The review of my book Job and the Problem of Suffering was written by my former student Grant Mulder. Grant is the Pastor at Bethel Reformed Church in Sterling, Illinois. His church is a part of the Reformed Church in America. Additionally, Grant serves as the Multiplication Catalyst for the Classis of Illinois. Grant’s ministry is to help support church plants, church planters, and the exploration of new forms of church and ministry to reach those who do not know Jesus. Grant lives in Sterling with his wife and two daughters.
Job and the Problem of Suffering
A Review by Grant Mulder
The problem of suffering is one of the age-old questions that we all will ask or have asked at one time or another. We wonder why suffering happens. Why do bad things happen? Natural disasters, war, poverty, hunger, and other evils cause questions to arise in the minds of people struggling with these issues.
These questions are very real. People of various backgrounds, cultures, and faiths have tried to give answers to all these questions. Dr. Mariottini helps us process this question of suffering in both an academic and a pastoral manner using the Old Testament book of Job.
As a professor of the Old Testament, Dr. Mariottini does a wonderful job walking us through the cultural background of Job as well as the various sections of the book of Job. We get an introduction to Job and his sufferings. Dr. Mariottini takes us through the various speeches, which make up a good portion of the book of Job.
I particularly appreciated how he walked through the theologies of Job’s three friends and the bystander or passerby. At times these speeches may even sound like good theology to some of us in our own attempts to explain suffering. The speeches of Job’s friends have often been reminders for me as a pastor to be cautious around what I say as so many Christians tend to fall into that trap of trying to explain away suffering, yet we often use words that only add to it.
Dr. Mariottini points toward the fallenness that we see in the world, humanity, and in our very nature as reasons for suffering. He also points out various reasons why God may allow suffering. Yet he points out that even in the answers that suffering is a part of our lives and will be until God wipes away all our tears at the time of the restoration of all things.
What stuck with me the most was the reasons Job didn’t receive an answer. While Job continually asked God for an answer to his suffering, he doesn’t seem to get one. God gives Job only sort of an answer by showing Job just how He ordered and arranged the world, but there was no real answer specifically to all the questions that Job had for God. Dr. Mariottini, as he draws near the conclusion of the book, points out that we are not capable of understanding everything God does but we trust in His presence.
It makes me wonder if this question about suffering isn’t one which we are not supposed to have a clear-cut answer to, but we are called to trust. Maybe the answer to this question isn’t meant to be simple. Maybe the answer to suffering is not one we can answer logically but through God’s presence. Dr. Mariottini reminds us that God is present with us in suffering and will not forsake us. And maybe for many of us we need to learn to set aside our cliché answers and learn that the best answer to the problem of suffering may very well be God’s presence with the one suffering.
My book, Job and the Problem of Suffering deals with the problem of suffering and God’s awareness of human suffering. You can buy my book on Amazon.
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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