When Job hears the news that he’s lost his children and all his possessions, he immediately responds by tearing his robe and shaving his head (traditional signs of mourning in the ancient Near East). He then falls to the ground and worships God, saying, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” Even after Job himself is afflicted with terrible sores, he continues to “maintain his integrity” by refusing to curse God and believing that people must accept both good and bad things from God’s hand. Ultimately, though, Job can’t reconcile the apparent contradiction between what he believes about God (that God is just) and the way God appears to be treating him (unjustly). Because of this inconsistency, Job wants to “argue his case” to God to prove his innocence. Job’s determination to confront God, though later criticized as arrogant, does show that Job believes God is ultimately a just judge. And at the end of the book, God does restore Job’s fortunes, granting him greater blessings than he had before. The Book of Job takes it for granted that innocent people will suffer; the bigger question, it suggests, is how they respond to that suffering. By using the character of Job as a model of persistent faith, the book suggests that sufferers exercise faith in God by continuing to trust him even when they have no guarantee of answers, respite, or reward.
Satan believes that if God allows bad things to happen to Job, Job will curse God. While God finds Job to be his “blameless” “servant,” Satan contends that Job only worships God because God has protected him and granted him good things. If God allows Satan to harm Job, Satan argues, Job will surely turn from God and even curse him. In other words, Satan charges that Job’s faith is superficial and that as soon as that faith is really challenged, it will quickly crumble. However, Job’s immediate reaction to his loss is to praise God even while he mourns. Fallen on the ground with his robe torn and his head shaven, Job declares, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD,” a statement affirming that no matter what God has permitted to happen to Job, Job still trusts him and worships him. Even after God allows Satan to afflict Job himself with a terrible disease, Job refuses his wife’s recommendation that he just “curse God, and die,” because people must receive both good and bad things from God. Job’s reactions suggest that in tragedy, a faithful person should trust God and his ways, even if they’re hard to understand.
Even when Job begins to complain about his suffering and to argue with God, the fact that he does argue (and doesn’t simply curse God) suggests that God is ultimately just. Job insists on defending himself before God even if “he will kill me [and] I will have no hope,” trusting that somehow, God will uphold Job’s innocence in the end. Job’s words suggest that stating his case is worth risking God’s deadly wrath—he clearly has faith that, in some mysterious way, God will hear and vindicate Job even beyond death. In the same speech in which he claims that God regards him as an enemy, Job also asserts that his “Redeemer lives” and that he will someday see this divine vindicator on his side. Without denying the severity of his pain, Job continues to believe that God, though he doesn’t appear to be on Job’s side right now, will someday redeem Job from his suffering. Job trusts that his current argument with God isn’t the end of the story. Job insists that it’s a matter of his “integrity” to maintain his innocence, and that, as long as God continues to grant him life, he won’t say anything false. His refusal to give up suggests that, on some level, he still trusts God to make things right in the end.
At the end of the book, God does vindicate Job, suggesting that Job is a model of faith in the midst of suffering. At the end of the book, God calls Job his “servant” just as he did at the beginning, and he tells Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar that he’ll forgive their foolish speech if Job prays for them—effectively confirming that Job was right in maintaining his innocence all along and that the other men should look up to Job as a model of faithfulness, not the other way around. After all of Job’s suffering, God also grants Job twice the riches he had before, gives him more children, and prolongs his life, rewarding Job’s integrity. Though the book makes it clear that material prosperity doesn’t tell the full story about a person either way, it also reaffirms that God is good to people who trust in him. Ultimately, Job doesn’t receive clear-cut answers from God, he suffers greatly in the meantime, and he isn’t given any promise of reward until the end. Job is upheld as a model of faith in suffering because, even when he wrestles with God and struggles to trust him, he doesn’t give up or turn away from God.
Faith in Suffering ThemeTracker
Faith in Suffering Quotes in Book of Job
The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one 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 nothing? Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.”
Then Job arose, tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshiped. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing.
So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes.
Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Now when Job’s three friends heard of all these troubles that had come upon him, each of them set out from his home—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They met together to go and console and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him, and they raised their voices and wept aloud; they tore their robes and threw dust in the air upon their heads. They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.
Let me have silence, and I will speak,
and let come on me what may.
I will take my flesh in my teeth,
and put my life in my hand.
See, he will kill me; I have no hope;
but I will defend my ways to his face.
Only grant two things to me,
then I will not hide myself from your face:
withdraw your hand far from me,
and do not let dread of you terrify me.
Then call, and I will answer;
or let me speak, and you reply to me.
Why do you hide your face,
and count me as your enemy?
Will you frighten a windblown leaf
and pursue dry chaff?
If I go forward, he is not there;
or backward, I cannot perceive him;
on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him;
I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.
But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold.
Then Job answered the Lord:
“I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours 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.
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”
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. […] 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 donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters. […] After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations. And Job died, old and full of days.