Focal Passage: Job 1:1-3, 8-11, 20-22; 2:7, 9-10
Is God playing games with us? Why does He allow His own children to encounter such trouble in this life? A friend of mine recently asked, “Does God set us up for suffering?” Or as Teresa of Avila once honestly prayed, “If this is the way You treat your friends, it’s no wonder You have so few of them!”
Yes, even God’s children suffer pain in this sinful fallen world. Job, who likely lived during the days of Jacob and his sons, certainly had his share of troubles. He did not understand why, especially since he obeyed and revered God. We are privileged, however, to have a window seat on Job’s troubles.
“Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” God asks Satan. But Satan is not convinced. He accuses God of buying Job’s loyalty by lavishing wealth and prosperity upon him. Indeed, he claims that God has gone so far as to make a “hedge around him.” It appears that Satan is baiting God and that God takes the bait, with poor old Job suffering the consequences. Note, however, that God never really removes the hedge. Satan can harm Job only so far as God allows.
When Job remains steadfast despite the loss of his children and his wealth, Satan presses God even harder, insisting that Job would turn against God to save his own skin. At this point you might wonder, why does God keep taking the bait? Actually it is He that is baiting Satan. While Job will suffer horribly in the short run, in the long run God will be glorified and Job will be closer to Him than ever before.
In the same manner He allows troubles even today for the good of His followers.
Shortly after my wife Marcia and I married in 1975, I became deathly ill with inflammatory bowel disease. Hospitalized in St. Thomas Medical Center for weeks, I wasted away to a wraith of my former self. While doctors and nurses struggled valiantly to restore my health, I knew I was getting sicker. The future looked bleak. The pain and discomfort were so great that I begged God to let me die. And although I was surrounded by loving friends and family, I felt so intensely alone in my suffering. Why was God allowing this trouble?
Through two individuals the Lord reminded me in no uncertain terms of His presence. A friend of my parents, Vernettie Currin, noted in a get well card that Satan once accused God of building a protective hedge around Job. “And He did!” she explained emphatically. “He has for you, too,” she added. God would not let the enemy do anything to me without it passing His desk first.
Shortly afterward one of my physicians, Dr. Allan Kaiser, came by my room on his own time and assured me on the basis of Hebrews 2:18 that Jesus knew exactly what I was suffering and could therefore comfort me like no other. Jesus’ presence seemed to permeate the hospital room afterward. And the question of why did not seem to matter anymore.
No, God is not playing games with us. He does perhaps “set us up” for problems in this age. We may never fully understand this side of heaven why He sometimes allows the enemy to pierce the hedge around us (Job probably never knew), but it is always for His glory and our good.
Bill Horner is the Director of Missions for the Campbell County Baptist Association based in LaFollette, Tennessee.