Is God a respecter of persons? Does he favor one over another? God forbid! Surely, what God does to one of his saints, he does to another (Col 3:25). Then why do so many so called Christians go through life unscathed when others are suffering night and day? I have met several men and women over the years who claim to be Christians but say that they have never suffered a day in their life. One 80+ year old man actually said he never had any pain, sickness or malady of any kind in his life. A 70 year old song leader after hearing about the suffering of Christians preached stormed the preacher with pointed finger and said, “God blesses the righteous and curses the sinner. I have never suffered a day in my life because I am a righteous man!” Two weeks later, he was in the hospital near death. To his credit he repented of his statements and lived to see more suffering before he was to die. Such questions and observations are answered in the story of Job, and it reveals a lot about where we stand with God.
The book opens with this description of Job: “. . . that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and turned away from evil” (1: 1). Verse 5 of that first chapter stated that Job even offered burnt-offerings for the sins that his children might have committed. This was not done on sporadic occasions, since that same verse emphasized “Thus did Job continually.”
In spite of all the righteousness that Job had done, notice all the sufferings he endured:
He lost all his material possessions (1:13-17). He lost his sons and daughters (1:819). His body was afflicted with boils from head to foot (2:7). His wife rebelled against God (2:9). His suffering was so great that he wished that he had never been born (3: 11).
When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, came to comfort him, they failed to even recognize him because he was so disfigured by his affliction (2:12). They sat 7 days and said nothing because they could think of no words of comfort (2:13). From then forward in the book, Job spoke and then was answered by his friends in turn as together they grappled with the problem of suffering.
As each of Job’s friends spoke they accused Job of severe sins as the cause of his great suffering. Zophar reached the peak of accusation when in 11:6 he told Job, “Know therefore that God exacts of thee less than thine iniquity deserves.”In answer Job pointed out that suffering must not be connected with sin in a causal relationship as evidenced by the fact that the wicked prosper and are of good health (12:6; 21:7-16). Jesus verified that sin and suffering were not related when on one occasion his disciples asked “Who sinned and caused a man to be blind?” Jesus then replied that neither the man nor his parents sinned (John 9:1-3).
When Job could not understand the cause and problem of his suffering, he became very despondent and made some rash statements which later had to be corrected. On one occasion he charged God with not caring about the righteous (9:22-24) and wished that he might have an opportunity to complain face to face with God (9:33-10:8).
Later, Job reached the conclusion that there was no hope for the righteous when he compared the suffering of man with the tree which was cut (14:7-12). He saw that the tree had hope of budding again after being cut down but Job thought that man was without hope.
Time after time Job was faced with the same old problem-why was he suffering? Who caused it? Was there any hope? Why try to serve God if both the wicked and the righteous suffer the same?
Before coming to the conclusion reached in the book of Job, let me bring in two other similar situations to that of Job.
The 73rd Psalm likewise had the same problem presented when Asaph was faced with the prosperity of the wicked (v. 3). This man became so disgusted that he wrote the following words when he saw that the wicked prospered just as well as the righteous: “Surely in vain have I cleansed my heart, And washed my hands in innocency; For all the day long have I been plagued, And chastened every morning” (v. 13, 14).
Conclusion: The problem still exists today since Jesus said in Matt. 5:45 that it would “rain on the just and unjust.” While in this world, God makes no distinction physically between the righteous and the wicked in regard to suffering and blessing. However, the Christian has more comfort while facing these problems than does the wicked person, as shown by Paul as follows: “And in like manner the Spirit also helps our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered: and he that searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8: 26-28). Sinner and saint alike will suffer, but only a faithful Christian suffer for the cause of Christ (1 Pet 4:16). All may suffer, but only a Christian has heaven as their reward (Jam 1:12). In other passages we learn that God will reward the righteous and punish the wicked come the day of judgment (2 Thess. 1:7-9). Thus, we face and accept our sufferings with faith in God while as brothers and sisters we do our best to aid and comfort one another (I Cor. 12:26; 1 Thess. 4:18). Remember, you are not alone for Christ will never leave us or forsake us, and we can cast all our cares upon Him (Heb 13:5 f; 1 Pet 5:8). Think on these things when you suffer for the cause of Christ and rejoice! (Philip 4:4)