Early in the book of Job, we find two perplexing conversations between God and Satan (1:6-12; 2:1-6) in which they strike deals to test Job, who is unaware that something done in heaven will diminish his life on earth.
When the book of Job was written, understandings of how the God of Israel related to evil were shifting. “Satan” hadn’t yet developed into God’s determined opponent whose task was to thwart God’s good intentions. Instead, Satan played an approved role, something like “a prosecuting attorney.” He was an accuser who probed humanity’s flaws and reported his findings to God. He was a crusty and cynical operator who conducted opposition research on God’s favorites.
These ideas about Satan were ways for Jews of that time to account for evil without blaming God for being its direct cause. They saw a vast, reassuring difference between God’s allowing evil and God’s causing it.
These stories also told their audience something Job himself didn’t know: God affirms Job as a man of exemplary character: My servant Job is a blameless and upright man (see 1:8; 2:3). Job is later pressed to defend his integrity against the speculation of friends who say he brought on himself the awful things that befell him. Because of these conversations between God and Satan, however, we know that not even God thinks Job deserves what happens to him. That’s a surprising insight, consistent with the view of God that Jesus gives us. In his encounters with evil, Jesus demonstrates that God doesn’t play “good cop’ to the Evil One’s “bad cop.” Jesus reassures us that God isn’t capricious and harsh; God opposes evil with justice and overcomes it with love.
We can trust that, whatever trouble’s source might be, it isn’t God. God is always for us, never against us.
Why does it help to know that God doesn’t inflict our pain, but, instead, accompanies us through it?
God, help us to trust that you are with us when the way is hard. Amen.