The book of Job may very well be the first book of the Bible ever written. Did you know that? This is what many scholars believe. The Protestant Bible has Job at number 18. The order of the books of the Bible (the canon) is a conventional (and useful) invention of man. It is not inspired. But if you were to read through the Bible chronologically (as to when it was written), Job may very well be in the first place. What if every Bible in print started not with Genesis, but Job? What an extraordinary thought. This would probably have enormous implications and drastically change the way we think about the Christian life. Why? Because this book of Job sucks! It’s a tragedy. It’s a dark song. For the most part, it is confusing and downright depressing. At least this is the way it seems. The book is all about the intense and undeserved suffering of one who deeply loved the Lord. It is about a man who loses everything and finds himself praying for his own death.

The book of Job is a jolt to reality and one we often shove to the back of our theology, if not the back of our Bible. If we could, we may place this book at number 66 with this message: “Read this book only if you get through all the rest.” Think about it. This is a book we hide in the shadows. Job is in the Christian closet. We either live in denial of its reality and its mysterious take on suffering or we feel embarrassed by it.

How many times have you introduced a friend to Christ and then immediately turned to the pages of Job? I don’t know how many times I have been asked by someone who is a novice in the faith what books of the Bible they should read and in what order. Have you ever been asked that? If someone came to you and said, “Should I start with Job?”, you would probably respond, “No, no! . . .We will get to that in a few years [if ever].” We treat its message as the exception, not the rule. It’s an “If necessary” book. It is kept right next to the fire extinguisher. We act as if it presents some strange experience of a poor distant man in ancient times. Like Mormons hide many of their very weird doctrines like deification (that we will all be gods one day have our own planet), we hide the realities of suffering in the book of Job (that we have to go through hell before we get to heaven). That is . . . until hell knocks on our door.

You see, we want to present the Christian life as one you enter into and find joy unspeakable immediately. We want this to be the case, not only for ourselves but for everyone who enters the gates of the Christian life. We want these gates to be gates of splendor, gates of laughter, gates that lead us to all our dreams. “Follow me to Christ and all your troubles will come to an end.” Peering through the gates of Job we see mostly pain, suffering, loss, and tears. It is a dark place of trials and tribulation. So many of us artificially replace the turmoil of Job with the successful bliss of Revelation 20-22. Why do we do this? Why are we so prone to look past so much of what the Bible says about suffering and opt of a Gospel of health and wealth? I would venture to argue that the “Health-Wealth” Christian movement (the one that says it is God’s will that you never experience sickness, poverty, pain, or loss) represents the largest movement in Christianity today. How unfortunate is this?

And you don’t have to formally be a part of this movement to be a part of this movement. What I mean is that the average person sitting in the average Evangelical Christian pew implicitly has a theology sans (without) the book of Job. Sure, we have all heard of it. Sure, we may have read it. Sure, we feel for the guy. But we don’t for a moment think that it represents anything near what the average Christian should expect. This is why we get so confused by suffering. When it comes, it’s as if some strange thing is happening to us. When we are blindsided by suffering, we are really blindsided. We begin to question everything for the first time. Our entire worldview goes through the crucible of our current reality. When we lose our job and cannot find another, we wonder if God loves us (a theology sans the book of Job). When our spouse suddenly leaves us, takes the kids, and slanders us, we question whether we are really Christians (a theology sans the book of Job). When our child dies of suicide, we wonder whether Christianity is even real (a theology sans the book of Job). When we get a bleak report from our doctor, we retrace all the bad things we have done in the past that God is punishing us for (a theology sans the book of Job).

A Christianity sans the book of Job is not Christianity. Heaven is not on earth yet. Death is the last enemy and it is yet to be vanquished. Our lives will be filled with varying degrees of heartache and pain. I am not saying that a Christian can never have a life without deep trauma seeded deep in its soil. I am saying that this is not the norm. The normal Christian life includes the book of Job.

