Why do bad things happen to good people? This question boggles the mind of humanity, both from ancient days to the present. There may be no person who better epitomizes that question than the man, Job. Job was a Gentile worshipper of God, who lived in the land of Uz, prior to the days of the patriarchs. He was a righteous man, who was also very successful. From Job’s point of view, random catastrophic events happen in his life, wherein he loses all that he has and cherishes – children, possessions, wealth, and his own health (Job 1-2). The reader, though, is given a view into the throne room of God, wherein God allows Satan to test Job’s faithfulness (and God actually offers up Job to Satan’s testing). Though perplexing, this allows the reader (both we presently and the people of Israel) to be comforted knowing that even devastation is under the sovereign rule of God.
In the midst of Job’s sufferings, three of his friends come to bring him comfort (2:11ff). Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, recorded poetically, attempt to both comfort and instruct Job during his depressing days. But each of them proves to be awful comforters. This section of the book is the largest section due to three cycles of each friend’s words of “comfort” and Job’s responses (Job 3-31). The three friends give very orthodox yet unhelpful and situationally incorrect answers. Their theology can be summed up as retributive. Their simple premise is this: God blesses the righteous and curses the wicked. This is indeed true in the most general sense, but as Job responds, he has not committed a sin that would incur such judgment. These cycles of speeches begin with Job’s original lament (Job 3) and ends with his final speech (Job 29-31).
Since Job’s three friends offer no help to him, a new “man of wisdom” enters, Elihu (Job 32-37). Elihu is the youngest of the friends and attempts to correct Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Job himself. Though wise beyond his young years, Elihu still proves to be an inadequate comforter for Job. The only one who can truly comfort Job is God himself. God comes to Job in a whirlwind. Within the whirlwind, God gives the final speeches (Job 38-42:6). But God does not seem to be content with simple comfort, rather He asks Job a series of rhetorical questions concerning Job’s knowledge of the secret will and grand power of God. The book ends with Job’s repentance and confession, and a short narrative of Job’s restoration (Job 42). In life after devastation, Job receives more that what he original had.
The book of Job reminds us that though God may not answer our every question concerning our suffering, we can rest assured knowing that He is in control. There is nothing that exists outside of God’s purposes. It is a comfort to know that even Satan himself cannot cause any harm apart from God’s permission. We are not called to try to figure out the mind of God, for his ways and thoughts are beyond ours. Rather we are called to trust in God alone in the midst of suffering.