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Sunday, April 6, 2014

God’s Explanation about Job’s Suffering

(The following is the conclusion of our Commentary on the Book of Job. To learn more about our commentaries and books, go to

One wonders, as the story of the book of Job concludes, at the fact that God never did explain to Job the real reason for his suffering. We were told the reason in the very beginning of the book, yet the record nowhere states that God ever told Job. Over and over Job and his friends disputed the reason why Job was suffering. This one issue was the major theme of the book till God spoke. Yet the book ends without Job or his friends ever learning the answer! This used to really frustrate me. It almost appears that God missed the point of the discussion – that He never even discussed the real issue. But of course, we must never think God makes a mistake – that would be similar to the error Job committed. So why did God not answer Job’s questions?

Note what God did do. God did not explain to Job why he had suffered, because that is not the main lesson Job needed to learn. Instead, Job needed to learn a bigger lesson. What God did was to teach Job what He really needed to learn: that God is in charge and knows what He is doing! Like Job, when we suffer, we too will often have no way to know the specific reason why we suffer each specific trouble. God has told us why Job suffered, but there are other reasons for suffering. How do we know in our case what the reason is? The answer is that we often will not know in this life or at least not at the time, just as Job did not know. Yes, we do need to know that there are reasons for suffering, so God does reveal to us why Job suffered. But in any specific situation, we will often never know why we suffered that specific problem.

So, what God did was to teach Job the real lesson and the most important lesson for every sufferer to understand. We may never know why we suffer, but the main lesson we need to learn is that we must trust God to take care of us and to do what is right at all times, including when events don’t seem to make sense to us according to our human wisdom. We are not wise enough to be in charge of this universe. God is the only One wise enough and powerful enough to be in charge. We must trust Him to do right, even when we don’t understand. That is the real point God made to Job. God has proved He is the only one wise enough to handle all this.
Applications of the lesson God taught Job
And the same lesson applies in many other areas besides suffering. Lots of people have the same problem Job had, just regarding other issues. Often people doubt or question God’s wisdom: why does God do what He does or give us the commands that He gives? Often these doubts lead people to criticize God’s word or to refuse to obey it.

* Why did God let my loved one die? I just can’t believe in a God who ...

* Why doesn’t God answer my prayer? I asked him for ... and never received it. Why should I believe in a God who ....

* Why does God require baptism as a necessary condition to salvation? I just can’t believe...

* These good people believe in God and they are sincere and conscientious. Why isn’t that good enough? I just can’t believe all these good people will be lost.

* Why must we have the Lord's Supper every Sunday? Why can’t we have it on weekdays or once a month or once a year?

* Why would God say the man should be the head of the family? I can’t believe in a God ...

* Why is fornication the only acceptable reason for divorce? Why can’t a woman get a divorce if her husband is a drunken, worthless bum? I just can’t believe that God would require people to give up a spouse just because their divorce was for some other reason.

* Why wouldn’t God want instruments in music? They sound good and we can use our talents for God. I just can’t believe ...

* Why can’t women be preachers and elders? What kind of God ....

* I just can’t believe in a God who would send people to hell.

I have heard people say virtually all these things. And we can go on and on.

We may or may not be able to give reasons for these commands that would satisfy the human reasoning of people. And we should show people exactly what the Bible says for each subject the question. But many people will still reject the truth because God didn’t say what they want or expected Him to say. Like Job, they want God to explain and justify His decisions to their satisfaction. If it doesn’t make sense to their way of thinking, they will criticize what God says in His word or refuse to believe it or completely reject God.
What is the answer to people who have such issues and criticisms?
Must God tell us why He made all these choices and gave all these commands? Must He reason with us on our level till we understand, and do we have the right to criticize His choices if we don’t understand? He may choose to answer and give His reasons. But He is not required to answer, and in many cases we would never understand no matter how hard He tried to explain (Deuteronomy 29:29).

The answer to all such issues is the same one God gave to Job:

Did you make those stars in the sky?

Do you make the sun rise and set every day?

Did you make the earth, the mountains, and the sea?

Do you make the lightning, thunder, and rain?

Did you make all the animals and plants?

In short, who made the universe and who is in charge here? If we do not have the power and wisdom to make these things or to control them, who are we to criticize the wisdom and decisions of the one who did?

In short, when we question or doubt God’s decisions, the main issue is authority – dominion – sovereignty - preeminence. Who is in charge here? Who is on the throne and who must bow before the throne? That is the ultimate issue. God’s answer to Job was exactly the right answer, and it is the same answer we need to be given when we begin to doubt and criticize the sovereignty of God and His right to do what He chooses to do in the world that He made.
Illustration of the rug maker
The story is told of a Persian rug maker who views his rug being made suspended on a rack. Behind the rug are his assistants who must place each thread in place as he instructs them. From their side, the rug does not look beautiful. In fact, they may often question why the master instructs them as he does. They may think it does not make sense. That is because their knowledge is too limited. They do not see the whole picture from the view of the master who knows what is best. And even if he tried to explain it to them, they would not understand, because they simply cannot see from their perspective what he is trying to do. Their job is to follow instructions and trust the master that he knows what he is doing, so that the end product will be good if they just do what he says. And someday they will be able to move to the same side as the master and will see the real beauty of what they have made.

So God instructs us how to live our lives. From our earthly viewpoint as finite humans with our limited knowledge, we often do not see how the things that happen in our lives can be good for us or others. But that is only because we cannot see things from the viewpoint of the all-wise God who sees the whole picture from His infinite wisdom. And even if He tried to explain it, much of it we could never understand till the end product is complete. So we must not doubt God’s wisdom or dispute His will. Instead, we must trust Him that He knows what He is doing. Our job is to just follow His instructions, whether or not they seem to make sense at the time. But if we believe Him and obey, someday we will be with Him in eternity where we can see things from His viewpoint. Then we will understand the beauty of what He has done with our lives.

Job and his friends argued on and on with endless repetition about the reason why Job was suffering. The reasons why men suffer are worthwhile considering. But God showed Job and his friends that there was a greater question. When we suffer, we do not need to know why we suffer so much as we need to put our trust in the One who is in charge. He knows why we suffer, but more important He can care for us, help us through our troubles, and ultimately reward us with eternal life in a land where no one suffers. Faith does not need to know all the whys and wherefores. It is enough to know God is in charge and He is wise enough to handle it properly. Do not doubt. Just obey Him in faith. That is the lesson of the book of Job. Have we learned the lesson? We will probably spend our entire lives learning it.

(C) Copyright 2014, David E. Pratte You are free to keep copies of this material on computer and/or in printed form for your own further study. If you have any other requests about the use of this material, please read our copyright guidelines at