Day 1

The Setting of the Test

from the Job reading plan

Job 1:1-22, Job 2:1-13, Psalm 22:1-11

BY Lisa Harper

Dealing honestly, wisely, and compassionately with human pain is an integral part of our job description as followers of Jesus Christ. No one gets through this life unscathed. Everyone deals with pain and suffering at some level. If someone insists she hasn’t, she’s either lying, in denial, or has amnesia. And since God’s second most important command is for us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, it behooves us to learn how to better comfort ourselves as well as our neighbors—both those we rub shoulders with daily, and also our global neighbors, who make up the lost and dying world we’re called to care for.

But let’s deal with the proverbial bull in the china shop, which is the fact that what happened to Job wasn’t what we like to think of as “fair.” I mean, goodnight! The very beginning of this Old Testament book describes Job as a really good guy who was doing really good things with his life. The mention of Job rising early to pray for his kids (Job 1:5) is a common Hebrew idiom denoting a conscientious habit, which means praying for his family was something he did consistently.

Reading about this righteous guy losing pretty much everything—his wealth, his health, and all ten of his children—it’s like biting into a warm brownie and breaking your tooth on a rock. This “divine test” is surprisingly unfair. Surely Job didn’t deserve such devastating loss.

In the New Testament, Jesus blows the idea of human deservedness right out of the water. In His Sermon on the Mount, He teaches that God throws fairness out the window to bless even the unrighteous (Matthew 5:43–45). In another place, He explains that bad things do indeed happen to good people (Luke 13:1–5). And in His parable about the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1–16), He thoroughly deconstructs any notion that we can earn God’s blessings.

The bottom line is this: No matter how many Bible studies we’ve done, or meals we’ve served to the homeless, we cannot earn one of those immunity sticks like they do on Survivor. None of us can get “good enough” to shield ourselves and those we love from suffering. Job proves that “good” people, including people of faith, can and do experience horrific things through no particular fault of their own. And if you want to really blow your mental hard drive, reread Job chapter 1, which suggests that while Job’s faith was truly strong, it did not safeguard him from hardship (v.8).

In the economy of God, Job’s suffering was an honor, a privilege. After all, “should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” (2:10). Our Creator and Redeemer handpicked Job for the honorable position of carrying the weight of pain. While God is not the author of evil (Psalm 5:4), He did choose Job with the foreknowledge that he would carry suffering well, because even our pain is a great conduit for God’s glory.

Can you imagine how different our lives could be if we began to view some of our pain and disappointment as a divine privilege? What if we saw a difficult journey as one God handpicked us to take, knowing that He Himself would strengthen us to make the trek, and more importantly, that His glory would be illuminated through our efforts? Changing our perspective on suffering—viewing it as an honor instead of dumb luck or cruelty—could absolutely change the course of our lives and deeply impact the world around us.


Post Comments (264)

264 thoughts on "The Setting of the Test"

  1. Baileigh Stafford says:

    I find myself asking God why he won’t give me the things I want so badly. It is incredible how stepping back from the consistent desire to have what I want so badly and looking at my life is like. I’m so genuinely blessed in this season. It’s so easy to constantly desire more than we need and lose sight of Jesus. This is encouraging to praise God even when I feel like my life is lacking.

  2. Katie Cripps says:

    This study is just what I need when I need something to encourage. I just found out that I have hashimotos disease and have to make some big life style changes. Such a comfort to read that God will use my journey for His glory.

  3. Lauren says:

    My recent suffering doesn’t compare to what Job encountered, but I have been going through a season of suffering. It seems like it’s one thing after another after another that just keeps hitting me the past few weeks. Financial burdens from car repairs and health issues, loss of a family friend, unreliable, unfulfilling romantic relationships, and then just the little, random things that happen that add insult to injury in the midst of a painful time. I’ve been far from God for a long time now, but even when I’m trying to reject God, I never stop feeling his presence and his conviction. This time has been stressful and has been triggering my depression and anxiety to an almost debilitating point, but I’m being drawn closer to God now rather than farther away, and I love the Job’s example of how to praise through the suffering and pain. This morning as I was driving to work, instead of thinking, “It really sucks that I’m having to pour so much money into my car right now”, I thought, “I’m so grateful to have a car that works and gets me to work everyday. I’m grateful to have a job that helps me pay my bills.” Praying for continued gratefulness and peace instead of resentment, anger, and stress.

  4. Erin Packard says:

    I am praying through this study and desperately needing God to restore my faith and passion and push through my frustration, hurt, and resentment. My husband is suffering from OCD – it’s been 2 years and it’s taken almost that to just find someone to treat him with the right therapy and medication (a doctor, psychiatrist, 4 therapists) – our mental health options for society are absolutely awful. Anyhow, we are finally in the right therapy and have started the right medication – but I feel so done all of the time and he feels so betrayed by God and wonders how God could ever allow this? It’s so hard for me to see my strong and incredible Godly husband like this… needless to say, we both need this reminder. And I pray it reaffirms and gives love and life back into our lives.

  5. Elaine Jones says:

    I am just stumbling across this Bible study series as my life is falling apart. My husband left and filed for a divorce in January and in March I was diagnosed with Lupus. I am struggling to understand why He won’t restore my marriage and why He allowed me to have an illness that is so rarely understood and yet so devastating. Reading the words that what if I counted this as an honor was impactful and will be empowering if I allow it to be. Right now I am in the anger phase of grieving and can’t imagine this is am honor. Time heals . I pray I can find joy in this time of deep hurt and rejection.

    1. Nicole Vandekamp says:

      I’m so sorry to hear your life is falling apart and that the man who you promised to be by your side in sickness and in health has abandoned you and gave up on your marriage.

    2. Nicole Vandekamp says:

      Hi Elaine – I am so sorry to read that your life is falling apart. That the man who promised to be by your side in sickness and in health has abandoned you. Gave up on you and your marriage. I pray that you feel God’s spirit near you. I’m sorry this is all happening to you. IT IS NOT EASY. Don’t give up on reaching out to God and asking him these questions. I don’t know why he is allowing this to happen but I pray that you feel joy. Even if it’s a song on the radio that speaks to your soul. I will keep you in my prayers too. Suffering is difficult. I pray that you have people around you like Job did who will come to your side and be ther for you physically. Hugs to you

  6. Lynsey Cyrus says:

    Such a great reminder and great kick off to the first part of this series

    1. Katy S says:


    2. Katy S says:

      Agreed! Have you enjoyed the rest of the study?

  7. Sarah Kwon says:

    Thankful for this study. There aren’t words to describe the pain and fear my family and I are going through.. We have no idea what will happen but we place our trust in Him.. Even if it’s a tiny mustard seed of faith.

  8. Tara Dunn says:

    I really feel as though God gives us the lessons we need at the time we need, I’ve been feeling really confused lately as my friends. who used to identify as Christians now identify as Atheists, constantly bash God or argue about him to me. One of the most common things from them is “How could (a) God exist when there is so many bad things in the world?”

    We just need to accept that there is bad to the good.

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