Job is a tricky book to understand because suffering in this world is a tricky thing to understand. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years that have helped me understand it better.
First, the speeches of Job’s three friends are mixed with truth and falsehood. But they hurt Job much more than help him.
Their false statements stem from the fact that they believe everything that happens is a direct result of either our obedience or our sin. They can’t understand that God would allow someone to suffer, not for punishment as a direct result of their sin, but for spiritual growth and maturity or to use them as an example for others’ growth and maturity. They are legalists in this sense. Their religion is based on works and they believe their good deeds merit God’s favor.
Furthermore, even when they speak something that’s true about, say, the character of God, they are not helping. They’re like the husband who can’t simply sit and listen to his wife vent but rather tries to “fix” everything by his true (but unhelpful!) advice. When someone’s hurting sometimes the best thing we can do is to simply be there with them and tell them we love them and we’re going to be there for them. Advice – even when true – often makes things worse.
Second, while Job has done nothing in particular to deserve this suffering, God doesn’t let him off the hook either (as you’ll see starting in chapter 38). So don’t automatically accept everything Job says as gospel. He most certainly has a better perspective than his friends, but God is not entirely pleased with his response as you will see later.
Third, a good commentary is very helpful when reading Job. Commentaries can help you sift through the sayings of Job and his friends, and to understand which are good, which are unhelpful, and which are blatantly false. I would recommend “Be Patient” by Warren Wiersbe. It’s an easy read and doesn’t get too bogged down with technical language. It’s helped me greatly.