Throughout the book of Job, his friends are sharing a prevailing human narrative: if we live a moral existence, if we do good, we will be rewarded with an easy and comfortable life. There will be no suffering. Life will be full of brightness, like the noonday sun. If we are suffering, it is a sign we are being punished for some sort of immorality. And the only way out of it is to find the evil in our lives and root it out.
This narrative presumes a materialistic understanding of happiness. We equate success and goodness with ease and comfort. But one of the main points God makes in the book of Job is that this commonly held view is completely off base.
One of the reasons Job’s story is so important for humanity is it teaches us that pain and suffering provide opportunity. It’s not a punishment for where we’ve failed, but an opportunity to express our character.
Pain points us to the solution. It is there to call us to trust in God. And trusting in God doesn’t necessarily eradicate suffering. A world of sinners will always treat one another imperfectly. A life of trial is not a condemnation of who we are; it is an opportunity to express who we are. Suffering is part of the story, not the ending.
The opportunity to trust God is only available to us in this brief life. We will spend eternity seeing God. Only in this life can we trust without seeing. If we can adopt this perspective, it allows us to embrace circumstances we would never choose. Because the measure of a successful life is not materials or circumstances, but the faithfulness to choose to trust God no matter what is happening around us.