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(Part 11)


God loves us, and He wants the best for us. God created the universe that is good. God intended for all of us to dwell with Him eternally in paradise. God is all powerful and He can do what He wants to do.

Why then do bad things happen to people? Why do people suffer, like Job?

Well, for one thing, we have free will. God is all good, but we are not, and many times we choose to do what is wrong. This gets us into all sorts of trouble. Second, there is evil in the world, which affects us whether we like it or not. But why does God not protect those He loves? Well, God is all powerful and in control, but chooses not to control our lives. Out of love He does not violate our free will. He does try to guide us, and at times He intervenes, but basically we choose our own path.

Why do bad things happen to good people? There are many reasons.

  • Spiritual warfare. Satan opposes whatever is of God and whoever is for God. This is what happened to Job.
  • Discipline. We are children of God and so He disciplines us as a father does to a son. This is for our own good, to bring us back to the right path.
  • Testing. God allows affliction and suffering to see if we are with Him only because of the rewards and blessings. This is what Satan claimed about Job. When our consolation is removed, are we still there for God? It is a test of faithfulness.
  • Purification. We are called to holiness, and suffering is a fire that purifies, that burns out the imperfections in us.
  • Redemption. The way of salvation is the way of the cross. This is Jesus’ own way. Through suffering we help redeem ourselves and others.[1]
  • Faith. Affliction and suffering deepen our faith like no other. When we are at our lowest point, when God seems to be nowhere, when we are helpless and have no more hope, and as we grapple with our condition that seemingly is unjust, there we enter into the gateway of a much deeper relationship with God. This is what happened to Job.

Fine. God loves us, and suffering makes us better persons. Further, after the discipline, testing and purification, we look to blessings. Indeed Job was restored and his blessings returned twofold.

So bad things happen to good people. But why do bad things not happen to bad people?[2] Why in fact do the unrighteous thrive? Job was dismayed. “Why do the wicked survive, grow old, become mighty in power?” (Job 21:7). The good suffer, while the bad flourish. Is this not injustice?

This is the mystery of evil in the world. In the face of a just and righteous God who is all-powerful, why does God allow this seemingly unjust situation? This was part of Job’s struggle.

Like Job and his friends, we have human thinking. God did not even try to answer Job’s questions, but simply pointed to who He was. God was not being autocratic, not just demanding unquestioning obeisance, not being stubbornly unreasonable. Rather, God wanted to bring Job to a much higher plane.[3] It was not enough that Job’s human questions would be answered. God wanted to reveal Himself, and His frame of reference would be not man but God.

If God were to bring us to a higher plane in our relationship with Him, just as He did to Job, then we can begin to appreciate why the good suffer. As was said, affliction and suffering deepen our faith.[4]

Are we good simply because of the blessings? What if the blessings are withdrawn, as in the case of Job? Do we pray because we get what we ask for? When God says no or does not respond at all, will we still persevere in prayer? Do we serve and give of ourselves sacrificially because we have the consolation of God and the approval of man? What if those we serve fail to appreciate us, or worse, even turn against us and malign us? Do we give of our time, talent and treasure because we look to God’s reward? What if we see those who do not give as much still being blessed by God, even more than our blessings?[5]

God wants us to love and serve Him for His sake alone. Not for rewards. Not for material blessings. Not for recognition. Not because we fear punishment. Not in order to make it to heaven. In this, the ultimate test might precisely be that the unrighteous thrive! Will we still continue to do good, even when it is seemingly unjust?[6] So God allows the unrighteous to thrive, for our sake! So that we, like Job, might enter more deeply in our relationship with Him, and know Him for who He truly is.

Oh, the inscrutable depth of the love of God for us!

The book of Job could have ended without the Epilogue (Job 42:7-17). In a way, the restoration of Job could detract from the very lesson God wants to teach, because it still makes us look to eventual reward and blessings. Perhaps the human writer, painfully aware of the human condition, felt he needed to give this final consolation and basis for hope.

Indeed, in this world the good might suffer and the bad thrive. We might experience this injustice for the duration of our life on earth. But ultimately, in what really counts, the good can look to redemption and eternal life in heaven.[7] This is the ultimate justice for the righteous.

The Almighty! Just and righteous is He.

(January 2, 2010)


[1] Jesus of course is the one Redeemer, but we participate in his work of redemption -- by working to transform our lives and grow in holiness, by evangelizing others, by intercession, by our work for social justice, and so on.
[2] A lot of bad things of course happen to bad people. But there are also so many others who seem to live a nice fulfilled life.
[3] We will look deeper into this in another paper.
[4] There are unfortunately also those who, when afflicted and as they consider the injustice in their situation, turn away from God, rather than being drawn more deeply to Him.
[5] Or worse, they are blessed while we suffer.
[6] In this many have fallen and simply joined the company of the wicked, or at least, no longer persevered in growing in holiness.
[7] See, I myself have fallen into this hope-of-eternal-life mode. I suppose that in the weakness of our human condition, we need this hope to cling to. But how I hope I could simply cling to God alone.



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