On my trek through the Bible, I'm in the book of Job once again. Most evangelicals feel that the message of Job is simply that there are unseen issues happening in heaven so we can not understand suffering. However, we have a lot of chapters in Job (41) for that simple message. That's right, people who wrestle with the idea of suffering know nothing. The thinking is that all these orators and thinkers in the book of Job got it wrong and God has it right. Could we not have done as well by a poignant proverb in the book of Proverbs if that is the long and short of it?
"Suffering is not understandable; quit trying to figure it out unless someone mistakenly think that you communicate with the transcendent one and understand the meaning of your life." III Evangel-Christian Chapter1, Verse 13
A part of our evangelical philosophy of life is mistaken by thinking that things like beauty, meaning, and righteousness are somehow less true than things that are provable via math or repeatable observation. It is a part of the curse of our modern existence. Post-modernism doesn't help either.
Job is considered by many to be the oldest book in the Bible. That's right, older than the books of Moses. However, some of the themes sound as if an anxious existential writer wanted us to question meaning, purpose and righteousness. Issues like the problem of evil are handled right there in that oldest book of the Bible. (See Job 21) Sounds sort of like God had a preemptive string on our false teaching to me. I'm sure some with think I am arrogant to think that little old me could understand suffering in my life, but I don't approach it that I get it, but that God give it to that understanding to the high and low alike. Instead of thinking each of these wise guys got it wrong, I tend to think that they got one aspect of it right, but not a complete story. When Zophar says that the wicked suffer, Job 20, he is correct too. Both Job and Zophar correct, but it is often difficult to reconcile the two truths.
Something else that I have thought about, if all the wise guys in Job are wrong, why does 1 Corinthians 3:19 quote Job 5:13 in a complementary way. Elephaz in this passage seems to say that those who are crafty are caught by God by their own designs. Elephaz seems to be affirmed by Paul. If he is all so wrong, why does Paul affirm him.
Some words about what I am not saying. I'm not saying if your read Job you will understand completely the meaning of your suffering; I'm am saying that you have a companion who has wrestled with the same issues. I'm not saying that the book of Job attempts to sum up everything nice and neat; instead I'm saying the evangelical readers who over summarize the book miss its benefits. I'm not saying that every opinion in the book is correct since God does dish out some rebukes toward the end of the book; but I am saying the complexity of life and suffering are dealt with in a realistic manner that honors those who suffer.