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Wealth is no safe haven from suffering

Rosemary Dawson considers everyday ideas that go way back to the 66 books of the Bible

His only hope, they said, was to repent and confess

THE advice of a well-meaning friend can sometimes have the opposite effect to what they intended.

For instance, when worried about whether an outfit looks OK, we don’t really want a negative answer to the question, ‘Do I look good in this?’ If a less-than-flattering comment comes, we might reply: ‘Oh, you’re a proper Job’s comforter.’

This phrase stems from an Old Testament story. The Bible describes Job as ‘blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil’ (Job 1:1 New International Version).

Satan suggested that Job would not be so upright and blameless without God’s favour. So God agreed that Job should be tested, with the proviso that no harm should come to him.

But Job did suffer. His herds and servants were killed and all his children died in a tragic accident. Still Job refused to blame God for what had happened and held on to his beliefs.

He said: ‘The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away’ (1:21), which are words still used today in funeral services.

Three well-meaning friends – Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar (collectively known as ‘Job’s comforters’) – arrived to offer advice. One by one, they appointed themselves judge and jury over the cause of Job’s suffering, which, they decided, must result from his sin or that of his children. His only hope, they said, was to repent and confess.

God ended the discussion by reminding them all that he alone was in charge of the world. Consequently, he knew things they could not.

The Book of Job deals with some of life’s deepest questions. We still struggle with them today. Why, for instance, does a loving God allow so much suffering?

As Job discovered, righteousness or prosperity does not exempt anyone from experiencing pain. But equally, he was reassured that no one who trusts in God is outside his loving providence. God cares for every aspect of his world – and all the people in it.

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