Once Job and the Lord come to a mutual understanding about Job’s place in the world, and God’s deep love for all of God’s creation, then the things that Job lost are restored. Suffering thrives in isolation. The first thing God demands of Job is to offer a prayer on behalf of his friends who had steered him wrong throughout the entire book. He must shift focus off of himself and turn his attention to the people who, though misguided, had tried to help him throughout. Next, his brothers and sisters who had abandoned him return with companionship, food, and money. He is restored, not simply because God lifts his suffering, but because his isolation comes to an end, and his life is once again surrounded by people who love him. Only then is Job given back his animals and many sons and daughters. His new life is made joyful because he is able to see beauty in his relationships and in God’s creation. He accepts and enjoys the things he has with a renewed sense of awe and purpose.
I reject the notion that God causes suffering to make us learn. On the flip side, I believe we can learn and grow from suffering. Like Job, our suffering can bring us to a place where we have a renewed sense of awe and appreciation for God and God’s creation. As a parent, one of the most challenging things is to watch my children suffer. Every bone in my body wants to step in a relieve the suffering. But if I do, they will be stunted in their growth in appreciation for God and God’s world. It is only through trials and effort, anger, and acceptance that we can withstand the more devastating storms that come later in life.
All three of my kids have been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes; one at age 16 months, one at age 6, and one at age 15. To watch them suffer, and to know there is nothing I can do to fix it, has been heart-wrenching. But my kids are authentic, empathetic, compassionate, hospitable, loving, and accepting. These traits have only been deepened by their personal struggles. As a family, we have had to take turns being strong for one another; parents for our kids, kids for their parents, parents for each other, and kids for one another. Perhaps it is the same for God. Maybe it is heart-wrenching for God to watch God’s children suffer. But God also knows that it is humanity’s universal experience of suffering that forces us to rely on each other. Maybe there is no empathy, compassion, or love without the shared knowledge of pain. Ultimately, pain never has the final say, for not even death can overshadow the joy and peace of union with God.
After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has done.” So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the Lord had told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.
And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring. The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters. He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers. After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations. And Job died, old and full of days.