Job is known for basically three things, his ability to suffer well, his integrity, and his testimony of his Savior. I suppose you could also throw in there his immense wealth, but part of the point of the story of Job is that wealth is temporary, and cannot be relied upon for anything of lasting worth.
Probably the most quoted verse from this book comes from his testimony of the resurrection where he states (Job 19:26),
And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
Job had Integrity
There are many parts to this lesson, but it seems to me that all of them circle around one thing, Job’s personal integrity. By definition, integrity has everything to do with our degree of personal honesty. The alternate definitions stress wholeness and soundness, comparing the integrity of something to how complete and solid, how lastingly it was built. The integrity of a structure, or a floor’s integrity refer to how well put together it is, and implies that it will hold up under stress and stand the test of time. It is interesting that to describe that same soundness in a human the word honesty is used.
We become honest and develop integrity when we no longer allow ourselves to be swayed or moved by excuses. We draw personal lines or boundaries that we refuse to cross. These lines can include such things as never blaming someone else for a personal misfortune, making sure that full value is given for money received, never allowing ourselves to be put into a compromising situation where we might fall into temptation, and so forth. These are personal decisions that we make for ourselves then accept the consequences of living with those personal choices. Shakespeare understood the power of integrity and honesty when he said,
This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. (Hamlet Act 1, scene 3)
That is a truly powerful statement, and one which applies fully to the suffering of Job. We’ll talk about that in a moment. Integrity is what makes a person unable to be bought or sold, unable to be corrupted. To the wicked, this makes them truly dangerous to deal with. They don’t understand such power, and they know that someone of that personal purity is a danger to them, precisely because they cannot be trapped by corruption, which is what the wicked use to control other people.
Satan went to God, and in the conversation that ensued God asked Satan what he thought about this “perfect” man, named Job. Satan, not understanding a man of Job’s integrity, told God that of course Job was obedient to all the commandments and was righteous, look at how greatly he had been blessed. But if God allowed him (Satan) to strip these rewards from Job then Job would curse God and die. The Lord gave Satan permission to try out his hypothesis, with the condition that he not touch Job personally. In one day all of Job’s earthly possessions and all of his family were wiped out, leaving Job alone and penniless. Job, understanding that all he had was a blessing from God anyway, and not of his own doing, worshiped God, and sinned not.
Satan went back to God and said that every man would sell his own soul rather than lose his own life. He wanted permission to make Job so sick that he would curse God and wish to die. The Lord knew the purity of Job’s heart and gave Satan permission to try to make it happen. Satan covered Job in boils from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. If you want to see something truly gross, go look up what a boil looks like and read a description of how painful and itchy a boil can be. Now imagine having them covering your whole body. The stench from the oozing pus is revolting. The incessant itching is why he took a piece of broken pottery to scratch himself with. He suffered nightmares as well. Life was not good. To top it all off, he became a social outcast.
Everyone avoided him, except three of his friends who came to “comfort” him. Actually, they assumed he had committed some great evil, believing that punishments such as this only came because of evil deeds. So they spend chapter after chapter challenging Job with evils he must have committed to have deserved such punishment from God. Job spent chapter after chapter defending himself, because he knew he had not committed any sin.
The Purpose of Suffering
The purpose of earth life is to teach us the qualities and character traits that will make us more god-like. It is a fact that to learn those qualities and develop those character traits requires us to suffer, for it is only through suffering that they can be learned and acquired. When we understand the purpose of trials and suffering, we no longer feel picked upon or singled out when trials come our way. We look at them as teaching opportunities to become more Christ-like. For it is only in the fires of suffering that we learn patience, long suffering, forgiveness, and charity. It is all bound up in the laws of opposition in all things. We cannot experience the one without the other.
Look at how Job handled his suffering. One by one his friends would accuse him of some sin, and Job would have to look within himself to see if he was truly guilty of such a sin. When he knew that he was innocent of that sin he could answer them with clarity and confidence because he knew he had committed no wrong. Even though the Lord was not answering his prayers at the moment, and the heavens may have seemed sealed against him, Job remembered God’s blessings to him. Job remembered the blessings and spiritual witnesses of the past. He used these memories, these witnesses already received, to hold up during this current trial. Job was so confident in his own faithfulness to the Lord that no threat to his own life, no deprivation of comfort could convince him to curse the God he loved and worshiped.
This is the inner strength that Shakespeare refers to in his quote from Hamlet. When we are true to ourselves, when we no longer allow ourselves to lie to ourselves or accept excuses about our own behavior, when we hold ourselves accountable before God in all our behavior, and we know that He is the source for all our blessings, then, and only then, are we able to be true to those around us, because we are now able to be true and faithful to ourselves. We cannot be truly honest with someone else until we can be truly honest with ourselves.
I apologize for not pulling out individual scriptures and talking through them in this lesson. I think the core of this lesson lies in Job’s personal integrity, his personal purity and honesty. This was a man who was sound and complete in his construction, in every sense of the word. He understood God’s goodness, his own reliance on God’s good grace, and to him, though he did not understand why he was being made to suffer like this, after all his obedience, he was willing to submit with patience and gratitude in his heart for what he had received from God in the past. God was applying stress and pressure, but Job’s soul was sound and strong. His personal honesty and integrity helped him hold up until he came off the victor and the Lord blessed him twice over for having passed the test.
In this life, sooner or later, we will all be made to suffer in some way like Job. We won’t be made to suffer as much as Job, but we will be made to suffer as much as we are able. The Lord will test us. He will put us into the fire to see if we have built a soul of honesty and humility. We will have to prove to ourselves that we will be faithful to Him, of our own free will and choice, no matter what comes our way. To those who pass this (these) test(s), will come the greatest of the blessings of eternity. It is not a matter of IF, it is a matter of WHEN. So ask yourself each day, “What can I do today to prove myself faithful to the covenants I have made? What can I do to please my God, my Father, today?”