Text: Job 1:1-22, 1 Peter 2:21-25, 1 Peter 3:18
Every Missouri farm girl like me knows what a cocklebur is, but since not every woman is a muck boots-wearin’, four-wheeler-ridin’ farmer, here’s a country girl crash course. Cockleburs are tiny, spiky black thistles that fuse themselves to you when you walk through the woods. They stick to your socks and boots, your pants and shirt, your dog and your children. Though not nearly as tasty, they work like nature’s taffy. The more you try to pull free of them, the more stuck you become.
It’s enough to make even the hillbilliest farm girl dream of life in the cocklebur-free big city.
But those little, spiky shells house a seed. The barbs cling to passersby and are spread far and wide. Sure, they inflict some minor “suffering” on their host, but it is not suffering without purpose. It is an ingenious method of perpetuating life.
My aversion to cockleburs is almost as strong as my aversion to the book of Job. It never gets easier to read. Here’s Job’s glowing resume:
“[Job] was a man of perfect integrity, who feared God and turned away from evil… Job was the greatest man among all the people of the east.”
- Job 1:1,3
If a good man is hard to find, Job was that anomaly. He deserved an award. Instead, he lost his children, his fortune, and his health—he lost everything. Not just a suffering servant, Job seems to be a senselessly suffering servant.
If someone like Job is going to endure so much, I want it to be a means to an end. The phrase “everything happens for a reason” is born out of our desperation to look into Job-like suffering and see purpose. We all want our suffering to mean something. We want other people’s suffering to mean something, too. It’s why we offer hollow platitudes in hospital rooms and funeral homes. We are all like Job’s friends, so desperate to find purpose in pain that we sometimes say stupid things.
I want Job’s story to end with the creation of an organization or foundation that changed the world. I want to read that millions of people came to worship Job’s God for the first time because he suffered so well. But Job’s story doesn’t give us the happy ending we crave. Sure, the things he lost were restored, but we are left to wonder whether his suffering accomplished a higher purpose. The cockleburs that stuck to Job don’t deliver the meaning I want them to.
But Jesus is the true and better Job.
Jesus suffered more than I can wrap my human mind around. He was beaten, bloodied, humiliated, scorned, crucified, and killed (Matthew 27:27-31). Yes, Job was a righteous man, but he was ultimately a sinner, incapable of keeping God’s holy standards. Not Jesus. He never sinned, not once. And yet, He suffered unimaginably. Jesus’ sinlessness makes His suffering unbearable unless we look past the Cross to what it accomplished:
“For Christ also suffered for sins once for all,
the righteous for the unrighteous,
that He might bring you to God,
after being put to death in the fleshly realm
but made alive in the spiritual realm.”
- 1 Peter 3:18
Job’s suffering was an answer to the Enemy’s accusation. Jesus suffered to silence the Accuser forever (Job 1:9-11, 1 Corinthians 15:55). Job was wounded, seemingly to no higher end. Jesus was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our sins (Isaiah 53:5). The book of Job ends without an explanation for His suffering. Jesus’ life ended to fix creation’s biggest problem: sin.
Infinitely more miraculous than a forest full of cockleburs, Christ’s work on the cross carried salvation across all time and for all who would repent and believe. Jesus’ suffering gave us life. His pain made a way for the redemptive ending I am so desperate for.
Jesus was a suffering servant, but not a servant who suffered senselessly. His unimaginable suffering was for our immeasurable relief. Thanks you, Jesus.
Erin Davis is a popular author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.