6–12 September 2015.
The Old Testament wisdom literature has three great books. Proverbs is the easiest, and gets children started on the path to wisdom. Ecclesiastes is harder: it searches for the meaning of life when everything around us seems so empty. But Job is the hardest of them all. Job deals with one of the biggest questions we all face in life and in faith: why do we suffer? This is a deep and unsolvable problem, one we have struggled with for thousands of years without finding a good answer.
In this book, Job wrestles with this problem, and tries to understand why a God who is so good and just would allow us, good people, and even children to suffer so many terrible things in life.
When Job’s three friends hear about his suffering, they decide to come comfort him. Later on in the story, we will find that these friends really don’t have any good suggestions to offer Job. They try to give reasons for his suffering, but each of their answers just makes things worse for Job.
This is a good reminder for us today. When friends and family suffer, sometimes we think we have to give them answers, that we have to explain their suffering to them, and give them reasons for it. Almost always, this is the wrong thing to do. We simply can’t give good answers to this question about why bad things happen; and whatever we say will make things worse. The best words we can share with those who are suffering are to tell them that we are here for them and ready to help in any way we can.
That’s why here at the beginning of Job’s story, his friends actually do something right. They simply come and sit with Job, letting him know that they are beside him, sharing his pain rather than trying to explain it away with useless words.
This is also what God does for us. This is the great gospel message we see in Jesus: That even in the very worst times of our lives, and even in death itself, Jesus is always there beside us. He is Immanuel, “God with us”, and he never leaves us. No matter how badly we suffer, we know that Jesus is always there to support and comfort us.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis