Job—A Man of Endurance and Integrity
“Have you set your heart upon my servant Job, that there is no one like him in the earth, a man blameless and upright, fearing God and turning aside from bad?”—JOB 1:8.
1, 2. (a) What unexpected tragedies did Job experience? (b) Describe Job’s life before the tragedies struck.
THERE was a man who seemed to have everything—wealth, prestige, good health, and a happy family life. Then tragedy struck three times in quick succession. Overnight, he lost his wealth. Next, a freak storm took the lives of all his children. Soon thereafter, he contracted a debilitating disease that left his whole body covered with painful boils. You probably recognize that the man was Job, a key figure in the Bible book bearing his name.—Job, chapters 1 and 2.
2 “O that I were as in the lunar months of long ago,” he groaned. (Job 3:3; 29:2) When calamity strikes, who does not long for the former days? In Job’s case, he had lived a good life, seemingly sheltered from misfortune. Prominent people respected him and sought his counsel. (Job 29:5-11) He was wealthy, but he kept money in its proper place. (Job 31:24, 25, 28) When he encountered widows or orphans in need, he helped them. (Job 29:12-16) And he remained faithful to his wife.—Job 31:1, 9, 11.
3. How did Jehovah view Job?
3 Job led a blameless life because he worshipped God. “There is no one like him in the earth,” Jehovah said, “a man blameless and upright, fearing God and turning aside from bad.” (Job 1:1, 8) But despite Job’s moral integrity, tragedies ripped apart his comfortable lifestyle. All he had worked for disappeared, and his true mettle was tested by pain, anguish, and frustration.
4. Why will it be helpful to consider Job’s ordeal?
4 Of course, Job is by no means the only servant of God to have suffered a personal catastrophe. Many Christians today can easily relate to his experience. For this reason, two questions are well worth considering: How can remembering Job’s ordeal help us when we face tragedy? And how can it teach us to be more empathetic toward others who suffer?
An Issue of Loyalty and a Test of Integrity
5. According to Satan, why was Job serving God?
5 Job’s case was exceptional. Unbeknownst to Job, the Devil had questioned Job’s motives for serving God. When during a heavenly gathering Jehovah drew attention to Job’s fine qualities, Satan replied: “Have not you yourself put up a hedge about him and about his house and about everything that he has all around?” Satan thus claimed that selfishness motivated Job—and by inference all other servants of God. “Thrust out your hand, please, and touch everything he has and see whether he will not curse you to your very face,” Satan said to Jehovah.—Job 1:8-11.
6. What important issue did Satan raise?
6 The issue was an important one. Satan challenged the way Jehovah exercises his sovereignty. Is it really possible for God to rule the universe by love? Or, as Satan implied, will selfishness always triumph in the end? Jehovah allowed the Devil to involve Job as a test case, confident in the integrity and loyalty of His servant. Thus, Satan himself brought on the calamities that befell Job in rapid succession. When Satan failed in his initial attacks, he afflicted Job with a painful disease. “Skin in behalf of skin, and everything that a man has he will give in behalf of his soul,” the Devil alleged.—Job 2:4.
7. In what ways are God’s servants today subject to trials similar to those of Job?
7 While most Christians today do not suffer to the extent that Job did, tribulations of different kinds do afflict them. Many face persecution or family problems. Economic hardship or ill health can be devastating. Some have sacrificed their lives for their faith. Of course, we must not assume that Satan personally causes each tragedy that we suffer. Actually, some problems could even be caused by our own mistakes or by an inherited physical condition. (Galatians 6:7) And all of us are subject to the ravages of old age and natural disasters. The Bible makes clear that at the present time, Jehovah does not miraculously shield his servants from these afflictions.—Ecclesiastes 9:11.
8. How may Satan seek to use the tribulations we suffer?
8 Nevertheless, Satan may use the tribulations we suffer to undermine our faith. The apostle Paul mentioned being afflicted by “a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan,” that kept “slapping” him. (2 Corinthians 12:7) Whether this was a physical problem, such as poor eyesight, or something else, Paul understood that Satan could use the problem and resulting frustration to sap Paul of his joy and integrity. (Proverbs 24:10) Today, Satan may incite family members, schoolmates, or even dictatorial governments to persecute God’s servants in some way.
