You may feel like God is angry and mean when you read particular Bible passages. The story of Job in the Old Testament is designed to renew our heartfelt image of a loving God.
Job was one of the most righteous people in history. It seems he’s especially blessed by God with health, wealth, and a large family that loves him — till suddenly everything he owns is destroyed, some of his family die, and he is afflicted with painful boils. He feels that God has turned against him, rejecting him and angrily punishing him.
It’s a tragic story of undeserved suffering. We’ve all seen this happen and many of us have lived it, at least to some degree.
Listen to how Job’s suffering impacted his experience of God:
- “God assails me and tears me in his anger and gnashes his teeth at me” (16:9).
- “All was well with me, but he shattered me” (16:12).
- “God made me a byword to everyone, a man in whose face people spit” (17:6).
- “I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer… you merely look at me” (30:20).
Is that what God is like? Is God really abandoning, punitive, and mean to Job? No. These are distorted images of God.
Actually, the Lord is pleased and proud of Job as “the finest man in all the earth” and “always loves and protects him” (Job 1:8, NLT). The Lord trusts Job to represent well his name and reputation in front of heaven and the world, confident that Job will be faithful and loving even in suffering (Job 1:6-12). But Job and his family and friends do not see behind the veil into heaven as we do in chapter one.
In his horrific trial Job shows glorious faith in the Lord:
- “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).
- “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15).
- “I know that my Redeemer lives, and in the end, he will stand on the earth” (Job 19:25).
But the waves of tragic pain that befall Job overwhelm his faith with feelings of shock, anger, grief, discouragement, depression, shame, and isolation till he’s nearly drowned in despair. As each wave of suffering pounds him it’s harder and harder for him to get back on his feet. Eventually, he’s swamped because he has no support; his wife and friends run short on empathy. She screams, “Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9) and they judge him with unending pious platitudes that are nothing but “proverbs of ashes” (Job 13:12).
Often God is characterized as being smug or angry when he speaks to Job from the whirlwind, but this is not correct. God is not angry with Job. God shows delight in Job, suffers patiently with him, doesn’t defend himself from Job’s misguided public criticisms, and ultimately rescues him. Job exclaims that God’s manifestation is “wonderful” (Job 42:3).
Job seems unholy as he complains and rages on God and his friends seem holy as they defend God and give “righteous” advice. Yet when God appears and speaks from a whirlwind it’s Job’s friends who are rebuked while Job is commended for his honest and bold faith (Job 42:7-8).
Job’s trust-faith in God was tested and refined as gold to bring him, us, and all of heaven joy and glory for eternity! (1 Peter 1:7).
As in Job’s case, we are prone to project onto God our own anger or the anger of people who have hurt us. Sometimes the Lord does get angry, as he does with Job’s friends, but his anger is always governed by love. God’s merciful anger is to protect or reform people in danger.
We can take comfort in the repeated teaching of the Old Testament, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (Psalm 103:8).