If you’re like me, the Bible can sometimes leave you with more questions than answers. The book of Job is one such book. There is something so emotional, so human about Job’s experience of loss, suffering, and questioning. Job, like us, did not have the answers he wanted. For me, every time I read from this book, I walk away feeling outrage, sadness, joy, longing, empty, or full; it’s different each time.

To answer some of the (valid) questions we get from Job, we’ll turn to the Quest Study Bible, a unique tool that’s all about asking and answering tough questions. If the following answers aren’t completely satisfying, we encourage you to use them as a starting point for discussion in your own life. Remember – God can handle your questions!

Are people just pawns in God’s chess game?

It often seems that people are caught in events beyond their control, manipulated by God or Satan. They may feel forced into situations they would not choose if they were given a chance. While this seems unfair, there is another way—a higher way—to interpret the circumstances of life. We can see them as God-given opportunities to cooperate with his purpose and plans and, by serving him, to fulfill something far more significant than our own schemes ever could. We’re more than pawns in a chess game. We can honor Almighty God by the way we live and die.

Still, many unanswered questions remain. Only God knows why dozens of bystanders had to die in this unfolding drama between Satan and God. We struggle with the fact that some who are righteous have short, tragic lives while others who are wicked enjoy wealth and long life. One thing we can affirm, however: What seems unfair in this life will be made right in eternity. Our problems will be resolved and many of our questions answered.

God has permitted Satan certain freedoms. He is called the prince of this world (John 14:30) and the ruler of the kingdom of the air (Eph. 2:2). Satan can sometimes use the forces of nature, sickness, plagues and wicked people. Though God dealt a fatal blow to Satan through Jesus’ death and resurrection, Satan continues to struggle against God, and will do so until the end (Romans 16:20).

There are two sides to the suffering of the righteous: the earthly and the heavenly. The apostle Paul understood the tension of living in a corrupt world as one controlled by the Spirit. He placed his trust in God and things eternal—God’s justice, mercy and love— not in the temporary things of this world—success, wealth and fame. Paul recognized that our struggle is not against flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12) and took courage in knowing that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20).

Is God guilty of neglect?

No. But to those who have hit bottom and feel abandoned, God might appear to be neglectful.

In his despair Job paints a horrifying—and incorrect—picture of God, saying that He afflicts for no reason (9:17), overwhelms people with misery (9:18), destroys both the righteous and the unrighteous indiscriminately (9:22), laughs at the pain of the innocent (9:23) and allows injustice (9:24). Job’s fear of this tyrannical deity could even force him to confess to sins he had not committed (9:20)!

But these are the words of a despondent, discouraged Job. On the whole, Job had a higher view of God than this. The major difference between Job’s view of God and that of his friends was his belief that afflictions in this life come to both the righteous and the unrighteous—that suffering could not always be explained in terms of what one deserved.

Severe and sudden calamity is no more a sign of disfavor with God than sustained prosperity indicates God’s approval and blessing. But in the next life God promises to balance the scales and make right all that has been perverted by sin here on earth. God is not guilty of neglect, but He may allow some suffering to accomplish His greater purposes, often beyond human comprehension.

Is it wrong to be angry with God?

No. The problem comes when legitimate feelings of anger are not handled correctly and lead to inappropriate bitterness and rebellion which sometimes accompany anger. The Bible realistically portrays the frustration and anger of God’s people when things go wrong or when they cannot understand why certain things happen. This was the reason for Job’s anger. Not only did he feel he was being treated unjustly by God, but he could get no explanation from Him.

Jonah’s anger over Nineveh’s repentance and the death of the shade-giving vine was inappropriate (Jonah 4). Twice the Lord questioned him, Have you any right to be angry? (Jonah 4:4, 9). The prophet Jeremiah grew angry with God because of his persecution and the lack of response to his preaching. But he went too far when he accused God of lying (Jer. 15:18). Immediately, God told him to repent and stop uttering foolish words (15:19).

Ultimately, that is where Job ended up. Though his suffering caused many questions and anguish, he went too far when he insisted that he had a right to an explanation. In the end, God spoke to Job and set him straight: God had the right to question Job, not the other way around (38:1–3). Job realized he had been arrogant and that his anger was unjustified. When confronted by the awesomeness of God, Job repented (42:6).

