The first two chapters of Job pull back the curtain to allow us to see some of the inner workings behind the experience of suffering. Specifically, we’re given four different vantage points into suffering.
How Satan sees suffering
Satan operates under a premise: you will be loyal to God only if He blesses you. Read it...
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face” (Job 1:9-11).
You see what he’s saying? Satan thinks you praise God only when there are benefits attached to it. He thinks you live for God only when you’re going to get something out of it. So Satan views suffering as a way strip away all those perks and expose you as a fraud.
Satan says, “The only reason you love God and live for him are for the blessings you get from him. Take those blessings away and I bet your praises will turn into curses.”
He sees suffering as a way to expose Christians as frauds.
How God sees suffering
1) As a controllable enemy
Keep in mind. Suffering is Satan’s idea. To make Job suffer is Satan’s idea. To make you suffer is Satan’s idea. He comes up with the plans and executes them. Suffering was not originally part of the world God had made. That is why it’s an enemy.
Here’s the amazing part about this: though suffering is an enemy, God controls its every move.
Job 1:12 - The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.
Job 2:6 -The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.
Satan is NOT free to make Job suffer without God permitting it to happen. He first has to get a permission slip from God. He’s NOT free to make Job suffer without God first authorizing it. What if it didn’t work this way? What if, instead, you had a Satan who can do whatever he wants to you whenever he wants? Do you have any idea what your life would be like if that’s the way it worked?
Here we have a Satan who is bound by the authority of God. A Satan who cannot move an inch into your life unless God sanctions it. God not only permits when suffering comes into your life, but he determines the extent of it. It’s a controllable enemy.
2) As an opportunity
Look at verse 8: Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. (Job 1:8)
God knows what Satan’s up to. God knows Satan thinks there’s not a single human being who will remain loyal to Him if faced with tragedy. So God sets out to embarrass Satan.
“Satan, I give you Job; a man of integrity. There’s nobody like him. He’s not going to bail on me if you torture him.”
You know what? God is right. Job doesn’t bail on God when he loses everything.
God sees suffering as an opportunity to demonstrate the spiritual integrity of his people and destroy everything Satan wants to accomplish. After 2:7, Satan is never seen or heard or mentioned again in this book. Job’s response to suffering sends Satan away pouting, with his tail tucked between his legs, completely humiliated. God sees suffering as an opportunity to demonstrate the spiritual integrity of his people and undermine everything Satan wants to accomplish.
Those of you who have suffered greatly with significant loss are probably saying: “I understand that. But why does God have to demonstrate our spiritual integrity by permitting this? Couldn’t he do it some other way?” No, it can’t be some other way.
Because it’s only in suffering what you really think and feel about God is revealed. Take away all the perks in life: a home to live in, a car to drive, fairly good health to sustain me, food, family, friends. Take it all away and all you have left is God. Is that enough? The only way to truly know what you think and feel about God is to strip away every possible ulterior motive you may have for loving him. That’s called suffering. That’s the only way to find out.
How Job sees suffering
1) Something to mourn
At this, Job got up and tore his robes and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing (Job 1:20-21).
The Bible doesn’t teach “keep a stiff upper lip” in your suffering. Those of you who tend towards maintaining a stoic posture in your hurt, you should make note of this. Job tears his robe, shaves his head, falls to the ground and cries out to God. How many of us would be calling a beloved Milwaukee institution if we saw someone responding to suffering in this way?
Suffering is something to mourn. There should be tears. There should be hurt. There should be grief. That’s a holy way to respond to suffering.
2) Something through which to worship God
Job declares, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”
What did the Lord give? Money, possessions, and children – why is Job able to praise God when he loses all those things? Because his joy was not ultimately tied to his possessions nor even his children. His joy was tied directly to God. If your joy is tied to the things God has blessed you with: money, possessions, health, even your children, when those are taken from you it will plunge you into deeper sadness and anger and despair. If, however, your joy is tied to God; if your life is really built on God, when suffering comes and the things in your life are taken away, yes, you’ll mourn, but that will drive you deeper and deeper into God – into the source of your joy. The only way it’s possible to praise God when he takes away something from you is to root your joy in something that can’t be taken away: God himself. Not what he’s given you or blessed you with, but God himself. Job is able to praise and worship God in the middle of his pain, after he’s lost everything because his joy is ultimately rooted in God himself.
3) Something to accept from God (and nobody else!)
His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said (Job 2:9-10).
Job doesn’t blame Mother Nature for his suffering. He doesn’t blame the Sabeans or the Chaldeans for his suffering. He doesn’t even blame Satan. Though they are directly responsible for his suffering, Job looks right past them to God and says, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
If you accept suffering from somebody other than God; if you think the ultimate origin of your suffering is from someone other than God, where is God and what is he really like? If Job was to attribute this whole thing to Satan, where would God be in Job’s mind and what would he be like? Where was God? Absent? Asleep? Caught off guard? Fooled? Overpowered? If Job attributes his suffering ultimately to Satan and God was absent, asleep, caught off guard, fooled, or overpowered what kind of God is that?
In the middle of the mess, this is what can be such an incredible source of hope and strength: the Bible insists, our God never says “oops”.
How you can see suffering
Centuries after Job, suffering assaulted another man in the form of a three hour-long torture by suffocation and blood loss, and that was only a very small part of his suffering. In eternity past, Jesus lived in a loving, perfect intimacy with his Father. On the cross, he was cut off from that. Imagine being cut off from someone you really want a relationship with; someone you love deeply; someone you want to be with forever. Imagine being abandoned by someone you really love and want to live forever with in close intimacy with them. Imagine one day that person turns their back on you and walks away. That kind of pain just scratches the surface of the kind of torment Jesus experienced. But here’s the deal: Job was only relatively innocent. Jesus was absolutely innocent. Job never lost his life. On the cross, Jesus was relationally abandoned by his Father, physically tortured beyond recognition, and died naked and alone.
In the midst of his suffering he cries out, “My God, my God, why? Why?” He gets no answer but just deafening silence. He obeyed God perfectly and now he’s getting crushed by him. And yet in his final breath he gasps to say to the Father who had abandoned him, “into your hands I commit my spirit;” a cry of faith and trust. In the midst of his most excruciating pain and loss, when he’s getting what he doesn’t deserve and receiving no answer, he still entrusts himself to his Father. Why did Jesus use his last breath to entrust himself to his Father? There are numerous reasons for it, but one has to be: he did it for you! If he hadn’t, we’d be damned to hell.
So when you’re in the thick of it. When life is excruciatingly painful. When you’re crying out to God and getting no answers. You have one thing Job didn’t have. You have Jesus, though tortured and abandoned, crying out to God in faith and trust and doing it all for you. No matter how much it hurts, when you look at the cross, there’s one thing you can be absolutely certain of: Jesus loves you more than you can possibly imagine. Jesus whispers a message to our hurting souls, “Though your suffering may be a mystery, my love for you isn’t. That is undeniable.”