I must admit that reading through all of Job and hearing the story of Paul’s suffering during his travels and ministry have certainly taken the air out of my idea that we can expect a greater life than we can imagine in this life.
Job’s friends consistently tell him that the righteous will continually be blessed and that the wicked (those who reject God) will suffer the consequences immediately. They were convinced that Job was suffering because he was wicked. Eliphaz told Job,
6 “For example, you must have lent money to your friend
and demanded clothing as security.
Yes, you stripped him to the bone.
7 You must have refused water for the thirsty
and food for the hungry.
In other chapters we will see Job state that he has not done these things. In chapter 21, Job speaks of the wicked and what he has observed about their lives.
30 Evil people are spared in times of calamity
and are allowed to escape disaster.
31 No one criticizes them openly
or pays them back for what they have done.
32 When they are carried to the grave,
an honor guard keeps watch at their tomb.
33 A great funeral procession goes to the cemetery.
Many pay their respects as the body is laid to rest,
and the earth gives sweet repose.
Job really struggled with this. He had done his best to serve God. In Job 1, God confirmed this and identified Job as a righteous man, yet Job still suffered greatly, while he watched evil people live joyous and fulfilled lives.
As we transition to II Corinthians, Paul has no qualms about suffering, simply seeing it as the normal state of his existence.
5 For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 6 Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer.
He was weighed down with troubles and was accustomed to suffering for Christ. He was it as a path to receive comfort from Christ and to comfort other believers.
I’m not sure where I’m going with this talk of suffering and a great life, but I want to keep wrestling with it. We will soon be in Ecclesiastes, where Solomon wrestled with some of the same things.
Here is where we stand right now. Job “complaint is with God” (Job 21:4) and he is honestly and boldly asking God for a response. Psalm 40 is a similar plea to God for help.
11 Lord, don’t hold back your tender mercies from me.
Let your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me.
12 For troubles surround me—
too many to count!
My sins pile up so high
I can’t see my way out.
They outnumber the hairs on my head.
I have lost all courage.
In the middle of his struggles, the Psalmist cried to God for deliverance from troubles “too many to count!” Unlike Job, the Psalmist confessed his sins and cried out to God for redemption.
There is no simple answer to the question of suffering for anyone, particularly for those who seek God wholeheartedly. Likewise, Job could not find an answer to the prosperity of the wicked:
14 And yet they say to God, ‘Go away.
We want no part of you and your ways.
15 Who is the Almighty, and why should we obey him?
What good will it do us to pray?’
Time to think and pray and learn.