Christian Reflection and Response
The story of Job captures our attention as readers of the Bible because we relate well to his sufferings. Although our suffering may not resemble the intensity of Job’s story, we still have to reflect and respond to the suffering we experience. Our response is critical to suffering because of the high possibility of the rejection of God. The danger of responding wrongly to God allowing suffering would look like Wiesel. In the Night Trilogy, he speaks of his now disconnected, exiled relationship with God.
“I was the accuser,” Wiesel recounts, “God the accused. My eyes had opened and I was alone, terribly alone in a world without God, without man. Without love or mercy, I was nothing but ashes now, but I felt myself to be stronger than this Almighty to whom my life had been bound for so long. In the midst of these men assembled for prayer, I felt like an observer, a stranger.”
Wiesel saw suffering to possibly the greatest extent the world has ever seen and declared that since God was unresponsive to so many cries for help that God must not exist.
Unlike Wiesel’s response, Christians can respond appropriately in the midst of suffering. The Christian response recognizes that “all his suffering comes through the infinite love of God.” The following observes Thomas Aquinas’ understanding of Job and suffering as it creates happiness. Next are Christians response to suffering, including joy, worship, prayer, trust, and eschatological hope.
Aquinas correctly points out that we go through sufferings because the world to come, the eschaton, is greater. Christians are more likely to suffer than non-Christians. “If there is no resurrection of the dead,” Aquinas notes, “it follows that there is no good for human being other than in this life. And if this is the case, then those people are more miserable who suffer many evil and tribulations in this life. Therefore, since the apostles and Christian suffer more tribulations, it follows that they, who enjoy less of the goods of this world, would be more miserable than other people.” For Thomas Aquinas, the fact that a Christian suffers proves that he belongs to God and is being used by God. He uses the analogy of a commander in an army the places his best soldiers on the front line, in the immediate effects of the greatest suffering. If a follower of God is undergoes a time of suffering, they can consider that God is at work in their life.
The Christian response to suffering is an essential application of the book of Job. Even though suffering is not something we perceive with excited anticipation, we can still retain joy because the Lord is a purpose in such events. We can maintain worship in suffering when we recognize the ultimate source. We can learn to trust God more greatly since He gives suffering purpose. When we suffer our prayers are enriched and suffering brings about clarity in our eschatological Hope
Even though Joy is the farthest thing from our mind in suffering, the notion of God placing us in harms way should bring joy to our lives. This sentiment is not expressed by Job directly, but the nature of joy in sufferings is thematic in the book. This is a repeated theme in the New Testament where James writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).” Suffering makes joy possible because they see the ultimate end as a necessity in the Christian life. Thomas Aquinas prompts these thoughts in his readers saying “Christianity does not call people to a life of self denying wretchedness but to a life of joy, even in the midst of pain and trouble. Without joy, no progress is possible in the Christian life.”
Initially, Job responded to his sufferings in worship and proper recognition of his place. After losing his wealth, sons, and daughters, Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised (1:21).” Job worshiped God because he recognizes his sovereignty amidst suffering. He understands the benefit of God allowing suffering. Aquinas notes, “For in his reason a person rejoices over the taking of bitter medicine because of the hope of health, even though in his senses he is troubles.”
Also, since our worship is prompted, our view of Christ is greater in this respect and our worship for the Lord evolves and matures. Only Christ alone took on the suffering of the world. “All the ‘meanings’ of suffering converge on Christ, His sufferings were penal, a bearing of the death penalty for sin…That the Lord Himself has embraced and absorbed the undeserved consequences of all evil is the final answer to Job and to all the Jobs of humanity.” In a sense, our sufferings are a participation in the sufferings of Christ and serves as a reminder of what Jesus did so that our sins can be forgiven.
Suffering can create uncertainty as to God’s work in our lives. We wonder if God cares for our well being and even more so if God exists. The philosophical notion that God simply wants positive occurrences in the life of his people promotes these conclusions. However, The Christian who experiences suffering allowed by God cultivates trust in Him. Dwight Pentecost says,
“The God who was exalted and powerful because a personal reality in his experience, and he know [sic] that he had been sustained by the arm of God, that he could lean back upon the shoulder of God, and that he could then feel the heartbeat of the love of God…. Job’s knowledge was theoretical until God took everything away and stripped him of all that he possessed. Then he learned the sufficiency of God Himself.
Trusting from suffering helps the believer to submit to the Lord’s will in both good and bad times. Many wrongly perceive suffering; Tournier rightly notes, “When God is seen to be treating them well, they have no difficulty in serving Him; but when things go wrong, many go so far as to deny their faith because God is apparently inconsistent.” The book of Job teaches us that the proper response to God while suffering is to trust Him even though we do not understand.
The Christian life is vitally dependent upon a life of prayer. Paul writes, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  Suffering circumstances tend to derail ones prayer life, but Christians are to pray continually regardless. Job does this in his circumstances as he seeks for a reason why the suffering was happening. It is important to remember that prayer should not be for deliverance from suffering but perseverance through the pain and suffering with confidence. The Lord’s prayer in Matthew encourages believers to pray for God’s coming Kingdom, submission of God’s will, deliverance of life needs, confession of sin and God’s sovereignty in times of suffering and angst. Essentially, prayer in view of suffering is for “endurance amidst suffering and for victory over sin.”
In light of our present sufferings and the likes of Job, we can only hope in the coming Kingdom and an end to all suffering. The human rational is corrupt. Job’s experiences scream for a paradigm shift. “Men seek an explanation of suffering in cause and effect. They look backwards for connection between prior sin and present suffering. The Bible looks forwards in hope and seeks explanations, not so much in origins as in goals.” We wait for the day when Christ rids our existence of sin and suffering. It is because of His suffering on the cross that we will experience new life without suffering.
This study has revealed that the subject of suffering is vital to the Christian community. Suffering is a part of life; to live is to suffer. Our Christian community is ultimately unaware as to how to live with suffering and maintain a vibrant relationship with God. Typically, our outlook is like those of Job’s friends who misunderstand suffering as applied to God’s people. The story of Job is a philosophical remedy as to a theology of suffering. Job lost his fortune, family, and health but maintained trust, worship, prayer, and hope in God. Our response to suffering should be much like Thomas Aquinas who believes that suffering brings about happiness since it is a sign that God is using you. Ultimately, suffering will permeate every person, both friends and family, but we must encourage all to continue to trust in God
 Slocum, “The Biblical Teaching on Human Suffering”,85.
 Stump, “The Evidential Argument from Evil”, 60.
 Francis I. Andersen, “The Problems of Suffering in the Book of Job,” in Sitting with Job: Selected Studies on the Book of Job, ed. Roy B. Zuck (Grand Rapids: Baker Books House, 1992), 188.
 Dwight Pentecost quoted in Michel L. Dodds, “A Believer’s Response to Suffering” (master’s thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1982), 67.
 Touriner quoted from Ibid., 81.
 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. See also, Ephesians 6:18-20; James 5:16; 1 Peter 4:7
 Dodds, “A Believer’s Response to Suffering”, 47.
 Andersen, “The Problems of Suffering”, 185.