Dealing honestly, wisely, and compassionately with human pain is an integral part of our job description as followers of Jesus Christ. No one gets through this life unscathed. Everyone deals with pain and suffering at some level. If someone insists she hasn’t, she’s either lying, in denial, or has amnesia. And since God’s second most important command is for us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, it behooves us to learn how to better comfort ourselves as well as our neighbors—both those we rub shoulders with daily, and also our global neighbors, who make up the lost and dying world we’re called to care for.
But let’s deal with the proverbial bull in the china shop, which is the fact that what happened to Job wasn’t what we like to think of as “fair.” I mean, goodnight! The very beginning of this Old Testament book describes Job as a really good guy who was doing really good things with his life. The mention of Job rising early to pray for his kids (Job 1:5) is a common Hebrew idiom denoting a conscientious habit, which means praying for his family was something he did consistently.
Reading about this righteous guy losing pretty much everything—his wealth, his health, and all ten of his children—it’s like biting into a warm brownie and breaking your tooth on a rock. This “divine test” is surprisingly unfair. Surely Job didn’t deserve such devastating loss.
In the New Testament, Jesus blows the idea of human deservedness right out of the water. In His Sermon on the Mount, He teaches that God throws fairness out the window to bless even the unrighteous (Matthew 5:43–45). In another place, He explains that bad things do indeed happen to good people (Luke 13:1–5). And in His parable about the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1–16), He thoroughly deconstructs any notion that we can earn God’s blessings.
The bottom line is this: No matter how many Bible studies we’ve done, or meals we’ve served to the homeless, we cannot earn one of those immunity sticks like they do on Survivor. None of us can get “good enough” to shield ourselves and those we love from suffering. Job proves that “good” people, including people of faith, can and do experience horrific things through no particular fault of their own. And if you want to really blow your mental hard drive, reread Job chapter 1, which suggests that while Job’s faith was truly strong, it did not safeguard him from hardship (v.8).
In the economy of God, Job’s suffering was an honor, a privilege. After all, “should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” (2:10). Our Creator and Redeemer handpicked Job for the honorable position of carrying the weight of pain. While God is not the author of evil (Psalm 5:4), He did choose Job with the foreknowledge that he would carry suffering well, because even our pain is a great conduit for God’s glory.
Can you imagine how different our lives could be if we began to view some of our pain and disappointment as a divine privilege? What if we saw a difficult journey as one God handpicked us to take, knowing that He Himself would strengthen us to make the trek, and more importantly, that His glory would be illuminated through our efforts? Changing our perspective on suffering—viewing it as an honor instead of dumb luck or cruelty—could absolutely change the course of our lives and deeply impact the world around us.