crying baby January 5 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Job 1, 2, 3

Why do the Innocent or Righteous Suffer?

The loss of a baby or other loved ones by an untimely death is devastating. Other misfortunes which are also difficult are the loss of a business, land value or property, personal health, respect from your mate, and loss of friends. Imagine all of this happening within a week or even a month–Catastrophe! When this happens to an evil person we might think, “Good, he deserved it. God is paying him back for all the wrongs he committed.” But when catastrophe strikes an innocent, good, righteous or kind person, we shake our heads in wonder. Why did this happen? Where is God in all this? This is what the Biblical character, Job, wants to know. Today we begin the book of Job (Job is pronounced with a long vowel sound). The theme is “Why Do the Innocent of Righteous Suffer?”

“Wait a minute!” you might say. “We were just in the middle of the book of Genesis yesterday and today we are in the book of Job. Isn't the book of Job in the middle of our Bible? Why are we studying it now?” That is a very good question. Remember that we are studying the Bible chronologically, not according to literary genre. Almost all Bibles put Job in the middle, next to the other poetical books: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon because it is written in that style. Chronologically, however, the events of Job's life line up with the time of the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (more...).

Why do bad things happen to good people? Where is God? We cannot perceive God at work, so we wonder if he is aware of our troubles. But God does see and is concerned (Psalm 139). There are unseen battles between God and Satan, and he is sometimes allowed to test us. However, Satan answers to God and cannot do anything against us unless God allows him.

Job's trials are a test. Satan's desire is to tempt Job to curse God. It would be good for us to remember the devil is also our adversary and roams around “like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour,” (1Peter 5:8). It appears God's desire is to approve Job worthy of future blessings (see the last chapter), but first he needs to be tested like a clay pot fired in a kiln. Sometimes God also puts us through the fires of adversity to make us better, stronger, and more beautiful vessels.

What do we do when things in our lives go sour? Do we curse, or even worse, do we curse at God? Suffering is difficult. When we are suffering we see only our pain. What will we do when tested by the fires of adversity? Job's wife, having suffered the loss of all her children, the loss of all riches and respect, and the loss of her husband's health, counseled her husband to curse God and die. Before we are too judgmental about Job's wife, in the same circumstances would we be any different?

What was Job's attitude toward all his losses? Job responds,

The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised (Job 1:21, NIV).

Job rebukes his wife saying,

“You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said (Job 2:10, NIV).

To respond like that we must have a strong personal relationship with God. It takes much time to build a friendship with God, being acquainted with how he works, seeking to be like him, being totally dependent on him and living in obedience to him. Do we have a personal relationship with God? (more...). He can give us strength in our trials. The Holy Spirit can be our comforter and counselor (John 14:16-17).

God gives us a better perspective as we meditate on his Word and seek him in prayer. God is Sovereign. He is above and beyond all power, wisdom and comprehension. His purposes far exceed our own. God is good even when present circumstances seem to dictate otherwise. “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD” (Psalm 27:14, NIV).

What do we do when we see others suffer calamity and hardships? Should we immediately quote Romans 8:28? It reads, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV). While this is good theology, it is not always good practice–a sufferer may not be able to receive those words while they are in the midst of great pain or loss.

What should be done for those who suffer, especially for those who have a good reputation as being godly and righteous? Job's friends have the right perspective at first. They have come to comfort him. For seven long days they keep their mouths shut and just sit with him. Sometimes that is all the sufferer needs–he just needs someone to be there and listen, even to grievous or irrational speech. It is good to listen to the sufferer in order to gain some sympathy, instead of making assumptions and giving immediate answers to that person's dilemma. Job feels so bad he wants to die. He curses the day of his birth. He wishes he had been stillborn. People say many things in their suffering, and we just need to let them talk. We need to sit or stand beside them, if we can, and sympathize but not criticize. This is true friendship. Why do the righteous suffer? Although we may have some theological answers, we must admit that we don't know what God is thinking in particular situations. We should, therefore, reserve judgment and focus on being sympathetic to the one who is suffering.

Lessons to Live By

  • Why do the righteous suffer? We don't know God's mind. Perhaps God is allowing it to make them better Christians. His purposes are higher than our purposes and his understanding is unfathomable. We just need to trust him. Do you know God in a personal way? (more...)
  • How should we respond to personal suffering? Cling to the LORD for comfort. Read and meditate on his Word for counsel and understanding.
  • How should we respond to the sufferings of others? Sympathize, don't criticize or be ready with quick answers. Listen and reserve judgment.

Today's Bible Memory Verses

Romans 12:15 (NIV) “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

Job 1:21 (NIV) “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

Here is an encouraging song sung by Jason Crabb

footnote: Satan is called by many names in the Scripture. In Revelation 20:2 God calls Satan the dragon, the devil, and that ancient serpent (referring to the serpent in the garden of Eden who deceived Eve). In Revelation 12:10 he is referred to as the accuser of the brothers (Christians).

praying hands Write a private prayer response to today’s Bible study:

Please send your comments to

A Look Ahead: Join us in our Next Lesson from Job on speaking Appropriate Words to the sufferer.

Previous Lesson  |  Next Lesson

Back to top of page
Return to Chronological Bible Studies main page
Go to Scriptures main page
Go to Topics main page
Go to Home page

Contact Us