As a minister, I’m often asked the perpetual questions of ‘why?’ I have yet to discover an adequate answer. The book of Job delves forty two chapters into the question of what scholars will term the theodicy. Why do bad things happen to good people? Job’s discourses take us back and forth in conversations with Job’s wife, his friends, and with God. In the end, all of Job’s fortunes are returned to him twofold and he gets new sons and new daughters. We all understand that while our material possessions can be replaced, no child will ever be replaced. The end of Job’s days hardly makes up for all the suffering he endured.
The answers we are given in the book of Job is simply this: God is God and we are not. That doesn’t exactly answer the question we are asking; it simply says that our question is unanswerable. God is God and we are not, and that is, likely, a very good thing.
Soul Sisters recently studied “Woman of God,” a novel by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. This book weaves a tale of a woman who speaks with God. Her divine encounters are quite amazing, but she still suffers a great deal of tragedies. Her special connection to the Holy One doesn’t give her any special privileges. If anything, it actually causes her some serious difficulties. I suppose Patterson and Paetro’s answers are no different than what scripture reveals: God is God and we are not.
I wish I did have the answer to the theodicy. All I know for certain is the sun will rise for the evil and for the good. The rain will fall on the righteous and the unrighteous. We all get our share of both bad and good in life. And, yes, some people get a bit more of one than the other. It isn’t right. It isn’t fair. Let’s face it…it absolutely stinks! Maybe those folks who put together the canon knew what they were doing when they decided the book of Psalms should come after the book of Job. Try 150 chapters of praising God in all the goodness there is in this world right alongside those chapters that beg for God to intervene in all the bad.
The lamentations that are put forward in scripture also tell us that it is natural to rail at God when we are suffering. We will likely receive the same answer as Job. God is God and we are not. Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi reminds us, “The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Our sufferings will continue to come. But through it all, we will be given strength to face each new day and enough love and grace to get us through.