What can Job teach us about suffering? OLD TESTAMENT REFLECT

Aaron Joseph-Paul Hackett |Theology| 12/29/18

Nobody on earth wants to suffer. It is something that is very common in today’s world. Either we suffer from financial hardships, social difficulties or physical illness. Because of our fallen nature when Man disobeyed God[1], we must now live a life that include sickness, pain and suffering.  The question moving forward my brothers and sisters is not why we suffer, but how-to best deal with it. I would like us to investigate the story of Job from the Old Testament.

 

Job 1There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God, and turned away from evil.” We already get the picture that Job was a man who lived a righteous life. He was a family man and had a very successful business. He was an extremely cautious father, because he cared about his children so much that he offered sacrifices to Almighty God incase they sinned directly or indirectly. [2] It is very important to be aware of our actions. In whatever decision we make in our lives, good or ill, we shall be held to account even the littlest things that might be minor to us, but serious in the eyes of Almighty God. Matthew 10:26-31 “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops.  And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Job for all account was the best example on how to be a God-fearing Father. So, if he was a “just” man, why did God give him so much grief? Our human minds would think that God must be a very unfair God. Or that God randomly just pick people who he wants to suffer and inflict punishment on. Our All-Powerful, and ever knowing God is not like that. If God wanted to make us suffer, then why would he bother to create man? He doesn’t need us. He didn’t even need to create the universe. He would still be God if nothing existed, because he is outside of time and space. He created the universe because he is Perfect. He created us because he imagined us and wanted us to share in his love.

 

“To live, grow, and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God: we must beg the Lord to increase our faith; it must be “working through charity” abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church.”[3] When we face hard times, we must look into the teachings of God that has been passed down from the descendants of Abraham all the way until Jesus Christ. Only in holding on to the Living Word (scripture) may we, by the Grace of God the Holy Spirit learn to understand deeply what is going on around us. When we start to think that we can do things on our own, is when we have already failed in the task that is before us.  The Devil needed permission from God to test the faith of Job. Job 1:6-12 “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.  The LORD said to Satan, “Whence have you come?” Satan answered the LORD, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”  And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”  Then Satan answered the LORD, “Does Job fear God for nought?  Hast thou not put a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.  But put forth thy hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse thee to thy face.”  And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only upon himself do not put forth your hand.” So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.” When we are tested, God wants us to reach a much higher spiritual level. Because of our fallen nature, we need cannot achieve anything without his graces. So, we are tested on how we react to certain things or predicaments. The accuser is always looking for a reason to bind us down. He is working 24/7 to lead us away from God Almighty and go straight to hell. There are times that we need to suffer for God to break our sinfulness and be open to hearing him speak. CCC 2016- “The children of our holy mother the Church rightly hope for the grace of final perseverance and the recompense of God their father for the good works accomplished with his grace in communion with Jesus.” Even after Job lost everything, he didn’t lose his faith in God.[4]

 

Job 2:1-10 “Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD.  And the LORD said to Satan, “Whence have you come?” Satan answered the LORD, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”  And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you moved me against him, to destroy him without cause.”  Then Satan answered the LORD, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But put forth thy hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.”  And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your power; only spare his life.”  So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD, and afflicted Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.  And he took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes.  Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God, and die.”  But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips” I can relate that physical suffering is the  hardest suffering a human being can take. Not only do you feel physical pain, but also you are tested mentally. Because the devil is an opportunist, when one plan doesn’t work, he tries another route. The devil’s goal is to break me and you. He wants to run us to the ground. Yes, there are times that physical suffering happens without us wanting it. Like when you catch a flu or get bronchitis because of the change in weather. Other times when we do a physical action that is harmful to us. An example would be when you drink so much alcohol that you develop and ulcer or when you use hard drugs like Meth and your teeth start to fall off. When you engage in risky behavior like unprotected sex and get AIDS or Genital herpes, those are sufferings that could be prevented. There are even times that you eat healthy, watch your personal habits and you still get breast cancer or maybe you do live a holy life, but the doctors have detected that you have the beginning symptoms of MS. It would seem very unfair right? “Oh God, I have offered money to your place of worship. I have tithed and fasted as a faithful follower of you! Why do I have this incurable illness? Why Do I have cancer? Gods wish is for us to reach him in heaven. We have all sinned throughout our lives. We must atone for something. While this topic can get deeper, I will only focus on trying to overcome the struggles of the soul and to cling on to the Mercy of God.

 

“Such a battle and such a victory become possible only through prayer. It is by prayer that Jesus vanquishes the tempter, both at the outset of his public mission and in the ultimate struggle of his agony”[5] Jesus, who is the Incarnate Word of God, faced temptation when he finished his 40 days of fasting. The devil was trying to see if he would reject his mission and join him. When Jesus rebuked satan, the devil came later when Jesus was in the garden praying to God for the Cup of suffering to pass, But, “not my will, by thy will be done”[6] Matthew the Evangelist gives four examples from his gospel on how Jesus Christ spoke of suffering and how to deal with it. Matthew 5:11-2, Matthew 10:38, Matthew 16:24-25 and finally Matthew 24:9-14. Matthew shared in his gospel writings that suffering is part of the Christian life as much as it is part of our nature. Jesus doesn’t tell anyone that everything is going to be okay and that once you accept me as Lord and savior that suffering will officially end. No, Jesus said that we will suffer one way or another. But the goal is not to fall into despair or hopelessness, but to Trust and pray for the spiritual strength to endure all suffering.  Job had three friends come visit him. As you read along in the Chapter of Job, his friend gives a very poor account about God and Job even regrets being born and started to self-loath himself.  God himself finally spoke and answers Job back. Job 38:1-3 “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?  Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.” Job 40:1-5 “And the LORD said to Job: “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.”  Then Job answered the LORD:  “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer thee? I lay my hand on my mouth.  I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further. Job 42:1-6 “Then Job answered the LORD:  “I know that thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of thine can be thwarted.  ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.  ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.’  I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” We are quick to complain about our lives and make ourselves as god. We don’t consider that our lives are not our own. Our lives belong to God and for God alone. God asked Job if he has the power to run the universe. This man is trying to make himself justified before God. We don’t really know ourselves. We have so many faults and sinful inclinations. We try to use science and philosophy to explain everything, but the fact of the matter is, we can’t. We will never understand the mind of God nor understand why things happen to us. Our lives are based on choices. We only have the free will to choose good or to choose evil. Remember that we are living a temporary road here. Our goal is to get to heaven. Let us not think of suffering as evil. Let us see how our suffering can be used for the Glory of God and to bring others into holiness. Job 42:10-17 “And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends; and the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house; and they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold. And the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she-asses.  He had also seven sons and three daughters. And he called the name of the first Jemi’mah; and the name of the second Kezi’ah; and the name of the third Ker’en-hap’puch. And in all the land there were no women so fair as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them inheritance among their brothers.  And after this Job lived a hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, four generations.  And Job died, an old man, and full of days.

God Bless,

Aaron JP

 

[1] Genesis 3:1-13

[2] Job 1:5

[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 162 (CCC 162)

[4] Job 1:20-22

[5] CCC 2849

[6] Matthew 26:39

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