Dostoevsky evokes the story of Job with The Brothers Karamazov; the three titular brothers each representing something of Job himself in their differing perspectives on suffering. Ivan Karamazov, the eldest, voices what Job only hints at: some suffering is simply incomprehensible; God might not be just and righteous after all. The second brother, Alyosha, affirms with Job that God is good and suffering will be surely be redeemed. Dmitri, the third brother, surprisingly, comes closest to Job overall: neither despairing of God’s goodness entirely nor claiming to understand his circumstances. The brothers’ reflections and interactions take place against of a backdrop of sparring claims about God and the human condition: is God just? Is He loving? Is suffering a form of divine cruelty, or a powerful vehicle for God’s redemptive purposes?
Job sifts and weighs the responses of his counselors and his own heart, but ultimately is dissatisfied until he can hear from God Himself. Similarly, Dostoevsky allows his characters to speak for themselves but does not claim to speak for God. The power and persuasiveness of the characters must work on the readers’ minds. Some find in Ivan’s Grand Inquisitor their own rejection of God, rather than be the victim of a cosmic joke that would allow for great suffering. Others find Father Zosima’s claim that all suffering is a chance to imitate Christ to be utterly life changing.
Like Job the man, Dostoevsky himself does not presume to speak in the voice of God. In the course of the drama, competing claims are made. The reader is invited to listen, and—perhaps—discern a highest voice crowning them all.
Job the book, however, ends differently. In the end, God does indeed speak, although not in any way Job was expecting. After Job engages in a long series of philosophical disputations with his fellow men, God speaks to him from a whirlwind: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? ... Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?” God chides Job; like Ivan, he does not have the faith to trust fully in God. Overwhelmed by the foolishness of questioning the Almighty, who is so clearly in control of every detail of the universe, Job commits himself fully to God’s justice, and God blesses him for his faith.
How do The Brothers Karamazov and Job relate to our daily lives? Both works emphasize that we do not always understand God’s purposes or the role that suffering plays in the drama of our redemption and sanctification. In spite of that, we can place our full trust in God through Christ and invite Him to use our suffering in ways that honor God. Whether we are confronting our own temptations, bowed down by great suffering, or grieved to see a nation drowning in depravity, we can continue to trust Him as the Lord of history. The Psalmist reminds us to “Trust in the Lord, your God, and lean not on your own understanding.” Trust that God is at work in you today as you imitate Christ, the One who suffered –unspeakably–in order to present us without blemish, and with great joy, to the Father. Thankfully, He has the final word.
This devotional is from Christian Union Today. You can find their website here: www.christianunion.org/cu-today