Christianity,  Theology/Bible

Job’s Suffering and Ours

Apparently the idea is abroad that the biblical book of Job is an inappropriate resource for Christians to turn to when addressing human suffering. I couldn’t disagree more. Is Job’s message the only thing to be said? No, of course not. There are countless other words of comfort that need to be delivered as we weep with those who weep and rally to support those in the midst of suffering (Psalm 34:18; Rom. 12:15). But neither can the message of Job be cast aside as insensitive or irrelevant to the current crisis. As tears stream down the faces of those grieving and hurting in Oklahoma, I’ll be praying that they encounter the compassion and mercy of the God of Job.

“Behold, we count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful” (James 5:11).

SERMON: “Job’s Suffering and Ours” (Job 1-2) [download]



  • Nathan Cesal

    I think it’s insensitive to tweet Job 1:19 -the part where Job’s kids are killed by a house being blown down.

    Obvi, someone was trying to get attention. (not necessarily for himself)

    IMO, it isn’t the time to stir the pot or be shocking / obtuse.

    • Denny Burk

      Couldn’t disagree more, Nathan. To highlight the suffering of the one man in scripture who actually went through precisely the same calamity as those in OK is not insensitive. It’s simply saying that the word of God comprehends and answers the suffering that we walk through in this life.

      • Nathan Cesal

        On FB, I saw a complaint about JP’s tweet. I also saw a status that said, “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted -ps 34:18” on a picture of the state of OK.

        I think the second one is better. There is no ambiguity in message or its intent.

  • Andrew Orlovsky

    It appears Piper was just trying to emphasize that Biblical Heroes faced the same loss and sufferings as we do, and we should look to men like Job as inspiration during these tough times. Its sad how many people get offended every time God is portrayed as anything other than a soft sky fairy.

  • Julie Anne

    I don’t think the “message of Job” was cast aside, Denny, but the way in which Piper tweeted. With the overwhelming negative response to the tweet, people are saying very loudly: “YO, there’s a problem here.” Twitter is probably not the proper platform by which someone can explain the full message of Job in relation to yesterday’s twister tragedy.

    His follow-up tweet was a huge improvement:

    He has since deleted the tweet and I have seen many people reach out to him directly regarding the tweet and how they found it offensive as it was posted on Twitter. Do you think he should apologize, Denny? I sure do. A Biblical Man would own up to his insensitivity and make things right – – especially since it was sent out to 485,000+ followers.

      • craigvick

        To take Julie Anne to hold that “the biblical book of Job is an inappropriate resource for Christians to turn to when addressing human suffering” is itself an uncharitable interpretation. Piper quoted two verses from Job without any context other than the tragedy and suffering in Moore. To object to the tweet, even if misunderstanding it, isn’t the same as setting aside the book of Job as a resource. If uncharitable interpretations call for an apology then I suggest you offer one.

        • Debbie Kaufman

          Thank you Craigvick and Julie. You are correct and no one here in Oklahoma or in Moore, where so many volunteers are currently going through cleaning the cemetery and getting filthy, bruised, cut, going through the rubble would agree that we are being uncharitable by thinking this tweet and other by John Piper show a lack of compassion. But I’m ok with being uncharitable at a time when wounds are so fresh with a town wiped out and death in the air. I am one who directly confronted John Piper about the tweet.

          I have listened to John Piper for 20 plus years and have gleaned much. I have seen him choked up and tears running down his face at far less situations than this tornado or Sandy or any other tragedy. Not one time through the above mentioned tragedy has he given a appropriate response. He and you have taken a wrong turn on this both Biblically and morally. Rachel Evans along with other Oklahoma Southern Baptists have showed why this is wrong. If you disagree, then please, at tragedies, be like the friends that were silent for 7 days. That is what we need now. Not this. It doesn’t matter what you think we need. Or other people in tragedies need. Please be sensitive to the fact that we don’t need or want what you have given here nor Piper in his tweet. At least respect that.

