Part two of my final paper for Dr. Feinberg’s “Problem of Evil” class was a short paper on how to give pastoral counsel Job in the midst of his affliction. This prompt forces us to deal with the religious problem of evil rather than the intellectual problem. Any problem of evil will require some intellectual answers, but the religious problem is less about questioning God’s existence and more about the question “how can God be allowing this to happen to me?” Here’s how I would counsel Job. Enjoy!
As Job’s pastor, I am here to help him through his unimaginable trials. He has lost everything but his life, and at this point he is not so sure that life is even worth living- in fact he has even wished that he had never been born. But I am in a unique position to give counsel, for I have information that he is not privy to. I have read the complete story from beginning to end and am able to reveal the end of his trials and the reason for his trials. As I find myself in this unique position, I have a choice to make, do I tell him or do I withhold this information from him? Which option will be best for Job? I have decided that it would be best for Job to know the reason for his trails in order to encourage him in his faith.
In counseling Job I have chosen to reveal to him the contents of chapters 1 and 2. In doing so, I would explain that what is happening to him is the result of Satan and not of God, i.e., that God is not inflicting Job with evil but that Satan is. I would remind Job of God’s goodness and that although God has allowed Satan to afflict Job with all sorts of egregious evils, ultimately God is allowing it according to His good plan. Now Job might not be comforted by the parsing of God’s action vs. His permission. Job might say that if God is permitting this evil, then it is as if God Himself were performing it. However, the clarification is to help Job intellectually understand that God does not do evil, nor does He tempt people with evil- though He does allow Satan to do so. But so what? Why should Job care?
Well, in distinguishing between God’s permission vs. His actions, I can explain that God is allowing Satan to bring evil on Job in order to use Satan’s evil to bring about good. The good that God is bringing about through Satan’s evil includes shaming Satan, who has been accusing Job in Heaven. Though God is glorified through Job’s love and faith, Satan has sought to tarnish that glory by accusing Job of being a fair weather fan. Satan claimed that it is easy for Job to honor God since God has given him a nice, squishy, comfortable life. Satan goes on to say that if God were to remove His blessings then Job would curse God to His face. I would explain to Job that through his endurance in the midst of the evil, which is allowed by God but brought on and carried out by Satan, he is actually pouring scorn and shame on Satan’s head. By enduring hardships and persevering in the face of all these calamities, he is magnifying God’s glory and proving Satan wrong. By refusing to curse God even in the worst evil imaginable, Job spits in the Devil’s face and brings more glory and honor to God than he had in all his previous years combined.
In helping Job answer this intellectual question of why this evil is happening to him, I think Job will be encouraged knowing that he can glorify God in the midst of evil and at the same time metaphorically put his thumb in Satan’s eye, especially once he knows that it is Satan who started and is carrying out the evil against him.
In providing pastoral care for Job I would invite him over for dinner. I would give him a place to stay. And I would help him with his sores and physical ailments. I would tell him that I am here for him in, to help him suffer well for God’s glory and that, although I cannot imagine what it must feel like to go through this trial from a first person perspective, I am here for whatever he needs. I would cry with him and lament for all of his losses. When necessary I would point him back to God’s goodness and love and I would continually remind him that his endurance is producing character in him and that every second that he withstands the onslaught of evil, is another thumb in Satan’s eye.
As I reflect on the whole book of Job, I see that God had multiple reasons for allowing Satan to bring evil on Job. The main reason I see is that in Job refusing to curse God in the midst of evil, Satan is ridiculed and proven wrong. God’s glory is displayed in Job’s endurance. But another reason is for the sake of Job’s knowledge of God. Though he formerly had heard of God and worshipped Him, now Job has a deeper understanding of who God is, which is an invaluable lesson. Job also ends up with a double blessing at the end of the book, although this pales in comparison to God’s self-revelation. And finally, a deeper purpose for God’s allowing Satan to bring evil on Job is the good of God’s people. Everyone who has ever read the book of Job and wrestled with this account has been blessed by a deeper revelation of the God of the universe! We have this account now, we get to wrestle with it, we get to write papers on it, we get to meditate on God’s attributes as they are revealed in this book. So God, in allowing Satan to bring evil on Job, brought about an untold number of goods from it. If I were allowed to share this with Job, I think his faith would be bolstered even more.