I have a friend who once spoke profound words to me. He said, “I used to compare my own suffering to Job’s. But then I read that Job was a righteous man.”
In today’s readings, Job’s companions, “miserable comforters” he calls them (16:2), are now into their second round of discussion with the epitomic sufferer. It is safe to say that they have a terrible bedside manner!
Though we are not given insight into Bildad’s own feelings or motivations, we can reasonably deduce that he sees himself as an honest defender of truth. He knows that there is no abiding comfort apart from what is true, and so he minces no words with the defiant Job. Yet he makes a fundamental error about the root of human suffering; it is an error that is still made widely today.
Like his fellows Eliphaz and Zophar, Bildad is convinced that Job’s terrible suffering is the divine consequence of some egregious sin Job has committed. Though Job resolutely denies wrongdoing, his inquisitors are pressing for a confession. “God defends the righteous,” they say, “and since you are suffering, you must not be righteous.” Chapter 18 offers Bildad’s vehement description of what happens to “the wicked” (v. 5), ending with the bitter accusation, “Surely such are the dwellings of the unrighteous, such is the place of him who knows not God.” He never names Job, but the implication is unmistakable.
Wounded again by Bildad’s charge, Job laments that he is utterly alone in his wretched condition. His children are dead; his friends have turned on him; his condition repulses his wife and siblings. Yet Job makes a remarkable turn. Though he acknowledges that he cries out to God for mercy and is met only with silence, and acknowledges even that he is under divine attack, he doesn’t count God among those who have abandoned him:
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another. (19:25-27)
We the readers know something that neither Bildad nor Job knew, and that is that God allows this suffering as a test of Job’s faith. Job’s faith is not tested because God has seen weakness in Job’s faith, but strength. So in a real sense, Job is not suffering for evil, as his companions assume, but for good. In fact, on a cosmic scale, the battle isn’t really even about Job, but about God’s confident dominion over Satan and evil.
[Above: The Patient Job by Gerard Seghers]
Meanwhile, back on earth, the battle is certainly about Job from Job’s perspective! Our suffering always is. And yet, we can read this passage and confidently know that God uses our suffering for his good purposes.
Writing on how a good God could allow suffering, Timothy Keller says, “If you have a God great and transcendent enough to be mad at because he hasn’t stopped evil and suffering in the world, then you have (at the same moment) a God great and transcendent enough to have good reasons for allowing it to continue that you can’t know. Indeed, you can’t have it both ways.” 
At once, this reasoning both obliterates Bildad’s shortsighted notion that suffering necessarily indicates unrighteousness and points us straight to the Cross of Jesus Christ. For there we see a better man than Job suffering more cosmically than Job. If the Son of God suffered to accomplish the good purposes of God, it seems reasonable (and biblical) that the followers of Jesus may also be called to to suffer for the sake of God’s kingdom. If we find ourselves counted in that number, then we may say with Job,
“I know that my Redeemer lives, and in my flesh I shall see God.”
 Keller, Timothy, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, Dutton Press, New York, NY, 2008. P. 25.