Understanding the Sufferings of Job

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Multiple Scenes from the Life of Job - by an unknown Flemish Master - from Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne . . . . In the upper left scene, God gives Satan permission to 'Test' Job; in the lower left Satan inflicts Bodily Injury, while Job remains Faithful to God; other scenes depict Job's Wife and his three Friends (false comforters). (Click on image to enlarge)

 

No Pain . . . . . . No Gain
No Guts . . . . . . No Glory
No Cross . . . . . No
Crown

 

Understanding the Sufferings of Job

by Theologian Father William G. Most

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Suffering is not always a
Punishment for Sin
 

The Book of Job is concerned with the Problem of Suffering. Only Part of God's Truth had been 'Revealed' at that time. Before, People had tended to think Suffering was a Punishment for Sin. It sometimes is that, but not always. Yet that Belief persisted even into the Time of Christ. Cf. the Question: Who has sinned? This Man or his Parents? (John 9:2-3).

Understanding Job will make a Degree of Progress in this area, namely, it comes out clearly that Suffering is not always a Punishment for Sin. Yet the Positive Value of Suffering remained to be made clear by Jesus.

There is, however, a Problem; we know we are Adopted Children of God. Children, precisely because they are Children, have a Claim to be in their Father's House, which is Heaven.

The Council of Trent (DS 1532 and 1582) taught Three (3) Things:

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)That we First receive Justification with no Merit at all. Justification (via Baptism) means the First Reception of Sanctifying Grace, which in turn means that the Indwelling of the Holy Trinity in our Souls, makes us sharers in the Divine Nature (2Peter 1:4) and Adopted Children of God.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)So we have a Claim to go to our Father's House. A Claim can be called a Merit. Yet it is a different kind of Merit. Although it is, as-it-were, a Ticket to Heaven; it is a Ticket we get for Free, without at all earning it.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)Once we have this Status of Children, sharing in the very Nature of the Father, any Good we do has a Special added Dignity, which makes it suitable that He increase our Ability to know Him face-to-face. Since that Vision is Infinite (∞), but we are Finite Receptacles, our Capability to Receive could grow Indefinitely, for it will never reach the Infinite (∞). That Growth is what we call Growth in Sanctifying Grace. And even though the First Grace (the Basic Ticket itself) is not at all Earned, there is a sense in which Additions to the Ability to see face-to-face can be Earned. Yet we do not Earn these as Individuals. It is only inasmuch as we are Members of Christ and like Him, that we get-in-on the Claim which HE established.

In this sense we could say what one student once said in a class about Salvation:

You can't Earn it, but you can 'Blow' it. explosion.gif (18821 bytes)

That is, Children do not have to Earn the Love and Care of their Parents. Yet they could Lose it.

So now we have Focused our Problem. We can rightly say:

"All we have to do it to keep from Erring to Lose this Ticket".

How then does this fit in with this such Texts as:

Romans 8:17: "We are Heirs of God, fellow Heirs with Christ, PROVIDED THAT we Suffer with Him, so we may also be Glorified with Him". Similarly Jesus Himself said that He is the Vine, and we the Branches (John 15:1-6). The Father will Prune a Fruitful Branch, to make it bear still more Fruit. Again, the Epistle to the Hebrews (12:5-13) quotes the Old Testament (Proverbs 3:11-12) saying that the Father Disciplines us as Children. That is a Sign He Cares for us, Loves us.

The Solution is really easy. If we remained always Perfectly Innocent Children, there would be no need at all for Purification. But the Problem is that we all do Sin (1John 1:8).

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Dirty Children need a Cleanup
 

Therefore, the Holiness of Our Father demands His Children be Clean enough to enter His House. Some Children Sin so Gravely as to even Lose Divine Sonship. Others do not Lose it, but become Dirty Children, who need a Cleanup.

scaleslg.gif (10895 bytes)We could explain it this way: The Scales-of-the-Objective-Order need to be Rebalanced if we, His Children, have put it even somewhat out-of-order by our Personal Sins. The Sinner takes from One (1) Pan of a Two (2) Pan Scale something he has no-right to have. It might be so Grave as to cause him to Lose Divine Sonship -- Mortal Sin. But it can be something lesser, which while it does not cause us to Lose that Sonship, yet it does mean we are Bad, we might say, Dirty Children. We need to be Cleaned Up. The essential, the Infinite (∞) Work of Rebalancing the Scales is done by Jesus, our Brother, with Whom we are Heirs as Romans 8:17 says. Yet the same line, Romans 8:17 also says we are Heirs "provided that we Suffer with Him".

