Why Job Suffered
by Tom Brown
Often, when I speak on healing and prosperity,
people will ask me about Job. They'll question me, "If
healing and prosperity belongs to us, why did Job suffer sickness
and poverty?" That is a good question, and it deserves to be
First of all, the book of Job was written as a
play. Nevertheless, this is not a work of fiction. Job really
existed. Ezekiel 14:14 lists Job as a real righteous man who once
lived long ago. In this play called Job, we find eight
characters: God, Satan, Job, Job's wife, Job's three friends
(Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar) and finally a young man named Elihu.
The play begins with the narrator telling the
story about Job and describing him as the greatest man among all
the people of the East. His integrity was world-renowned. He was
so upright in the way he lived that even God bragged on Job. He
told Satan to take note of Job's outstanding life.
Then the Lord said to Satan, "Have you
considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he
is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.
Satan was disgusted with Job's lifestyle of
holiness, so he told God that the only reason Job lived right and
worshipped God was because he was so healthy and prosperous.
Satan believed that if Job was sick and broke he would quit
serving God. So God was going to prove to Satan that Job would
serve Him no matter what kind of trials he went through. From
there Satan destroyed everything that Job had-- his wealth, his
children and his health.
It is this fact that God lets Satan destroy
everything which causes all the controversy. Why did God do that?
Well, some charismatics simply blame Job's
fears as being the open door to Job's trials. They point to Job
3:25, "What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has
happened to me."
"You see," some exclaim, "Job
was operating in fear. This is why Satan was able to attack
It is true that fear can cause a lot of bad
things to happen to us, but it is also clear that the book of Job
is not teaching about fear. You cannot simply take one statement
from Job and build an entire theory on it and say that Job lost
it all because of fear. I believe that this interpretation is an
over-simplified attempt to explain Job's suffering.
On the other hand, many evangelicals love this
story because it proves to them that good men should expect to
suffer. The trouble with their view is they forget to point out
that Job was healed and blessed twice as much after his trial. In
other words, Job did not stay sick or broke. He was healed and
James reminds us to consider the latter end of
Job's life: "You have heard of Job's perseverance and have
seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of
compassion and mercy" (James 5:11).
Isn't it amazing that when people think of Job
they think of his trials and not the end of his trials? Yet,
James tells us to consider the victory that Job experienced, and
to let him be an example for us--that if we are suffering
sickness or poverty, we should persevere in faith and God will
bring about victory for us, too.
Yet, that still doesn't answer why God let Job
suffer in the first place.
WHY BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD
Some think that the book of Job is trying to
answer the age-old question, "Why do bad things happen to
good people?" Well, the answer is simple if you don't
believe in God. You simply say that life is full of chances.
Without God you don't have to answer the question. But for people
who believe in God the question is even harder, "If God is
love and has all the power to remove suffering, why does He allow
good people to suffer?" Tough question, isn't it? In fact,
not only is it tough to answer, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO ANSWER!
What do I mean? Simple. It is possible to ask a
question that can't be answered. I do it by asking a question
with assumptions. An assumption is something that most
people think is true but has not yet been proven. In other words,
if I assume something is true, then I cannot ask for an answer to
a question unless I am willing to forgo my assumption.
For example, a wife can ask a question with an
assumption by saying, "I don't understand how my husband can
be a good Christian and yet commit adultery?" Well, he can't
be a good Christian and commit adultery. He can be a Christian
and commit adultery, but he cannot be a good Christian and commit
adultery. Do you see that a person can ask a question that can't
The same is true of asking the question,
"How can God be love and have all power, and yet still allow
good people to suffer?"
This question has three assumptions to it:
1. God is love.
2. God has all power.
3. Good people suffer.
To assume something is not necessarily wrong.
In this case, are any of these three assumptions wrong?
First of all, is God love? Of course He is. The
Bible says so. "God is love" (1 John 4:16).
Well, how about God's power. Does God have the
power to remove suffering?
It is this second assumption that caused a
Rabbi to write a best-selling book on suffering. Basically he
said that God is love but is not willing to use his power for us.
He prefers to let us live our own lives without His intruding on
us. He sees God as a little boy who winds up a toy and then lets
it go. He believes God made us and then left us on our own.
But this is not what the Bible teaches--either
the Old Testament or the New Testament. Christians rightly refuse
to believe that God does not become active in our lives. In the
Bible we find that God helped Israel out of slavery, delivered
Judah from its enemies and Jesus healed the sick and helped the
poor. God is active in helping us.
So, the second assumption is correct. God has
all power to help us. "For nothing is impossible with
God" (Luke 1:37).
That brings us to the third assumption,
"Do good people suffer?"
Job's three friends thought, "No!"
