If everything good in your life were suddenly taken away, what would you do? That question lies at the heart of Job’s story in the Old Testament book bearing his name.
Job was a righteous man-someone so above reproach that God held him up to Satan as a model servant. Satan was unimpressed. “Of course Job is faithful to you,” he countered. “He has wealth, family, and excellent health. Take away those things and let’s see how faithful he is.”
God agreed to Satan’s challenge. He allowed the Devil to carry tragedy and suffering into Job’s life. First came messengers with news that all of Job’s flocks-the primary source of his wealth-had been stolen or killed. Suddenly Job was faced with the prospect of poverty.
Before he could gather his thoughts, though, he was dealt a more devastating blow. Another messenger arrived with news that a desert windstorm had collapsed the house of Job’s oldest son, where all of Job’s children had been celebrating. None of them made it out alive. Suddenly Job, who had been deeply involved in the lives of his sons and daughters, found himself childless.
Next came the theft of his camels and them boils. Job 2:7 says God allowed Satan to afflict Job with painful boils from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head. Job was in agony, emotionally and physically. Yet he maintained a faithful, humble, and obedient attitude toward God.
The general consensus, even among those closest to him, was that Job had done something to incur God’s wrath. Job’s protests of innocence fell on skeptical ears.
His wife said to him, “Do you still retain your integrity? Curse God and die!”
“You speak as a foolish woman speaks,” he told her, “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” Throughout all this Job did not sin in what he said. (Job 2:9-10)
Three friends-Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar-arrived to comfort Job and were stunned by what they say. Job’s suffering had made him almost unrecognizable. For seven days the trio sat in a respectful silence with Job.
Job broke the vigil by suggesting that it would be preferable never to have been born than to experience the kind of pain and grief he was enduring. Eliphaz responded by reminding Job of the people he (Job) had comforted in the past. But then Eliphaz quickly pointed out: “But now that this had happened to you, you have become exhausted. It strikes you, and you are dismayed. Isn’t your piety your confidence, and the integrity of your life your hope? Consider: who has perished when he was innocent? Where have the honest been destroyed? (Job 4:5-7).
Like Job’s wife, Eliphaz believed that Job’s suffering was due to sin. He urged his friend to repent. Bidad and Zophar chimed in, instructing Job to be more blameless in his walk with God. But they didn’t stop there. Bildad suggested that Job’s children had brought their deaths on themselves. Zophar stated Job probably deserved even worse punishment for whatever it was he’d done.
Job countered these accusations, insisting once again that he was innocent before God. At the same time, he struggled mightily with his situation, trying to square his suffering with what he knew about God. In the depths of his despair, he posed some difficult questions about God’s justice and humankind’s inability to grasp his ways.
Job pleaded for someone to serve as a mediator between him and God, someone to represent him and get the answers that eluded him. At his lowest point, he begged God to send him to Sheol, the place or the dead (read Job 14:13).
Through it all, Job managed to hold on to his relationship with the Lord-at times by his fingernails, but he held on just the same. He committed himself to the pursuit of wisdom by fearing God and avoiding wickedness.
When Satan’s period of testing was over, God rewarded Job’s faithfulness. He restored Job’s health and gave him a long life. He bestowed on Job more wealth and possessions than he’d had before his season of suffering. And he blessed Job with a new family-seven sons and three daughters.
Job walked the path through the valley of darkness and emerged with God’s blessing on the other side.
Job 1:21 – “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away. Praise the name of Yahweh.”