Job: Misery’s Poster Child
Sometimes our lives change in an instant. But no one’s life changed for the worse quicker than that of God’s faithful servant Job.
Americans entered 2020 with great hope. The stock market, employment, and prosperity were at all-time highs; and the year looked like it would be one of the best ever. Yet within months, a dangerous, highly contagious disease called COVID-19 swept through the country and changed everything.
Soon hardship and illness brought the world to a standstill. Death tolls mounted around the globe, businesses closed, countries locked down, people lost their jobs, and poverty spread quickly. By year’s end, more than 2 million people worldwide had died—and the virus isn’t completely vanquished yet.
Many people were left wondering, What did I do to deserve this? They felt blindsided and undeserving of such suffering. Many have said, “I feel like Job.” An interesting comment. Who was Job? And why is he the poster child for misery?
Job was not always plagued with suffering. For many years he enjoyed a full and happy life. He was blessed with seven sons and three daughters, most of whom were married, had families of their own, and lived in love and harmony.
Most important, Job was a spiritual giant—an honest man who “was blameless and upright, . . . one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). He functioned as the priestly mediator for his family, rising early every morning to offer sacrifices for his sons in case they had cursed God in their hearts or by their actions (v. 5).
Job also was rich. He owned huge flocks of sheep, camels, oxen, and donkeys and had servants to manage his holdings (v. 3). He was said to be “the greatest of all the people [sons] of the East” (v. 3) and was the most renowned man of all tribal chieftains in the land of Uz, located in Edom, east of the Dead Sea. So, what happened?
Job 1:6–12 reveals a discussion in heaven where “the sons of God [angels]” (v. 6), including Satan, appeared before Jehovah. When the Lord asked Satan, “From where do you come?” Satan replied, “From going to and fro on the earth” (v. 7).
God then asked, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” (v. 8). God knew Job’s heart. He knew his condition, character, and commitment, just as He knows ours.
Satan replied, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land” (vv. 9–10).
Satan accused Job of serving God out of selfishness and greed, worshiping Him only for the blessings he received in return. “But now,” Satan said, “stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” (v. 11).
The Lord replied, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person” (v. 12). God permitted Satan to test Job but not to attack him physically.
Here is where many people struggle with God’s actions. Why did He let Satan afflict Job? What type of God would do such a thing? However, it’s important to understand that God does not promise us carefree lives even if we walk closely with Him. In fact, Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).
We are to “count it all joy” when we have trials because “the testing of [our] faith produces patience [endurance]” (Jas. 1:2–3) and glorifies the Lord. Life on Earth is brief; and affliction, “which is but for a moment [compared to eternity], is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17). So it is our duty to love God; keep our eyes on the eternal, rather than the temporal; and trust the Lord because we know He is loving, righteous, and never makes a mistake. As Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
Satan, on the other hand, hates us; and he wasted no time in attacking Job’s family and fortune. First, the Sabeans (Arabians) killed many of Job’s servants and captured his oxen and donkeys (1:14–15). Then a bolt of fire from heaven destroyed Job’s sheep and shepherds (v. 16). Next, the Chaldeans from Arabia killed more servants and captured Job’s camels (v. 17).
To make matters worse, Job’s 10 children were eating together and a great wind killed all of them (vv. 18–19). Only Job’s servant survived to tell him of the disasters.
Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong (vv. 20–22).
Remarkably, Job went from riches to rags and lost all his children in one fell swoop. But he did not allow his tragedy to shake his faith. Nor did he criticize God or charge Him with doing wrong.
Again, Satan appeared before the Lord. Satan mentioned nothing about how Job responded to this first test involving possessions. When the Lord reminded Satan of Job’s integrity, the Evil One responded, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” (2:4–5).
God replied, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life” (v. 6). The second test involved Job’s person. Satan struck Job “with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (v. 7). Job’s entire body oozed with ulcerated, burning sores. His skin, caked with worms and dirt, emitted an unbearable stench. Job itched so much he scraped his body with broken pieces of pottery trying to get relief (2:8; 7:5).
He even found breathing and eating difficult. Fear and dread haunted him (3:25) in terrifying dreams and visions (7:14), while his bones burned with fever and pain (30:17, 30).
This once prominent man now sat as an outcast on a heap of ashes near the city garbage dump where beggars and animals fought over scraps of food. He had no medication to relieve his suffering while grieving the loss of family, fortune, and friends.
His disease had so changed his physical appearance his friends didn’t recognize him. For seven days they spoke not a word to him because they saw the greatness of his grief (2:12–13).
His friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar came to mourn with him and comfort him (v. 11). Job 3—31 contains three cycles of dialogue that cover the bulk of the book. Though his friends drew different conclusions as to why Job was suffering, their basic premises were the same: Job was a great sinner under God’s condemnation.
Then Elihu, a young man who was listening to the conversations, proffered his explanation (chaps. 32—37): Some suffering is penal, but most is remedial. Through suffering, God was disciplining Job and teaching him valuable lessons. Elihu believed Job was being accused unjustly.
Then God Himself replied. He answered with a series of questions about Job’s knowledge of the natural world (chaps. 38—41). The implication was that, since Job could not even answer questions about the natural realm, he clearly was out of his depth trying to understand the spiritual realm.
In humility, Job realized his vileness and worthlessness in God’s presence and remained silent before Him (40:4). Finally, Job’s abhorrence of himself brought him to repentance (42:6). God was fully vindicated and glorified against Satan’s slander.
Through Job’s trial, we learn some suffering is for discipline and some for teaching; but often, as in Job’s case, suffering is to bring glory to God. God restored Job’s health and gave him twice as much as he had before (42:10). Job lived 140 more years and “died, old and full of days” (vv. 16–17).
Job is the supreme example of how we all should respond when tragedy strikes—even during a pandemic:
→ Don’t blame God or become bitter toward Him for suffering.
→ Maintain wisdom, submission, humility, worship, and faith.
→ Trust in God’s sovereignty and that He knows what is best for us.
→ Realize we bring nothing into the world (everything we have is from God), and we will take nothing out when we die.
Let us say as Job did: “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (1:21).
Job’s Wife’s Appalling Advice
Proverbs 12:4 says, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones.” Job’s wife was certainly no crown. Instead of helping him, she added to his misery by giving him ungodly, profane advice.
“Do you still hold fast to your integrity?” she asked. “Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9).
To be fair, she undoubtedly was overcome with shock and despair, having lost her children, her wealth, her station in life, and the companionship of a healthy and happy husband.
Yet her attitude contrasts sharply with that of Job, who maintained his integrity and faith throughout his ordeal. Job even responded in a godly way to his wife: “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (v. 10). The word foolish conveys the idea of a godless, impious, or disgraceful act, one lacking in good judgment. Perhaps his wife’s rashness startled him and was not what he expected from her.
Satan often works through our loved ones to give us ungodly counsel and provoke us into doing things we’ll later regret. Adam listened to Eve and ended up plunging humanity into sin (Gen. 3:6, 12). Abraham listened to Sarah and ended up fathering a son whose descendants war continually with those of his son Isaac, the son of promise (Gen. 16).
Much to Job’s credit, he shunned his wife’s advice. Instead, he responded in faith and trusted in the Lord. He understood God had a reason for allowing tragedy, even though he did not know what it was.
When circumstances happen beyond our understanding, perhaps we should reflect on Moses’ observation: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever” (Dt. 29:29).
Job evidenced spiritual maturity, which is what the Lord wants for us all. Despite his dreadful circumstances, “Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10). He glorified God and proved that Satan utterly misjudged the depth of his faith.