9. Why should adversity or persecution not unduly surprise us?
9 How can we face these problems successfully? By viewing them as an opportunity to demonstrate that our love for Jehovah and our submission to his sovereignty are not fickle. (James 1:2-4) Whatever the cause of our distress, understanding the importance of loyalty to God will help us to maintain our spiritual balance. The apostle Peter wrote to Christians: “Beloved ones, do not be puzzled at the burning among you, which is happening to you for a trial, as though a strange thing were befalling you.” (1 Peter 4:12) And Paul explained: “All those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12) Satan still challenges the integrity of the Witnesses of Jehovah, as he did in the case of Job. In fact, the Bible indicates that Satan has increased his attacks on God’s people during these last days.—Revelation 12:9, 17.
A Misunderstanding and Some Bad Advice
10. What disadvantage did Job suffer?
10 Job suffered a disadvantage, one that we need not experience. He did not know why these calamities had come upon him. Job mistakenly concluded that in some way “Jehovah himself [had] given, and Jehovah himself [had] taken away.” (Job 1:21) Possibly, Satan deliberately sought to give Job the impression that it was God who had caused his affliction.
11. Explain Job’s reaction to his calamities.
11 Job became profoundly discouraged, although he refused to curse God, as his wife urged him to do. (Job 2:9, 10) ‘The wicked seem to fare much better than I do,’ he said. (Job 21:7-9) ‘Why is God punishing me?’ he must have wondered. There were times when he just wanted to die. “O that in Sheol you would conceal me, that you would keep me secret until your anger turns back!” he exclaimed.—Job 14:13.
12, 13. How did the comments of Job’s three companions affect him?
12 Job had three companions who visited him, as if to “sympathize with him and comfort him.” (Job 2:11) Nevertheless, they proved to be “troublesome comforters.” (Job 16:2) Job might have benefited from friends to whom he could unburden himself about his problems, but these three added to Job’s confusion and intensified his feelings of frustration.—Job 19:2; 26:2.
13 Understandably, Job might have asked himself: ‘Why me? What have I done to deserve all this calamity?’ His companions offered explanations that were totally misleading. They assumed that Job had brought his suffering upon himself by committing some serious sin. “Who that is innocent has ever perished?” asked Eliphaz. “According to what I have seen, those devising what is hurtful and those sowing trouble will themselves reap it.”—Job 4:7, 8.
14. Why should we not automatically equate suffering with improper conduct?
14 Granted, problems may arise if we sow according to the flesh rather than the spirit. (Galatians 6:7, 8) Yet, in this present system, trouble can arise regardless of our conduct. Furthermore, in no way can it be said that the innocent are spared all calamity. Jesus Christ, who was “undefiled, separated from the sinners,” suffered a painful death on a torture stake, and the apostle James suffered a martyr’s death. (Hebrews 7:26; Acts 12:1, 2) The faulty reasoning of Eliphaz and his two companions moved Job to defend his good name and insist on his innocence. Still, their stubborn allegations that Job’s suffering was deserved may have influenced his view of God’s justice.—Job 34:5; 35:2.
Finding Help When Faced With Tribulation
15. What reasoning will help us in the face of suffering?
15 Is there a lesson here for us? Tragedies, illness, or persecution may seem so unfair. Other people appear to escape many of such problems. (Psalm 73:3-12) At times, we may have to ask ourselves these fundamental questions: ‘Does my love for God move me to serve him come what may? Do I long to give Jehovah “a reply to the one who is taunting Him?”’ (Proverbs 27:11; Matthew 22:37) We must never allow the thoughtless comments of others to make us doubt our heavenly Father. One faithful Christian who suffered from a chronic illness for many years once said: “I know that whatever Jehovah permits, it will be all right. I know he will give me the needed strength. He always has.”
