Behind the scenes - Satan and the Triune God. Satan is a shady figure, confined to wander the earth, living on a short leash, and with a simple satanic premise: people love God because God is good to them, but when life isn't working out they'll curse God. Clearly this is true in some cases but is it universal?
The LORD permits the test - not so much of himself, or of Job, but of Satan himself. Satan reckons Karma makes the world go round, so upset the apple cart and belief in God will fall. Job loses his family and his health but remains alive.
Job's friend gather and in a rare moment of sanity sit in silence for a week, sorrowing with him.
The Job speaks and says - it would've been better not to have lived. This is the premise of Ashton Kutcher's disturbing film The Butterfly Effect. It's an honest cry from man in the centre of a broken world. It's not a sin to think it, to say it, to face this.
Then Job's friends awake and throw everything they have at Job.
Satan: Job only loves God because his life is comfortable.
The Friends: Job is suffering because Job is bad.
The story however says:
Firstly, Job - though a member of Adam's helpless race - is innocent. Blameless. He's not suffering as payback for bad things he has done. He and his friend may not know why, but it simply isn't raining on him "because he lied when he was seventeen."
Secondly, Job loses all the blessings he enjoyed but doesn't curse God. He is pained, and bewildered, and finds his friends to be miserable comforters.
Nobody needs someone who believes in Karma at their hospital bedside. I loved it as an ambitious achieving teenager but there's no good in having a worldview that only works when life works...
Karma-shaped approaches to life feel neat, and even amusing in the little things of life, because sometimes we get ourselves in trouble... but our broader experience of life refutes this as an absolute principle: there are too many cases when bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. It's miserable comfort and a poor observation of life.
In the story Job, when all is said and done: God speaks. He asks questions that put Job, his friends and Satan in their places. There are things we don't know. There is perspective we don't have. There are limitations we'd do well to accept.
And, Job confesses to having spoken beyond himself. If we hadn't realised already: there's no place for swagger in this suffering world. Meanwhile, God counsels Job's friends - "My servant Job will pray for you."
In the middle of the account Job testifies that he needed one who would be his advocate, and looked for the day when he would see his Redeemer on this earth with his own eyes. Karma isn't the biblical answer to suffering, resurrection is, renewed creation is. Job receives fresh gifts in place of those taken from him - new prosperity on the other side of his suffering and looks to a greater day here with his God.
Jesus is not like Job, Job is like Jesus. The true and greatest man, the suffering servant, is Jesus. It was thought that his suffering would defeat him - how could such horrors occur to one so good? But through the cross Satan was put to shame, exposed, defeated forever.
Jesus prays for those who entrust themselves to him, and by whose resurrection men and women are offered the hope of a physical future, where suffering is over and we will walk the fruitful hills of his world in the company of God.