The book of Job challenges us in several ways. Even though a careful reading of it shows God’s grace, love and care for His people, skeptics and unbelievers often try to use it to make a case against God. They seek to charge God with being the source of evil, or with being uncaring and arbitrary toward mankind. The issue of suffering, they say, is evidence against belief in God.
Even believers sometimes struggle with the case of Job. Some take the events of this book and from them teach that mankind is little more than a marionette, whose strings are pulled by a sovereign God. In such a case, humans have no freewill, nor any capacity to determine the course of their lives. God predetermines all that happens to them and they can only react to these things. Others suggest that God is simply aloof to mankind’s situation in life. They say He created the world in which we live, set a natural order of things in motion, and then He allows things to play out as they will, with little or no interest in how it all turns out.
Sometimes, believers may wonder from Job’s life if God doesn’t cause certain things to happen to us in order to test our fidelity, or perhaps just to get our attention. They may see God’s conversation with Satan with regard to Job as evidence of this. In such a view, any bump in the road of life must be examined to see if there is a hidden message from God within it. This idea, as is the case with the previous two ideas, is not complimentary to our Father in heaven. It turns Him from being a loving, nurturing Father, to little more than a mad scientist who loves to tinker with the specimens He finds on the earth.
The truth about Job’s experience is that it illustrates the effects of sin being present in the world. Satan is the source of sin and all that is evil. His desire is to turn as many as possible away from God by whatever means he can use to accomplish this. Just as Satan attacked Job to try to make him curse God, he assaults godly people today. He may use sickness, disease and death in order to make us question God’s love. He may use evil people and evil things to cast doubt upon God’s care for His people. He may even use our friends and loved ones to incorrectly argue God’s cause before us, in order to make us turn from Him.
The good news in all of this is that God has put restraints on Satan. God did not allow Satan to take Job’s life, even though He allowed Job to suffer grievously. In the same manner, God will not allow Satan to test us beyond our ability to bear it (1 Cor. 10;13). In addition to this, God Himself does not place obstacles in our path just to test our resolve to follow Him. James 1:13 tells us that God does not tempt anyone. His desire is that all should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2: 4). He will do nothing that might lead us to sin against Him so as to be lost.
But what about the bad things that happen to good people? The presence of sin in the world has created an environment in which evil flourishes. Like a disease that arises in a very narrow population due to their sinful conduct, but then ultimately spreads to the innocent, bad things happen indiscriminately in life. We may say that “life happens,” but this is not to suggest that we are powerless to meet it, nor that our own decisions play no part in what happens to us. It simply acknowledges that God does not purposely do things to hurt us. If we trust in God and remain faithful to Him no matter what Satan and his minions may throw at us, we, like Job, will receive God’s blessings, both here in life and later in eternity. This truth should comfort and sustain us.