Bible Exposition / Christian Living

Trials as Tests: Why God Allows Suffering Sometimes

Job is one of the most intriguing books in the Bible. Think about it: Job was this super-righteous man whom God was able to brag to Satan about. Do you think your life is such that God would brag to Satan about how righteous you are? Those are some tough shoes to wear. But then, all of a sudden, Job has everything taken from him. His children, his possessions, his dignity, his reputation, his social status… even a supportive wife. Everything. And the nagging question throughout the entire book, whether implicit or explicit, is why? Why did this happen? Did he deserve it? Certainly not. Even as a Calvinist, believing that we are all sinful at birth and deserve only condemnation, there is no indication in the book itself that Job did anything to deserve this type of misfortune (unless we are erroneously convinced by the unhelpful “logic” of his friends). So why?

Well, we get a hint of why in the first chapter. God brags to Satan about how righteous Job is, so Satan incites God by saying, “Does Job fear God for no reason? … You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face” (Job 1:9-11). In essence, Satan accuses Job of serving God only because of his material blessings. If those are taken away, Job would no longer serve God. Job’s worship, Satan proffers, is merely superficial. God says, I’ll prove you wrong. Do what you will, but Job will remain faithful to me. Sure enough, Job’s first response to his affliction is worship (1:20). Satan nudges God again, and even more affliction befalls Job. Job suffers, but never does he renounce or rebuke God. He does, however, deal humanly with all the suffering he experiences; in fact, he has to defend his righteousness to his so-called friends. Imagine that, he lives his life righteously, then he suffers for no reason, and his friends all accuse him of unrighteousness and that he had it coming to him. In spite of this, Job never curses God. He curses his own life, but never God.

It was a test. Not for God to know the results, for he knows all things. But it was a test for Job; and for Satan. It was to prove that Job’s faithfulness to God was not merely external and based on external blessings, but it was based on the grandeur of God himself. Job was righteous because he loved God, not the blessings of God. And it was a defeat of Satan. Ever since he was banished from heaven, Satan has tried again and again to thwart God’s plan for human redemption. He would do everything and anything to throw a wrench in God’s plan. So he afflicted Job to prove that God isn’t as great as everyone makes him out to be. Job proved him wrong. God, through Job, was still victorious.

God allows suffering in our life for two reasons: 1) to prove your genuine faith and 2) to stick it to Satan. Consider it flattery that Satan would spend his time trying to wreck your faith; and when he fails, laugh in his face. Yes, sometimes our suffering is a direct consequence of our sinful actions. In that case, repentance is warranted. But often times, even unwarranted suffering to our actions is from Satan, and we can let him have it by loving God himself without his blessings. Suffering happens to prove the sincerity of our faith to God, that nothing would separate us from the love of God, even if we should die. That’s how great God is. He is worth every type of suffering, for the reward is far greater.

But the good news is that our suffering is temporary. But remember how Job’s life ended. He was blessed twice as much as he had before. God provided children again for Job, more wealth, and a long life. It’s evidence of God’s grace. Maybe God doesn’t have to, but he does bless his children for their suffering. So what do you do when you suffer? Pull through and stay faithful to God. Magnify God by trusting in him and desiring him above any temporal misfortune that befalls you. Not so that you would get your material blessings back, but to prove that in spite of the pain, in spite of the suffering, you would rather choose God than anything else this world has to offer. Because you realize, this is in fact better than cursing God and dying. If you see yourself doing this in the midst of suffering, be encouraged: your faith is genuine, and your devotion to God isn’t merely superficial. And maybe he brings it to refine your faith as well. He wants you to desire him above all else; and sometimes he accomplishes that through suffering.

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