          • Julie Anne

            I missed this response, Debbie. Your response is what I have been talking about. If you read my post today, I took comments from reader, Mandy, who experienced devastation and loss with Hurricane Ike. She expressed herself beautifully on why this tweet was so heartless. Whose needs are being met by the tweet if it is missing the obvious needs of the moment? When Jesus saw multitudes of people who would be going home hungry, He didn’t give them a sermon, He gave them food to eat. He met them at their need exactly when they needed it. Is this so difficult to understand, Denny?

      • Melody Mariner

        I don’t mean this in an uncharitable way but I don’t think he always grasps the way things come through with certain technologies. I mean we are all trying to keep up but he and MacArthur show some age liabilities.
        For him the verse had context in his mind. For you it had context because you know his character and teaching. For Rachel it had something different because she apparently severely dislikes Piper.

        The thing is Rachel is acting like a divorced woman that wants to alienate the children from their father. She is claiming Piper is being abusive but she is the one hitting people with his words to grind her point in.
        Mom succeeds in getting the kids to hate Dad but she ends up with damaged kids who can’t love anyone. She wins the battle but the war produces nothing but casualties.

    • Patrick Chan

      “With the overwhelming negative response to the tweet, people are saying very loudly: ‘YO, there’s a problem here.'”

      What’s right and wrong isn’t indexed to let alone decided by how “overwhelming negative” a response is.

  • Mike Dunger

    I agree entirely, Pastor. Job is a great help during these times. I posted Job 2:11-13 on my FB page yesterday. Eliphaz, Bildad & Zophar may not have had all their theology right, but one of the best things we can do for a world in pain is to be present. Not only to acknowledge their loss, but to demonstrate our love for them by putting them ahead of ourselves.

    Job’s friends sat with him in silence for 7 days. It wasn’t until they started talking their unbiblical views that they messed up.

  • Tony Reinke

    Thanks for this post Denny. It may be worth noting here that JP tweeted both Job 1:19 and then immediately posted Job 1:20, a follow-up text about Job’s sorrowful yet worshipful response to tragedy. It was not “a tweet” from Job, it was a pair of tweets of consecutive verses, although based upon criticism you would not think so. Here’s a screenshot of tweets archived on my phone:

      • Steve Dawson

        Unfortunately, while you (and others) may believe that Piper was clear in what he said, he wasn’t. The ultimate responsibility for accurate communication lies with the communicator. Claiming that others have misrepresented a viewpoint, when in fact that viewpoint was done with 140 characters or less is in itself uncharitable. In short, one cannot fully and accurately communicate complex theology on Twitter.

        • Melody Mariner

          No, love is supposed to believe the best about someone. Everyone else is being just as ugly and unkind by believing the worst and getting all self-righteous about it.

        • Patrick Chan

          I think there’s truth to some of what you’ve said. Such as about the ambiguity of Piper’s tweet. At the same time, what you’ve said cuts both ways. Why are people uncharitably misrepresenting Piper’s tweet if it’s ambiguous? Wouldn’t the more charitable position be to withhold judgment until the matter becomes clearer? This is especially true of professing Christians. Why are professing Christians uncharitably maligning John Piper who is a fellow brother in Christ?

          • Melody Mariner

            It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things?

            Is that what you are referring to? I don’t think Christians actually believe in practicing that. They just like to put it in frames for decorating the living room or something.

  • Nathan Cesal

    That quotation makes sense to you because you understand the Bible. Think about the 99% of the world that doesn’t. To them, I think that quotation comes across as passive agressive — it doesn’t say anything about the faithfulness of God and how He understands suffering. One is likely to assume it refers to a judgment of God…

  • James Bradshaw

    Twitter has its uses, but one is going to come across as flippant and inconsiderate if they use 140 characters to try to address weighty subjects in times of crisis (regardless of what their intentions might be). To reduce the problem of evil or human suffering to a sound bite just reflects poor judgment, imo. Again, I’m not questioning Piper’s intent, just suggesting that the medium itself is poor for what he was attempting to do.

    Perhaps I’ve become a bit of a curmudgeon, but I’ve decided to leave Twitter to the tweens and celebrities.