Is God responsible for what Satan does?

God permitted Satan to attack Job, so in that sense God was responsible (1:12; 2:6). But God is not morally responsible for Satan’s wickedness. Since the Bible teaches that God is holy (Lev. 11:45) and righteous in all His ways (Psalm 145:17), we know He does not devise evil (James 1:13–15). He cannot be made a scapegoat for Satan’s destructive activities.

Satan is the great liar who chose to defy God and was banished from God’s presence with the other fallen angels (Luke 10:18). Satan is called the prince of this world (John 12:31). Christ’s entrance onto the stage of human history was the long-promised part of God’s plan to redeem the world from his tyranny. Satan’s final judgment awaits the return of Christ and the consummation of the age when Satan is cast into the abyss (Rev. 20:10).

Tracing evil back to God has been much debated throughout the centuries. Theologically, we know that God is holy and reigns supreme, yet Satan has limited power within the parameters of God’s sovereignty. Evil in no way can be traced back to God in terms of culpability for it. Although God knows good and evil (Gen. 3:22), He is good (Psalm 100:5) and is good to all (Psalm 145:9); He takes no pleasure in evil (Psalm 5:4).

Why did testing come to Job?

Why believers undergo prolonged and difficult suffering has no one, simple explanation. But the Bible offers several reasons.

First, testing strengthens our character. James says, the testing of your faith develops perseverance (James 1:2–3). Painful situations produce character the same way regular exercise builds muscle tone.

Peter adds that testing proves our faith is genuine (1 Peter 1:7). When the heat is on, who we actually are, and what we truly believe are revealed. He also suggests that this tested faith gives honor to God. Remaining faithful despite prolonged agony testifies to others how much we value God.

Job notes that testing can get rid of unrefined qualities in our lives (23:10). Much the way a blast furnace brings out impurities in metals, testing removes sinful attitudes in us, and we come forth as gold.

The writer of Hebrews (12:6–8) says that testing proves believers are God’s children. Every wise parent disciplines a child, in love, to help the child develop. When God brings testing, it reminds us that we are his children.

Why did testing come to Job? Job never realized that God allowed it because he was pleased with him: Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him (1:8). There may be no reason behind our testing other than that God is pleased with us. He may want to reveal himself to us and others through such testing.

Is life fair? Is God fair?

In a world where there are drive-by shootings, child abuse, terrorism and other indescribable forms of evil, it is difficult to speak of life being fair. It seems that too often good people go unrewarded, and evil people go unpunished.

Is God fair? Absolutely. The justice of God is a theme that threads itself throughout the Old and New Testaments. At times, God punished evil people moments after they carried out their schemes. Good people were rewarded with prosperity and health. But these occurrences seem to be more the exception than the rule. How can we maintain that God is just in a world so full of injustice?

Justice delayed is still justice. We recognize this in our court systems, where crimes are often punished years after they are committed and medals of honor are awarded decades after a war. God promises that no evil will go unpunished; no good act will go unrewarded. As Solomon said, God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil (Eccl. 12:14). If there is anything we can count on, it’s God’s justice. Waiting for it to come, however, can at times seem unbearable.

Does God answer Job’s charges?

In all that God says in his speeches (Job 38, 39, 40, 41), he makes no reference to Job’s troubles, or even to the reason why Job was suffering. The book of Job deals with the perplexing question of why there is evil and suffering in the world. Some have argued that the presence of evil proves that God cannot be all-powerful and all-loving at the same time. If God is all-loving, they say, then it’s clear he does not have the power to suppress evil. On the other hand, they say, if God is all-powerful and yet allows evil to run rampant, he cannot be all-loving.

In these divine speeches, God demonstrates that he is all-powerful and all-loving, and leaves the paradox unresolved. He never really answers Job’s charges. But neither does God reverse his original assessment that Job is blameless. In the end, God stands by Job and rebukes his friends, leaving their sentence in the hands of the man they had been accusing. Job then prayed for them after they offered the sacrifices God required and God accepted Job’s prayer. God finally gave Job a degree of vindication, but only after he no longer demanded it.

Keep Asking Big Questions

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Want to answer even more questions you have? This tool is included in the NIV Study Pack, a collection of hand-picked study tools assembled to help you study the Word and get closer to the Lord.

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