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In truth, the reality of suffering and God’s sovereign control of it is Christianity 102. Christianity 101 is about the God-man, Jesus, who suffered tremendously on our behalf. Christianity 102 is about how we follow in these footsteps. Let that sink deeply into your mind and become a part of you. Christianity 103 is about the glory that will come when Christ restores all things and pain will be no more. But 103 comes after 102. If you can’t handle this, I understand. The Bible is a hard book. Its message is a stumbling block to many because of this.

So important is the message of Job, I included “Suffering” as one of my chapters in my book on discipleship: Now That I’m a Christian: What it Means to Follow Jesus. This book is intended for new Christians. I only wrote ten chapters. Only ten! These included behemoth doctrines like “Christ,” “the Bible,” and “Prayer.” It was a no-brainer to include suffering. I did not even hesitate to make it a priority to teach brand new believers that a life with God included many trials and much pain. Not to be self-promoting, but I want you to know how much I believe this.

Whether or not the book of Job is chronologically the first book does not change the truth that it is God’s will to prepare us for suffering. However, if it was the first book, I imagine our ranks would narrow quite a bit (and this, relatively speaking, would be a good thing). The reality of the suffering of God’s people is filled in the pages of every book of the Bible, not just Job. We see this from the pain ballads in the Psalms to the tears of Jeremiah and from the cry “Why?” from the cross to the blood of the martyrs in Revelation. We must be ready to teach and learn this reality at the very beginning of our discipleship. Otherwise, we will have many, many blindsided Christians out there who are stumbling through this life confused and bewildered wondering why God hates them and groping for something new.

God does not hate you. He loves you deeply. More deeply than you can ever imagine. And God does not enjoy watching you experience the realities of a fallen, dark world. On the other side of death, his new world of perfect hope and joy awaits. Until then, he holds our hand while we go through the book of Job.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    18 replies to "Embarrassed by the Book of Job"

      • Nathan Shattuck

        Rebecca, your comment reminded me of this beautiful conversation between Dr. Larry Crabb and his two sons, Kep and Ken, about some sad news they were digesting about Kep’s wife, Kim, last Fall. I believe Kim is still with us but since this video Larry himself died after a long battle with cancer. Anyways, getting to listen in on this conversation was a sad but beautiful experience and I thought you might find it interesting and helpful as you seek to facilitate conversations around these topics with your adult children.

    • Reverend Henry Sun, Ph.D.

      Job is, indeed one of the most challenging books – perhaps the most challenging – in the Hebrew Bible. (But I’m not aware of any scholar of the book of Job that dates it so early that it could be the first written book of the Hebrew canon.) Personally, I think it reads best immediately after the book of Deuteronomy, but that’s a conversation for another time 🙂

    • Paul Judea Banda

      Arguments indeed have been forwarded as to the proper setting of the book of Job. What has been said with some certainty is that these events occurred during the period of the Genesis narratives. Some have suggested the period of Abraham, and others Jacob’s period while Micheal proposes prior to Genesis which then predates Abraham and all. However, this is an excellent reminder of the Ills of the filthy world, especially against believers (

    • Tim McCormick

      Thank you for this.

      All I ever wanted to be, since age 10, was a Pastor. I was in a car accident, my fault, in the middle of my sophomore year of college, Theology major. I never made it back.

      My wife of 34 years, though mostly stable for the last decade, has serious mental illness. She was a serial adultress for a large portion of our newlywed years. She was afraid of not being cared for, so she settled for me, though it would be years before she would have any affection for me.

      Our youngest of 5 boys died in my arms as his brothers and pregnant mother watched. It was my fault, I accidentally ran him over in the driveway.

      My wife spent the next decade or so in and out of mental health facilities. For several months I set aside time to ponder/pray about whom I should “choose “, my wife or my children. She was a danger to herself physically and to the kids emotionally and spiritually. I have no idea if I made the right choice.

      I have worked unfulfilling and mostly soul crushing jobs to put food on the table. Due to God’s grace, I was able to be in the ministry for a few years, ending when my boy died.