As we indicated, by Mortal Sin we could even Lose our status as Sons of the Father and Brothers and Sisters of Jesus. Yet even lesser, Venial Sins, make us not Clean enough to get in without some Clean Up or Polishing. So that needs to be done. In other words, each one of us has an Obligation to Rebalance, by Suffering, for the Imbalance even Smaller Sins have caused.

Just as a really Good Father trains his Children by Discipline to make them grow-up and be what they should be, so Our Father in Heaven, Disciplines us for the same purpose, as we said above, citing Hebrews and Proverbs.

If we really Love our Father, we will want to see that He gets the Pleasure of Giving to all those whom He wants to be His Children. But some of them have even Forfeited that position, while others are somewhat Soiled. In either case, in order that He may be able to give His Favors to them, they need to be 'Open'. But many of them do Little or Nothing towards Rebalancing the Scales for their own Sins. So that they may be put in the Condition to Receive, we can, by taking on Difficult Things, make-up for them. This is Love for them, it is also Love of the Father, for it gives Him the Opening to give to them, while at the same time it gives them the Openness they need to Receive. (So we see in passing: Love of God and Love of Neighbor are found in One and the Same Action). Hence Saint Paul said, in Colossians 1:24, "I fill up the things that are lacking to the Sufferings of Christ in my Flesh, for His Body, which is the Church". Of course, nothing is lacking to the Sufferings of Christ considered as an Individual. But the Whole Christ, Head and Members, can be Deficient. Paul wants to do what we just said, to make up for the a Lack of Opening in other Members of Christ through His Mystical Body and the Communion of Saints.

We gather therefore, there is Triple (3) Reason for Suffering:

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Suffering Cleans Up the Tarnished Image of the Father and of Christ in us;

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Suffering helps us grow to Spiritual Maturity;

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Suffering helps give the Father the Pleasure of being able to give to other, Deficient Children.

What was known of this Beautiful Picture at the time of Job? As we said, many, such as Job's so-called Friends, insisted that all Suffering comes from Sin. The Book makes it finally clear that not always does Suffering come from Sin. Clearly, Job did not see the Full Expanses of the Splendid Picture of Christ's Mystical Body and the Communion of Saints we have just unfolded.

 

Could they have reached at least part of this Picture? There were grounds for doing that. First, they knew God is our Father -- cf. Isaiah 63:16: "Even if Abraham were not to know us or Israel to acknowledge us, You, Lord, are our Father". And Hosea 11:1: "Out of Egypt I have called My Son", that is, the Whole People of Israel. Cf. also Jeremiah 31:9. But they did not know in how full-a-sense that is true. They knew He had made them. But they did not know that He gave them a Share in His Own Divine Nature. Further, they knew that Sin is a Debt - that Truth stands throughout the Old Testament, the Intertestamental Literature of the Jews, the New Testament and the Writings of the Rabbis and the Fathers. They knew further the Atoning Power of Suffering for Others. This came out specially strongly in the Fourth Servant Song in Isaiah 53. It was found also elsewhere in the Scriptures, cf. 2Maccabees 7:37; Daniel 3:35 & 40; Job 42:7-8.

Yet, even though the Grounds, we might say Premises, for reaching these conclusions were present and were known, they did not draw the implications from them. Similarly, Jesus confuted the Sadducees who Denied the Resurrection by citing for them the text of Exodus 3:6: I am the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. He is not the God of the Dead, but of the Living. Yet, did most Jews draw that deduction from those early words? We doubt it very much. Similarly, although they had, as we said, the Premises to reach much of the Picture we have painted, yet they did not really reach nearly all of it. Instead in the conclusion to Job, the Solution seems to be merely that God would give-back more than what He had taken-away, but do it in this Life.

 

Audio Tapes on Suffering


An 8 minute Homily
by Franciscan Father Leo Clifford
on your Cross and Suffering


A Short 6 minute
Spiritual Reflection on Suffering
by Father Frank Pavone