“The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the Lord, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’ The Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.’ Then Satan answered the Lord, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.’ The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!’”
One class from Seminary I continue to draw from in ministry, for most people, is unexpected. Yes, the education of the expected classes, Old/New Testament, Preaching and Educational theory have under-girded my pastoral leadership. But also, the class titled Evil, Suffering and Death is one that can truly impact day to day my pastoral care. In this class, we explored this central question to the Book of Job. The one question we continue to ask today, why does bad things happen to good people? In the opening of the book, Job is used as a pawn in a cosmic challenge. Would Job (a representative Everyman) continue to be a faithful man when things go terribly wrong?
Then we do indeed see the losses pile up in the first two chapters for Job. Yet a thread of faithfulness is slowly weaved through, as the first verse remind us, Job “was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” Chapter one closes with the loss of his entire family (except his wife) and all his property. Yet the final verse reminds us, “Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing.” And then chapter two has his health in peril. Yet again, “Job did not sin with his lips.”
As chapter two closes with Job’s friends coming to console and consult, the scene has been set. What follows are, as I learned in that important class, classic understandings of just ‘why’ did this happen to Job? The ‘whys’ we all try to use to understand why we see the bad seeming to triumph in the world, why is there suffering in the world and why it falls apart for ourselves. Why do bad things happen to good people? The answers his friends give do not sit well or feel complete; yet we have said them, we have heard them. We do not want to believe that is who God is; that God allows suffering and evil to triumph. We want to be faithful like Job during our own lives’ tragedies. And so, the conversations begin, will we accept the arguments of Job’s friends or not?
Accompanying Lord, as there are times in life where Job’s losses mirror our own and we may not be as kind in our hearts or with our lips, we ask your strength. Strengthen us so that we do not give up. Strengthen us so that we do not give up on each other or on you. May we hear in Job’s story how we can be faithful, even when it is hard. Amen.