’t understand. Elihu makes no judgment. He simply worships God for who He is. There’s something ‘healing’ (promising) about praising God for who He is, and ‘comforting’ (hopeful) as we remind ourselves of all His wonderful ways since the beginning of time.
I find it interesting that at the end when God rebukes the three older friends, He does not include Elihu. At the end the Lord says to Eliphaz: “I am angry with you and your two friends because you have not spoken the truth about Me, as My servant Job has.” Then the Lord tells the three men to repent and sacrifice burnt offerings for themselves. And God goes on to say, “My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about Me, as My servant Job has.”
If you have ever read the book of Job you know why Job suffered the loss of everything that belonged to him, even his children all at once. What a blow! Then if that weren’t enough, God allowed Satan to afflict Job with painful sores. This was all that Job could take, and God knew it like He knows the limit of suffering that we each can bear and will provide relief.
The devil needs God’s permission to go after one of God’s servants. But why on earth (or in heaven) would God allow Satan to do all that to one of God’s servants that God calls righteous, upright and blameless? Was it only to show up Satan in what he claimed; that Job would deny God if God were to remove the hedge of protection around Job and his family? Job’s wife did, but Job could not. And, it had to make Satan angry to hear Job remain faithful to God like he did!
How often we hear that until we walk in someone else’s shoes we can’t understand what they’re going through. But I believe, that NO ONE else but Jesus Christ can walk in someone else’s shoes. This is why our Lord calls us to “walk with Him.”
When I’m in the presence of a suffering loved one who can’t understand why God would let him/her suffer so long and so painfully, I better not assume their suffering is God’s judgment on their sin. When a suffering soul speaks out against God, even accusing Him of evil conduct or not caring, I don’t need to come to God’s defense feeling offended by their outbursts of anger and fear. That’s between them and the Lord. I simply need to pray for them.
When we stand before God on judgment day God will see us in only one of two ways: known by Jesus Christ, or not known. If we are not known – then we stand on our own without Christ – judged and condemned, even if the only sin we ever committed was a lie. Otherwise, we stand with Christ Jesus as our Redeemer, welcomed in to His Kingdom.
God works in our lives to bring us into His ‘intimate’ fellowship that He longs to have each day with each us. Like Job said, “My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You!” Job was a religious man before all his suffering. But after God brought relief to Job, blessing him far more than before – Job and God were very intimate. We pray and help – as we wait to see or hear the outcome of that person’s very own testimony.
What was Job’s testimony? This is my favorite part:
“I know that You can do all things; no purpose of Yours can be thwarted… Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know… My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You… Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6)
When we belong to the Lord, suffering for any amount of time can only have a good work in us, if we will keep His truth before us, and remember how intensely loved we are by God.
Like Elihu stated with great confidence: “God is exalted in His power. Who is a teacher like Him? Remember to extol His work, which people have praised in song. All humanity has seen it! How great is God – beyond our understanding!” Job 36:22-26