Job only makes sense to the suffering man. We often approach this book like Job’s friends approached him. We find its message questionable and dangerous. At times we may find the message irrelevant. This is not surprising. Job himself tells us that men at ease hold misfortune in contempt (12:5). When we are free from suffering we are wearied by others suffering and seek to avoid them like the plague. We imagine that the sufferer is exaggerating his circumstances. We determine that things are not nearly as bad as they are making them out to be. We shrug off their hardship and wish them to just buck up.
This is not true for the man in the throes of adversity. The man garbed in sackcloth and covered in ashes will not scrutinize the book of Job. He will cherish it. It will be to him a drink of water in the desert that has now become his life. He will leave Eliphaz and Zophar and find a place in the dirt next to Job. His voice and Job’s wail will become indistinguishable. He will join the journey of tortuous questions and bold laments. He will walk the path of sorrow, pain, and confusion with Job. He will grieve and be stung by the words of comfort he used to throw toward the hurting. When he looks at Job he will no longer see a stranger. He will see himself.
Your circumstances inevitably influence the way you read this book. A current experience of ease or of suffering will determine your friends and your seat as you read. I assume that both experiences are necessary to understand the dynamic tension in the book of Job. I do believe, however, that suffering is the hermeneutical factor that brings this divine masterpiece out of the realm of theological speculation and into the experience of the believer. Job holds tremendous and surprising resources for the suffering man. I believe this is its purpose. God, the greatest pastor alive, takes us by the hand and leads us through this important journey called Job to equip us for life in this painful and confusing world. Job is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.
For the man who has seen affliction (Lam 3:1), this book will be a faithful companion throughout this earthly sojourn. Job continues to increase in value for me. In these last months I have been surprised by comfort. The solace I have known has sprung forth from unexpected and strange places in this book. This most recent journey through Job has taught me an invaluable lesson. There are resources stocked away in Scripture awaiting us. Resources we stroll by and have no use for at certain times in our journey. But there they sit and wait. Our time will come when we desperately need them. I have found Job to be such a resource. What a gracious and wise gift from the author of Scripture.
Some have argued that Job is a theodicy, a philosophical and theological attempt to explain or justify the existence of evil. I demur. The tone of this book is intensely personal and pastoral. This is no philosophical approach to the problem of evil. This is a pastoral approach to that problem. This book is filled with pastoral resources that will bolster, equip, and persevere the suffering individual and community. Equipping people against evil, not explaining it, is the intent of this book. We may have no further answers to the problem of suffering after reading this book, but we will have resources to endure and assail it. Suffering poses more of a threat to our faith than our philosophical underpinnings. A thorough explanation of the problem of evil is no guarantee that our faith will endure the evil we know everything about. The Bible is more interested in giving us what we need to go on believing and trusting in the face of absurd suffering, confusion, and evil. Answers and explanations do not do this. The book of Job is a strong testimony to that fact. God gives no answers. Apparently they are not necessary.