The Heidelberg Catechism, in expounding and applying Scripture, repeatedly asks questions with this format: How does the knowledge of doctrine x help us? This is certainly a biblical way to consider God’s Word. After all, the Lord did not reveal Himself simply to give us abstract doctrines, but gave us objective truths that have many subjective benefits. We see this principle in texts such as John 20:30–31. The Apostle John gives his purposes for not recording every miracle of Jesus, explaining that he tells of specific signs that we might “believe Jesus is the Christ” and thereby “have life in his name.” The objective truths of Jesus’ person and work are revealed so that we might subjectively receive and enjoy salvation.
In a similar manner, the Heidelberg Catechism points us to the benefits we enjoy by knowing certain theological truths when question 28 asks: “How does the knowledge of creation and providence help us?” The answer makes several points, including that this knowledge grants us patience in our trials. It uses today’s passage as one of the proof texts for this contention, which makes sense given Job’s response to his trials and his confession of the sovereign providence of the Lord.
Long ago, Satan wagered that Job, an upright and blameless man, would curse God if the Lord were to allow Job to lose everything. This bet and Job’s initial affliction are described in Job 1:1–19. Clearly, what happened to Job would test the patience of any person. But even when he learned that his possessions were lost and his children dead, Job did not give up hope but acknowledged that both good and ill fall under the rule of God’s decree (vv. 20–21).
Job did not claim the Lord was entirely absent from his suffering; rather, he accepted that the evil he endured was possible only according to God’s sovereign will. Moreover, Job did not say that what happened to him and his family was itself a good thing. A patient response to suffering does not deny pain’s severity or the difficulty of seeing how the Lord is working for our good in some cases. Instead, patient sufferers acknowledge their troubles honestly before God. They realize that tragedy is not good in and of itself but that God uses it for good. And they continue to believe He is praiseworthy, even when they find it hard to worship Him.
When we are suffering, we are often strongly tempted not to praise God. Matthew Henry notes that Job adored the Lord when he was blessed and when he suffered. “When all was gone he fell down and worshipped. . . . Weeping must not hinder sowing, nor hinder worshipping.” It is precisely in our pain that we most need to worship alongside God’s people, even if all we can do is sit in the pew and weep.