One of the perennial questions for all theologians (and all human beings) is “Why do we suffer?” And, “If God is good and sovereign, why does he allow suffering?”
While most of us have these questions, we don’t really have to deal with them until we experience suffering ourselves. This is when we discover whether we really have a “theology of suffering” that can deal with the hard parts of life.
This is an area of theology which needs more attention. I am not talking about answers to the intellectual questions regarding the problem of evil and how to resolve it. Reformed folks have addressed that issue in spades.
What is needed instead is a robust accounting for the role suffering plays in the life of the Christian and how to endure it faithfully when it comes.
A tremendously helpful step in that direction is the new commentary on the book of Job by RTS Charlotte OT professor, Dick Belcher entitled, Job: The Mystery of Suffering and God’s Sovereignty (Christian Focus, 2017).
If one wants to deal head on with the issue of suffering, then certainly the story of Job is a great place to start. But, Belcher’s commentary is more than just a verse by verse analysis of the text of Job. While there is much exegetical gold to mine here, Belcher presents the story of Job more like a pastor ministering to people who are suffering.
Woven throughout the commentary is a modern example of suffering that effectively applies what the text is teaching. Belcher tells the story of Nik and Lindsay Franks and their baby son Pierce. Pierce was born 17 weeks premature at just 1 pound, 8 ounces. The Franks endured innumerable challenges, set backs, and obstacles as they learned to trust the Lord in the midst of suffering.
Here’s the description of the book, along with endorsements:
Is God worthy of worship only because He blesses us? How should we respond to God when suffering comes into our lives? At the heart of the book of Job is a question about the character of God – and about how we should respond to Him. In this most recent title of the extensive Focus on the Bible series, Richard Belcher expertly deals with the difficult themes of this practical book, showing how it is still acutely applicable to the lives of believers.
Belcher takes a new direction amongst Job commentaries. He is no ivory tower academic, theorising about suffering, or playing with the book’s theology. Weaving in the story of little baby Pierce, this is a scholarly and reliable commentary with a real human touch.
–Jared Hood ~ Old Testament Lecturer, Presbyterian Theological College, Melbourne
This very readable commentary combines scholarly insight with pastoral compassion as it addresses the question of how we should respond to God when suffering comes into our lives. Throughout the commentary, he shows how the message of the book of Job points to Christ the righteous sufferer. His summary statements are golden.
–Jim Newheiser ~ Director of the Christian Counseling Program and Associate Professor of Counseling and Practical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, North Carolina
For more on how to think about suffering, see this EQUIP seminar done by Nancy Guthrie at RTS Charlotte on “What Grieving People Wish You Knew about What Really Helps and Really Hurts.”