Why would God allow Satan to harm Job? Is God placing side bets while we battle cancer or lose loved ones? Here are some preliminary thoughts in response to those questions.
Our church continues our series on the book of Job, A Journey With Job: Seeing and Savoring the Beauty of Christ Amid the Long Walk of Suffering. You can listen to the first sermon, “Someone You Need to Meet,” on our church web site.
Any study of the book of Job raises questions about the debate between God and Satan. We wonder, why would God allow Satan to harm Job and his family. I will be speaking to this question more in our next sermon, but let me make some of the points in advance here in this blog post. The idea is that these points are all part of the answer.
So what should we say in response to the question, “Why did God allow Satan to harm Job”?
- The objective of the book of Job is not to teach a comprehensive view of the workings of Satan. Satan – – more literally, “the adversary” — in Job is a minor character. He appears in the first two chapters and is not heard from again. This tips us off from the beginning that Satan’s role is “incidental” in Job. We shouldn’t bring all our questions to Job. Rather, we should listen to those answers it gives. God does not intend for the book of Job to comprehensively explain his dealings with the Satan.
- Satan is only a pawn in God’s sovereign purposes. Just as God allowed Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery in Egypt, God sometimes permits those motivated by hate to inflict temporary harm. But we can be sure that even when God allows harm, ultimately all things work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).
- We do not have the capacity to comprehensively understand why God allowed Satan to harm Job. God’s ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not ours (Psalm 103:11-12). We cannot process all the ways of God. When my children were babies, and Jamie bathed them, they usually screamed loudly because they were temporarily naked and cold. Babies can’t understand their mother’s care. You see the analogy- – the gulf between us and God is infinitely greater than the gulf between a baby and her mother. Loving parents allow temporary pain for reasons that their children do not understand.
- The Cross shows us that we can trust God even though we don’t understand everything. When considering the interaction between God and the Satan in Job, we must understand that this is not anywhere near the most notable instance of God allowing someone to be harmed. The ultimate example of unjust suffering is that God sent his one and only Son – – – to enter into our space and history – – – and to be crucified. The Cross shows us that it is reasonable to trust in God even though we can’t understand terrible pain. As Kelly Clark wrote: “A God who shares in our pain, who redeems our sorrows and our shortcomings, who wipes away ever tear, is surely a good God.”
- We cannot imagine how the pain of this life will be undone by Christ. There are wounds that we face in life that hurt so badly we cannot imagine ever healing. I suffered the first major blow of grief over 40 years ago and it is still hard for me to think about. I can’t imagine how that pain can be healed. And yet, the resurrection shows us that Satan will not have the last word and that pain can be undone for those who know Christ. While God’s people cannot understand the beauty of all that Christ is accomplishing, we can be sure that He is doing immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21).