Lessons In Job: How To Deal With Bad Things Happening To Good People

Who among us can say that our hearts are as upright as Job’s, or that our lips sincerely speak what we know? Yet Job is a model for all of us in many ways. We are all called to be men and women of God, honest, generous, faithful to God in all that we do and say. While Job was an innocent man, put to the test through immeasurable suffering, he did not lose faith.

Because Job was an upright man, God had faith in him and knew that, among his children, Job would pass the tests that would come his way. That is why God allowed the Devil to test Job’s faith. Job stands before us today as a testament to the faith that we are all called to live out of in our own lives.

The world can be cruel sometimes. Things happen to us that we have no control over. Trials come unbidden and are often unjust, unfair. How do we face these things without a deep and abiding faith in God? Job was confident in his trust in God’s mercy and love. Even when the suffering he was enduring with the loss of his flocks, his possessions, and particularly his children, took him to the edge, his faith in God made it possible for him to ask God why he was allowing all of this to happen to a just man.

Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote an entire book called, “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People” dealing with this very subject. As a Jew he had to reflect on the experiences of the Holocaust. He had to struggle with the question so familiar to all of us at one time or another, “How could God allow such a thing to happen?” Like Job, he came to the conclusion that God can not be held responsible for illness and accidents, or natural disasters. He realized that he gained nothing from blaming God, rather he lost much more in doing so. God is not the cause of our suffering, rather he is our support, our source of strength when troubles come our way. The things that happen to us are not punishments from God for our misbehaviors. They are not part of his “plan.” The tragedies we experience are not God’s will, and we need not feel betrayed by God when tragedies come to us. What is more important for us to know in faith is that we can always, especially in the darkest of times, turn to him for help in enduring and overcoming our sufferings. We can believe with certainty that it is God’s will to be with us throughout our sufferings. We know this is true as Christians because we know Jesus Christ, who is Emmanuel, “God with us” in the flesh. It is he who came among us and suffered with us, even unto death, in order to free us from suffering and death forever.

Job went to God in the depths of his suffering, and addressed him with prayers tinged with his frustration, his confusion and anger, yet he was humble enough to do so with awe and openness to God’s response. This is what we can do as well. Lord, when suffering comes to us, help us to remain faithful to your promises of mercy. Strengthen us in those times of tragedy and woe. Help us to be your loving presence to our brothers and sisters who find themselves in the midst of suffering and tragedy. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.