      Our children are now grown, and mostly a mess. We are raising our 4 year old granddaughter, who is simultaneously a great blessing, the apple of Papa’s eye, and a constant reminder of my failures as a father.

      I am still a Christian, not due to all the happiness coming my way, but for two simple reasons: it is true, and because “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day “.

      I live the book of Job.

      • John Kelley

        Tim –
        Thank you for your candid response to Michael’s article on Job. I believe that many unknown and unrecognized heroes of the faith live the book of Job daily… and have done so for many centuries. One day He will wipe the tears from our eyes and there will be no more crying, no more pain…no more evil for us to deal with as He has dealt with it for us. And for those of us that have experienced a Job life heaven will mean more to us and be appreciated more by us than it can be by anyone else. Until that day, take care, God Bless and continue to persevere. Your brother in Christ.

        • Tim McCormick

          Thank you for your kind words.

      • JJM

        Gonna be real. Just from the elements you wrote about, if this is how things went later on in your marriage, I can bet and guarantee that early on your wife was an “adultress” probably because you were not a good husband and bad to her… if someone is afraid of not being cared for, it is because you were not working to make her feel that way, imo. Also, did you ask permission to share all this information about her? If not, then I’m just gonna say you prove my point, because that is a violation of her privacy and her person, especially because I know a lot of men here are going to shame her, basically for your misdeeds. People do not cheat or commit adultery for no reason, they do it, usually, because their spouse is not treating them the way they need to be treated.

        • kathy riggs

          jjm bless your heart! you have been deeply, repeatedly wounded….even as a child….and now you harbor such sad opinions that you believe are accurate in every case! Had I not just had a conversation with a lady TODAY about her childhood abandonment and rejection —that has affected EVERY phase of her marriage, I may believe your words to be absolute! ok… I PRAY you will get help for the huge hurt in your heart! Help is there! GOD is able! please tho, be careful what you hurl at others…. because you will stand before God and He will have to use the same measuring stick on YOU that you wielded on others! If that is the truth, [which it is], you will fall very short of good judgement!

      • kathy riggs

        precious Tim!!! what a load of burdens you have born! I cannot imagine the grief and pain…but, verbalizing it, unabashedly is undoubtedly good for you….but NOW….pick up your heart and walk on! to where restoration and healing can take place….. you don’t need to ‘settle’ and you don’t need to think this is all because you made a mistake or caused great pain on others….. the SUN will shine! the fragrance WILL permeate your area and it will be SWEET! bless you, dear child of God!!! bless you! ps…if you email me I would like to mention one thing regarding a possible step could take for healing…. the miracle is I should NOT be seeing this website….nor reading the comments!!! GOD IS good! God IS good!!!! even when it doesn’t look, feel, smell or taste like it!

    • Tim McCormick

      Oops, I meant love the book of Job.

    • Shawn M Smith

      I have been thinking about a series with Hosea at Christmas and Job for good-Friday and resurrection Sunday. Love these two books.

    • Carl Bruun

      Thank you for being candid.
      But we need to keep Genesis in the forefront (“The God Who Is There”) and also the fact that he is a God who communicates with His creation and creatures – Job did suffer a “dark night of the soul” silence for the better part of a year, but he was hoping against hope for much of that time that God would respond to his cry. Why? Why would he have had such an expectation? Because he is not only there, but “He is There And He Is Not Silent” (most of the time).

      • Nathan Shattuck

        Your comment reminded me of a quote from Thomas Merton that has always rung true for me: “God, Who is everywhere, never leaves us. Yet He seems sometimes to be present, sometimes to be absent. If we do not know Him well, we do not realize that He may be more present to us when He is absent than when He is present.”

