Today’s read was Job 18-21, in which we hear from two of Job’s friends (Bildad and Zophar) and Job’s response to each of them. Both Bildad and Zophar continue to make their case that suffering comes to the wicked. Job does not disagree that this is true, but he brings to their attention that they have overlooked something that should be obvious. Yes, the wicked are often punished by the suffering that comes as a result of their poor life choices, but it’s also true that wicked people prosper. Sometimes a person that says to God, “Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him? What would we gain by praying to him?” will “spend their years in prosperity and go down to the grave in peace.” (21:7-18)
Job’s point is well taken. We simply cannot look at a person’s circumstance on the surface and make a judgment. Sometimes God allows the wicked to prosper. Sometimes God allows the righteous to suffer. It may seem upside down and backward to us, but as Job says, “Can anyone teach knowledge to God?” (21:22)
Here’s the thing. All suffering has the same purpose: to cause us to look to God. If we’re caught in our sin and are suffering the consequences, God desires us to look to Him in repentance and faith. He desires us to recognize our fallen, human flesh and see our need to be rescued and saved. If we’re walking in obedience and are suffering, God desires us to look to Him in dependence. He desires to reveal Himself in greater ways, deepening our relationship with Him as He sustains us, and gently strips us of the old life and its habits and desires.
Job got this lesson right. Listen to these familiar words. “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed; yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes—I and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (19:25-27) While he didn’t understand the PROCESS of his suffering, he understood its PURPOSE. God was purifying him so that he would see God.
Jesus told us this was necessary. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) The blessed person is the one whom God is merciful enough to cause to suffer. Without suffering, we would go blindly on in our sin and self-righteousness and miss the most important thing. The tragedy would be for God to let us “spend our years in prosperity and go down to the grave in peace,” uninterrupted in our wickedness. If God is gracious enough to allow you to suffer, how will you respond? In gratitude, or grumbling? Your answer will depend on whether or not you want to see God.