They believed that if a person suffered it was because they
sinned against God. So throughout the book of Job, they
constantly try to get Job to confess his hidden sin. They were
very eloquent, knowledgeable, but fault-finders.
Every time they tried to say something to
convince Job that he had sinned, Job would come back claiming
innocence. Job knew that he had not sinned. He knew that he was
not at fault. He didn't understand why God was punishing him
since he had not committed any sin.
It is clear from the first chapter that Job had
not done anything bad; in fact, the opposite is true. He was more
righteous than anyone including his friends. He was suffering not
because he had done anything bad, but because he was the best man
in all of the East. God was putting Job on display.
However, Job's friends did not know this.
Instead of seeing Job as being the most righteous man among them,
they saw him as the greatest sinner. How wrong they were! If only
they had known the beginning of the book. They would have shut
Because Job was so righteous among men and yet
he suffered, people assume good people suffer. In answering the
question, "Do good people suffer?" you might answer,
"Yes, of course they do. Job is the prime example. He was a
good person, yet he suffered." So people think that the book
of Job answers "Yes" to the question, "Do good
people suffer?" But if the answer is yes, then God could no
longer be just. How can God allow good people to suffer and still
be just? He can't.
"Wait a minute! Are you saying that Job
was not a good person?" you might ask.
Let me ask you, "Was Job a good
person?" Yes!? Maybe!? Are you sure? Job was not
"good" in the sense that the Bible describes what is
A rich young man came to Jesus and said,
"Good teacher." Jesus interrupted and said, "There
is no one good but God alone."
Paul writes, "...There is no one
righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one
who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become
worthless; there is not one who does good, not even one"
The New Testament makes it abundantly clear
that no one is considered righteous in God's sight. Now in man's
sight, there are good people. Job was one of them.
The Bible says that Job was the best man in all
of the East. That doesn't mean that he was righteous and good in
God's sight. He was simply the best man from a human perspective,
but even the best man is a sinner in God's sight, and that
includes Job. A sinner has no right-standing or rights with God.
THE UNFORGOTTEN HERO
Do you remember the last character in the book
of Job? Elihu is his name. He was not one of Job's friends. He
was simply listening to Job's friends judging him and Job
defending himself. As he began to listen to all four, God gave
him insight into the true nature of Job's sufferings.
Out of all the human characters, only Elihu
understood why Job suffered. It is amazing that I haven't heard
anyone ever mention Elihu. We almost forget him. But the truth
is, Elihu was the only one with true insight, not only into the
sufferings of Job but, insight into the sufferings of all
mankind. This is why Elihu is the last to speak concerning Job's
sufferings. It is interesting to note that when God appeared to
Job, He rebuked Job for not having insight and He rebuked Job's
three friends for falsely judging Job. Yet God never rebuked
Elihu. Why? Because Elihu was correct in understanding suffering.
Elihu begins by saying,
I am young in years, and you are old; that
is why I was fearful, not daring to tell you what I know. I
thought, "Age should speak, advanced years should teach
wisdom." But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the
Almighty, that gives him understanding. (Job 32:6-8)
Notice, Elihu is about to give wisdom not
because of any human understanding, but because God's Spirit gave
him understanding. The first thing he does is correct Job's
I waited while you [Job's three friends]
spoke,I listened to your reasoning; while you were searching for
words, I gave you my full attention. But not one of you has
proved Job wrong; none of you has answered his argument. (Job
Elihu showed Job's friends that they were wrong
in judging him. The second thing Elihu does is correct Job, but
he does it in humility.
But now, Job, listen to my words; pay
attention to everything I say. I am about to open my mouth; my
words are on the tip of my tongue. My words come from an upright
heart; my lips sincerely speak what I know. The Spirit of God has
made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Answer me
then, if you can; prepare yourself and confront me. I am just
like you before God; I too have been taken from clay. No fear of
me should alarm you, nor should my hand be heavy upon you. But
you have said in my hearing--I heard the very words-- "I AM
PURE AND WITHOUT SIN; I AM CLEAN AND FREE FROM GUILT.." (Job
Elihu saw one fundamental flaw in Job: that Job
believed that he was without®)3¯ ®)1¯original sin. Job was
self-righteous. Yes, he was righteous as far as men are
concerned, but he was not righteous as far as God was concerned.
Since Job thought he was sinless and not under
the curse of sin, he could not figure out how he could suffer.
This bothered Job. But Elihu points out the fact that Job was a
sinner like everyone else and is subject to the curse of sin
which includes sickness and poverty.
People erroneously think that the book of Job
was written to try to answer the question: Why does God allow
good people to suffer? But Elihu has no trouble with that
question because he knows that there are no truly
"good" people in God's sight. The thing that perplexed
Elihu was not the fact that Job was suffering, but why weren't he
and Job's friends suffering along with Job. In fact, Elihu is
wondering why everyone doesn't suffer all the time since everyone
is a sinner.
