It’s the age-old question,
Why do bad things happen to good people?
It was a fundamental tenet of Old Testament belief, that if some tragedy befell you, you must have done something wrong, almost something to deserve it.
We don’t always move far from that understanding today. If something terrible happens we ask, “what have they done to deserve it?” We believe there has to be cause and effect. “What have I done to deserve it?”
But the story of Job goes a long way to prove that is not the case. Illness and suffering are not God’s punishment for something we have personally done wrong.
1 Many years ago, a man named Job lived in the land of Uz. He was a truly good person, who respected God and refused to do evil.
Job Loses His Health
2 When the angels gathered around the Lord again, Satan was there with them, 2 and the Lord asked, “Satan, where have you been?”
Satan replied, “I have been going all over the earth.”
3 Then the Lord asked, “What do you think of my servant Job? No one on earth is like him—he is a truly good person, who respects me and refuses to do evil. And he hasn’t changed, even though you persuaded me to destroy him for no reason.”
4 Satan answered, “There’s no pain like your own. People will do anything to stay alive. 5 Try striking Job’s own body with pain, and he will curse you to your face.”
6 “All right!” the Lord replied. “Make Job suffer as much as you want, but just don’t kill him.” 7 Satan left and caused painful sores to break out all over Job’s body—from head to toe.
8 Then Job sat on the ash-heap to show his sorrow. And while he was scraping his sores with a broken piece of pottery, 9 his wife asked, “Why do you still trust God? Why don’t you curse him and die?”
10 Job replied, “Don’t talk like a fool! If we accept blessings from God, we must accept trouble as well.” In all that happened, Job never once said anything against God.
Job was apparently unique among the people among his generation. He was the only one who had done nothing wrong at all, he was a truly good person. So his suffering was NOT because he had done something wrong.
So we’ve dealt with that one, but is this passage suggesting that Job’s illness was some kind of test? To see how faithful he was? To see when he would give in and curse God? It certainly seems that God allows Satan to throw his worst at him.
So does God allow suffering then? Is that even worse?
I think the reality is that there is suffering in the world. Nowhere in this passage does it suggest that God made the suffering, but it is there, and he certainly doesn’t appear that he is stopping it happening to Job – however good he is. So doesn’t God care about us suffering?
I think God cares very much. Suffering must break his heart. But suffering is a consequence of what humans have done in the world. There is a cause and effect – but not always a personal one, often innocents pay for the mistakes of others.
Should God stop suffering? Well to do that he would have to take away our free will and then we would be automatons – is that what we want? To have no possibility to choose – good or bad; to not be able to respond to anything?
So part of the answer to, “Why should bad things happen to good people”, is “why not?”. If there are bad things happening in the world why shouldn’t they effect any one of us. What makes me special that I should be immune from all things difficult? Being a christian is not a talisman against all ill. If there are rubbish things happening out there, they will effect us too. I am precious to God – but no more or less so than anyone else. Job was sorry he was suffering, but not despairing, and he refused to blame God.
So where does that leave us?
- suffering is not allowed or not dependent on how good you are.
- suffering is a fact of the world as it is now, faith is no barrier
And the fact of it is, as Job says,
If we accept blessings from God, we must accept trouble as well.
That’s where I think I’m at anyway. What do you think?
none of us want to suffer,
we pray for those who do.
Thank you that whatever we are facing
in the reality of our life in this world,
that your love and faithfulness abound
and you continue to hold us