Why do Good People Suffer?
How would you respond if everything you had was stripped from you…
- Your Finances
- Home and
…within the space of a day?
Some of this is happening now, to those losing businesses or jobs due to the Coronavirus.
And after all this…you got a terrible, wasting sickness of painful sores from head to toe that hurt and itch so much you take broken pottery to scrape your skin, top to bottom?
On top of that, your spouse or family members tell you to curse God and die to leave this agony behind?
Many of you will recognize I’m talking about the Old Testament character of Job, the oldest written book in the Bible.
Is God capricious? Is He playing with Job?
Does Job have a right to question God about how He’s handling Job’s crisis?
Is sickness or loss (finances, property, family) always a judgment of God against sin in a person’s life?
God told Satan Job was a righteous man. Blameless.
Satan argued that Job was righteous because God had blessed him. If God removed His blessing, Job would curse God.
So God gave Satan permission to torment Job, first with loss of oxen, camels, sheep, servants, and his ten children. And Job remained righteous (“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” Job 1:21).
So Satan came back and said, “Yes, God, but if you take his health he’ll surely curse you.”
Again, God gave permission for Satan to touch Job’s body, but not to kill him.
Job had four friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu, who came to comfort him. For seven days they sat quietly with him, seeing his agony. This was good, supportive.
Then they began to tell Job, one at a time, that he must have sinned or he would not be suffering like this. “It must be your fault!” These are not the friends I want with me when I’m in trouble.
While the friends judged his heart and talked to him about God, they never talk to God about Job. They never asked for him to be healed, to have his fortunes reversed, to stop scratching the sores on his body.
This question is often asked. Why do good people suffer and evil prevail?
Is all misfortune the judgment of God against an individual, all blessing a result of the good someone has done?
God was pretty clear on this. He continued to declare Job righteous.
The four “friends” tried to identify sin and guilt in Job. He responded to each challenge: he treated his servants well, sacrificed to God after every celebration his party animal children gave in case they cursed God during their revelries, gave to the poor, helped the widows, did not lust after other women or rely on his wealth as his security. If he had done any of these things, Job declared, he would have denied God and should be cursed. But he maintained his innocence.
Finally God interrupted the conversation, speaking in a whirlwind, thundering His own perspective on the situation. But He never directly answered the question of “Why”.
He is God. He created the beauty around us, the animals and huge beasts and people and all we see. He challenged Job’s thinking.
- Did you make the stars?
- Do you make the sun rise and set each day?
- Did you make the earth, mountains, sea, lightning, thunder, rain, animals and plants?
- Were you there when I did this?
- Does the thing created question why the Creator made him that way?
- Do you have the right to demand He explain His decisions?
Instead of answering the “Why me?”, God overwhelms Job with his majesty and sovereignty.
In Job 42:5-6 Job responded.
“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.”
He no longer defended himself. Rather, Job recognized He could not approach God as an equal. He heard these truths about God’s majesty but now he heard it from God Himself and so, Job changed his mind about the truth of who God is.
Job’s need for truth went deeper than getting an explanation for “Why”. He needed to know that, in all, God was and is God. He is the only One wise and powerful enough to be in charge, to handle everything.
Job’s fortunes were restored in the end, and he and his wife had ten more children. And while those ten didn’t replace the ten who were lost, they did give new life to Job.
After my mother died, I grieved deeply. But her death appeared less peaceful than I would have wanted for her. My sweet, gracious mother who loved Jesus with all her heart, seemed to struggle to let go. I didn’t understand. I wanted an explanation that made sense to my rational mind and hurting soul.
But I began to realize I also felt abandoned by God. I imagine Job felt the same. My deepest pain came from feeling separation from my Father, Savior, Lord.
“I can’t live like this,” I confessed, a statement of agony, not of intent.
And slowly, He reminded me of who He is, that He indeed held my beautiful mother in His hands and she was/is His. Through prayer, scripture reading, sermons, I was reminded of His deep love and care for me, and I began to heal.
So what’s the application for you, for me?
When we suffer, we don’t need to know why so much as we need to put our trust in the One who sent His Son to die for us, to rise from that stone cold grave, conquering death and promising us eternal life in His presence. He has promised to walk with us, never to leave nor forsake us, through any challenge He allows into our path.
Faith doesn’t need to know all the whys. It does need to know God is in charge and is wise enough to handle life properly.
There is a throne in heaven. And it is occupied!
And He is worthy of our praise.