  • Ken Garrett

    Hello Denny, I get your points, and can see where you are coming from, that Job carries an infinite amount of relevant perspective when facing such horrific, natural catastrophic, such as the OC tornado. No argument there, and I agree that it did seem to me that some folks really jumped on Pastor Piper without due cause or forethought. But shouldn’t this rather be a day and a time of healing wounds, praying for successful rescues, and esp. for the faithful response of the local churches in the OC area? Of course it should. I imagine that that was Pastor PIper’s intention in his initial blog, which he soon removed, as it was indeed misinterpreted by many. Why invest time, energy, and creativity in banter and argument with people you don’t even know? As a leader, isn’t your (and mine’s) first priority to both act and to speak truth into the mix? Graciously, well-placed, loving words designed to heal all, not foment blog-wars and such. A generous, loving, humble word from you to those who have criticized you today will long be remembered and respected. Blessings, Ken

    • Denny Burk

      Ken, Thanks for your feedback. I appreciate the spirit of this response. I agree with you that today should be a time for the healing of wounds. That is why I am perplexed that so many are taking this opportunity to criticize someone who quotes scripture and to do so in a way that presupposes a most uncharitable interpretation. RHE admitted in her blog post that before Piper had tweeted anything, she was waiting for and expecting him to say something insensitive. In other words, she was already poised to seize on whatever he said in a negative way. There are many others who have done the same thing she did.

      No one should have to apologize for accessing the message of Job in behalf of those going through suffering like Job’s. This is precisely the way Christians have appropriated Job for the entire 2,000 year history of the church. Quoting Job is not out of line. On the contrary, it’s loving and helpful. To cast the quotation as “abusive” is way beyond the pale.

      I suppose you and I may be seeing this a bit differently. The critics are exploiting Piper’s quotation as an occasion to grind their theological ax against a theology they loathe. That’s what’s going on here, and I think they need to cool it and get their eyes back on the ball.

      • Ken

        Hi Denny, I doubt we are too far apart on how we see this one: the response of the blogging group at this particular site seems very strident and judgmental, and they seem to be spoiling for a fight, too. I’m friends with Julie Anne, and have suggested to her that allowing a spiritual abuse survivor site to veer off into anti-Calvinism/complementarianism/patriarchy/home-schooler, etc., would end up alienating some great folks who might help her cause, and might attract some unhealthy people who aren’t looking for healing, as much as for venting and revenge.
        So, that’s why I thought I would just suggest to you that perhaps now is a good time to “Run, Forrest, Run!” Again, thanks for getting back to me, Denny. Blessings, Ken

      • Julie Anne

        Hi Denny:

        You said: Quoting Job is not out of line. On the contrary, it’s loving and helpful.

        How is quoting that particular Job verse (or couple of verses if you believe there were more) helpful to a tornado victim? How is that verse(s) going to meet what they need right at this moment of crisis? Help me to understand you, please. I understand what you are saying about the spirit of the message of Job, but do you really think a survivor who is worried about their next meal or where they may lay their head this very evening is going to have “ears to hear” this kind of message as is?

  • Bill Griffin

    I love what Vernon McGee said a few weeks ago that went something like .. If you really knew me and what I think but never say you probably wouldn’t like me very much, in fact you’d probably hate my guts and if I knew the same of you I’d probably hate you too. Was Piper’s tweet the first thing that came to people’s mind after the tornado struck? Clearly not but it seems to be what Piper thought. I get why he posted it, I get why people don’t like it very much. Big deal. What I really think is that a number of people need to get over themselves. Except in my thoughts I’m using a bit too much profanity placed here and there but you get the idea.

    • Luke Geraty

      Oh my gosh! Why is ANYONE even talking about this Piper stuff if McGee said something last week! That’s a huge supernatural miracle!!!!


      kidding, of course. ha ha

  • Steve Dillon

    This whole debacle makes me rather sad. I did read with some interest yesterday a blog from the ‘friendlyatheist’. It seems to me their comments aren’t really too much different from those at christian blogs I’ve been reading. Some of the language isn’t all that pretty but what I think is that if they were removed from being of the label of an atheist the comments would be fairly inline with many others I’ve read. God allows suffering. The line between belief and unbelief is very slim indeed.

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