Job is an example of a perfect, upright man — not just a good man — not simply a faithful man — but a man who, the Bible tells us, was perfect. He was upright. He loved God. He shunned evil. He was held in high esteem by not only those who loved him, but also by his enemies.
The writer was trying to show to us the true nature of God, because there was, and still is, a very popular philosophy that God rewards goodness with health, with prosperity, with ease and that just is not true. There is a popular belief that God always punishes evil. I believe that ultimately and inevitably evil people will be punished, but God does not punish us every day because of the evil we’ve done, nor does he reward us every day because of the good things we do.
Job did not ignore God, but his friends came around and said to Job, “Why don’t you just curse God and die and get out of your suffering. You’ve done something that is wrong. We don’t know about it but we know you are evil because God is visiting you with all this suffering.”
If we spend too much time asking God to tell us why, we may never find the answer, but we must spend time asking God to give us the grace to overcome and the fortitude to endure the sufferings. Our answer and Job’s answer has to be the same. God is in our suffering. He is near us to guide us and sustain us in suffering. God sustains us. This is the key to live. We can get through; we can be triumphant in it. Job said, “I’ve heard about you, O God, but now I see you with mine own eyes.” When you live so close to God that you can feel His presence, you have all the resources to be able to conquer the suffering that will come your way.
Leo Tolstoy said, “It is by those who have suffered that the world has been advanced.” Robert Ingersol said, “Happiness is not a reward, it is the consequence. Suffering is not a punishment, it is often a result.”
Iona Henry, in her book, “Triumph Over Tragedy,” gives us her story. She lost her 13-year-old daughter to a brain tumor. Six weeks later, she lost her only son and her husband in a terrible automobile-train collision. She almost lost her own life. After the struggles of many months, she regained her consciousness and began to put the pieces together again. Finally she said, “If God rescued me from the darkness, and I have walked far into the valleys, I have come through. God has been with me.”
Let us not become bitter and cynical, but learn to use these sufferings, much like the oyster who tries to get rid of a little grain of sand that gets into its shell — its home and its body — but when it cannot get rid of it, it surrounds it and makes a pearl out of its irritation and out of its suffering. So let us, when suffering comes, make a pearl out of it.
No one who puts his trust in Christ shall come to the end of the rope with his dreams all crushed and his hope all gone. The future may look dark and the path obscure and steep, but you will not be alone because Christ will be with you and you will ultimately be triumphant.
There is a story of an old woman who knew luxury and wealth, but had lost it all in her lifetime, and this does happen frequently. It is happening even now. Finally she ended up in a charity home, where out of the goodness of others, a room and clothing was provided, and some food was provided. She was in this situation after having every luxury, but she maintained her radiance and her gentle spirit and a great sense of gratitude. Many people who knew the story wondered how she could maintain her wonderful attitude. They didn’t find out until she died. She had instructions for her funeral service, in which she said, “I want someone to sing at my funeral, the central truth in my faith and in my belief about why I’m on earth and who I am.” The name of the song was “I’m a Child of the King.”
Robert V. Ozment is a retired United Methodist minister.