Elihu realized that sinners are under the curse
of sin, and therefore have no legal right to get mad when they
suffer. They should realize that they deserve to suffer and if
they are not suffering, they should praise God even more because
He is having mercy on them.
WHY ARE SINNERS BLESSED?
Elihu asked the right question, "Why does
God allow sinners to be blessed?" The answer: Because God is
In other words, before Job had his trials, he
experienced the mercy of God. But when Job had his trials, he
experienced the justice of God--he only got what he deserved.
Immediately after Elihu spoke, God answered Job
in a whirlwind and rebuked him for falsely accusing God of
injustice. Job wisely repented.
You might be saying, "I understand what
you are saying, but how can we claim our healing and prosperity,
if we are sinners? Sinners, after all, have no right to healing
That was true, before the cross! But, through
the cross, we have been made the righteousness of God, therefore
we have right-standing with God. We are living after the cross.
This is why God commanded Job's three friends to offer a
God appeared to Eliphaz, the leader of Job's
friends, and told him, "I'm angry with you three. You and
your two friends should take seven bulls and seven rams and go to
Job and sacrifice a burnt offering. And when Job prays for you,
God will show mercy on you all and not bring on any tragedy that
Job experienced." God showed Job and his three friends that
only through the shedding of blood is there forgiveness of sins.
This is the point: Before Jesus died on the
cross for our sins, mankind had no legal right to healing and
prosperity. They could only plead for mercy. But now since Christ
has died for our sins, sicknesses and poverty, we now have a
right to the grace of God.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GRACE AND
Grace is unmerited favor. We do not claim
healing and prosperity based on our good works, but based on
Christ' good work on the cross.
Remember the scripture in the previous chapter
of this book, 2 Corinthians 8:9: "For you know the grace of
our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, he became poor
for you." He became poor through His Substitutionary
sacrifice on the cross, and because of it, we have access into
God's grace, which is far better than mercy.
The Bible tells us to grow in the grace of God.
Nowhere does the Bible say to grow in the mercy of God. Many
people interchange the word "grace" with
"mercy." They think these two are the same, but they
definitely are not.
Hebrews 4:16 says, "Let us then approach
the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy
and find grace to help us in our time of need." Notice that
God's throne is the throne of "grace" not mercy. Yet at
His throne people can receive both "mercy" and
"grace." These are two different things. Unfortunately,
most people are trying to receive mercy when they should be
finding grace. Grace is better.
What's the difference between mercy and grace?
Mercy is when God does not bring on you the punishment you
deserve. Grace is when God brings on you the benefits that He
paid for. The only similarity between grace and mercy is that
both have to do with unmerited favor. However, mercy is not
based on legal rights. Grace is!
Let me illustrate the difference. Suppose you
are eating a nice meal at a restaurant, and afterwards, you go to
the cash register to pay for it. When you reach into your pocket,
you discover that you forgot to bring your money. You don't have
cash, checks or credit cards. You apologize to the manager that
you don't have the money to pay for it.
What do you need? MERCY! Let's suppose the
manager has compassion on you and tells you to forget the bill.
You enjoyed the meal without paying for it. This illustrates
What is grace? Grace is when someone gives you
a gift certificate which entitles you to a free meal. So you go
to the restaurant and order your favorite food, and you enjoy
every bite of it. After the meal, you walk over to the cash
register and hand the worker your gift certificate. Do you know
what you experienced? Grace.
In both cases, you did not pay for the meal.
That's unearned favor. In the first case, fear gripped you
because you knew you didn't have the money. You were not sure
what the manager was going to do to you. There was not assurance
or peace until you were forgiven, but even then you still felt
unworthy because the meal was never paid for.
You see, this is how the Old Testament saints,
including Job, operated. They pleaded for mercy but were never
sure if God would show it. This is why Job said that he was
fearful of tragedy. He was not confident that blessings would
abound in his life all the time, because he operated by mercy.
In the second case, you enjoyed the meal
knowing that someone else paid for it. As long as you had the
gift certificate you ate in peace and confidence. It didn't
bother you that someone else paid for it. You did not walk to the
worker at the cash register and say, "Oh, I'm so unworthy to
have eaten this delicious meal. I am undeserving of it. Someone
else paid for it and gave me this certificate. Do you suppose
that you could accept this certificate on my behalf?" NO!
NO! NO! A thousand times no! You went to the register without
feeling inferior, knowing that the meal was paid for.
Friend, this is what the New Testament teaches
about grace. God has already paid the price for your sins,
sicknesses and poverty. You simply come boldly to His throne to
find grace in your time of need. You already know that the price
is paid. Just enjoy the benefits.
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