16. How does God’s Word provide help to those facing hardships?
16 With regard to Satan’s tactics, we have an understanding that Job did not have. “We are not ignorant of his designs,” or evil schemes. (2 Corinthians 2:11) Furthermore, we have a wealth of practical wisdom on which to draw. In the Bible, we find accounts of faithful men and women who endured all manner of hardships. The apostle Paul, who suffered more than most, wrote: “All the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) One Witness in Europe who was imprisoned for his faith during the second world war exchanged three days’ rations for a Bible. “How rewarding that exchange proved to be!” he says. “Despite my physical hunger, I received the spiritual food that helped sustain me as well as others in our trials during those troublous times. I have kept that Bible to this day.”
17. What divine provisions can help us to endure?
17 Besides the comfort from the Scriptures, we have many Bible study aids that offer sound guidance for coping with problems. If you consult the Watch Tower Publications Index, you will likely find an experience of a fellow Christian who has had a trial similar to your own. (1 Peter 5:9) It may also be helpful to discuss your circumstances with understanding elders or other mature Christians. Above all, through prayer, you can count on help from Jehovah and his holy spirit. How did Paul resist the ‘slaps’ of Satan? By learning to rely on the power of God. (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10) “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me,” he wrote.—Philippians 4:13.
18. How can fellow Christians offer invaluable encouragement?
18 So help is available, and you should never hesitate to seek it. “Have you shown yourself discouraged in the day of distress? Your power will be scanty,” the proverb notes. (Proverbs 24:10) Just as termites can cause a wooden house to topple, discouragement can undermine a Christian’s integrity. To counteract this danger, Jehovah provides us with support through our fellow servants of God. An angel appeared to Jesus and strengthened him on the night he was arrested. (Luke 22:43) While journeying toward Rome as a prisoner, Paul “thanked God and took courage” when he met the brothers at the Marketplace of Appius and Three Taverns. (Acts 28:15) A German Witness still remembers the help she received upon her arrival at Ravensbrück concentration camp as an apprehensive teenager. “A fellow Christian found me right away and gave me a hearty welcome,” she recalls. “Another faithful sister took me under her wing, and she became like a spiritual mother to me.”
“Prove Yourself Faithful”
19. What helped Job to resist Satan’s efforts?
19 Jehovah described Job as a man who was “holding fast his integrity.” (Job 2:3) Despite feeling discouraged and not understanding why he suffered, Job never wavered on the vital issue of loyalty. Job refused to deny everything for which he had lived. He insisted: “Until I expire I shall not take away my integrity from myself!”—Job 27:5.
20. Why is endurance worthwhile?
20 Similar determination will help us to maintain our integrity under any circumstances—in the face of temptations, opposition, or adversity. “Do not be afraid of the things you are about to suffer,” Jesus told the congregation in Smyrna. “Look! The Devil will keep on throwing some of you into prison that you may be fully put to the test, and that you may have tribulation [trouble, distress, or oppression] ten days. Prove yourself faithful even to death, and I will give you the crown of life.”—Revelation 2:10.
21, 22. When enduring tribulation, we can be comforted by what knowledge?
21 In this system ruled by Satan, our endurance and integrity will be put to the test. Nevertheless, Jesus assures us that as we look to the future, we have no reason to fear. The important thing is to prove ourselves faithful. “The tribulation is momentary,” said Paul, whereas the “glory,” or reward that Jehovah promises us, “is of more and more surpassing weight and is everlasting.” (2 Corinthians 4:17, 18) Even Job’s tribulation was momentary when compared with the many happy years he enjoyed before and after his trial.—Job 42:16.
22 Still, there may be moments in our lives when our trials seem unending and our suffering seems almost unbearable. In the following article, we will consider how Job’s experience can teach us additional lessons in endurance. We will also look at ways in which we can strengthen others who face adversity.
How Would You Answer?
• What fundamental issue did Satan raise concerning Job’s integrity?
• Why should adversity not unduly surprise us?
• How does Jehovah help us to endure?
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Doing research, talking with mature Christians, and pouring out our heart in prayer can help us to endure