    • Kelly D Raulston

      When Job reached his breaking point, after reflecting on what he may have done wrong in God’s eyes, and finally questioned God, what was God’s response to him? We all need to reflect on that response as it was provided to a man who had favor in God’s eyes…

      • Ben

        I’d be interested to hear your take on it. Truthfully, the Book of Job is a barrier for me to accept Christianity… I’m surprised that so many people are able to accept it. For me, it’s either an errancy problem, or a moral problem. If it’s allowed to be treated as non-canonical folklore; it’s an errancy issue. If it’s accepted as true, then it’s a moral issue.

        • C Michael Patton

          why is the book of Joe so pivotal in your acceptance of Christianity? you don’t even need to accept the Bible. I’m not saying you shouldn’t, I’m just saying, the Bible itself as an inspired text has no bearing on whether Christianity is true. The only thing that is consequential is the historic death burial, and resurrection of Christ, and your understanding of your need for him in order to be made right with God. At this point, you should only be looking to the historical accuracy of the primary details of the gospels. Even if the gospels weren’t written, though, there is plenty of historic evidence to believe in the central point of Christianity.

          So, what is holding you back from accepting Christ?

    • Ben

      Thank you for your reply. I’ll respond to your points interspersed, for clarity. I’ll try to quote fully, as I want to deal only in good faith, and not try to misrepresent your statements.

      CMP: “why is the book of Joe so pivotal in your acceptance of Christianity? you don’t even need to accept the Bible. I’m not saying you shouldn’t, I’m just saying, the Bible itself as an inspired text has no bearing on whether Christianity is true.”

      B: I regularly attend a church, although I am not a member They are an inerrant denomination; and their new member rite explicitly includes language about all Scripture being so. Their position is that the Old and New Testaments are inextricably linked. As I suspect almost all Christians would profess; the Trinity is also inextricably linked. As such, so commit to one, is to commit to all. There can be no New without the Old, nor can there be a Son without a Father. To me, it would be unethical to make any commitment without appropriate due diligence and study. Their requirement of inerrancy will likely prevent me from becoming a member. It’s a shame. They are good people. I do what I can to assist them.

      CMP: “The only thing that is consequential is the historic death burial, and resurrection of Christ, and your understanding of your need for him in order to be made right with God. At this point, you should only be looking to the historical accuracy of the primary details of the gospels.”

      B: Accepting the Gospels would certainly be a lot easier without the …difficult… pieces of the Old Testament as a mandatory attachment. Consequently, I’ve already looked deeply into Marcion, and even into Jefferson’s more Gospel-only approach. Unfortunately, your statement above, “to be made right with God” speaks directly to the inherent link with the Old Testament.

      CMP: “At this point, you should only be looking to the historical accuracy of the primary details of the gospels. Even if the gospels weren’t written, though, there is plenty of historic evidence to believe in the central point of Christianity.”

      B: For me, it’s not an argument of evidence. It’s a personal moral decision. I can not in good conscience commit myself to someone or something with questionable ethical values. While I will make no argument on the topic of Jesus… a lot of the Old Testament does portray the Father in a …questionable… light. Job is a good example of that. My understanding of Christian doctrine is that definitionally, God is always good. However, this leaves no room for question or debate. It seems that the only debate or discussion on character and morality comes from the non-believers. I couldn’t commit to an immoral leader in this world; and I cannot commit to an immoral leader in a religious sense either.

      So… I’m stuck in a difficult place. The Old and New are linked. The Father and Son are linked. To accept one is to accept all. It would certainly be more …convenient… to work from a New-only, Gospel-only view; but I don’t feel it would be a completely considered, fully ethical choice.

      CMP: “So, what is holding you back from accepting Christ?”

      B: An unbreakable link to the Old Testament; and the moral concerns regarding the behavior of the Father in the Old Testament.

      I don’t want to be unfair to Christians; nor do I want to straw-man their arguments. However, for me, I must satisfy the demands of my own reason, to make this choice in an ethical manner. I’m not at a point where I’m willing to outsource the definition of my morality to the Bible, until I’m convinced that it’s morality is superior in nature.

      I apologize for the long reply. Thank you for posting on the original topic.

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