Book of Job illustrates the mystery and love of God
by Sister Ann Rehrauer
We don’t often get a reading from the Book of Job – and it’s probably a good thing. Job seems to have spent much of his life battling chronic depression. But as we hear his story – it’s pretty understandable. In the beginning of the narrative, Job experiences God’s blessings of prosperity, large flocks and plentiful crops, a happy and large family, and good health. And suddenly – it’s all wiped out. At first, Job accepts the ill fortune: “I accept good things from God – should I not accept evil as well?” But as the losses continue, it finally wears him down and he cries out in frustration, “WHY ME, LORD?”
We all know people who seem to have more than their share of “ill fortune” - painful cancer, a young mother dying and leaving small children behind, a series of job losses and evictions, people living with addictions they can’t conquer, deaths of medical personnel and first responders who died providing for others during the pandemic. And we, too, sometimes ask, “why --when we need these people so desperately? Why doesn’t God intervene to prevent this?”
The Book of Job is an attempt to answer the age-old question – “why do bad things happen to good people?” In the wisdom of the world, being blessed by God in this life is a sign of God’s favor and happens because of the righteousness of the recipient. And yet, as Job rightly says, he has been faithful -- and still evil befalls him.
For 37 chapters, Job’s friends and colleagues offer advice, relying on the perennial wisdom that says somehow, this must be his fault.
At last, an answer comes from God – but it doesn’t seem very satisfying:
“Who can know the mind of God?”
“ Who has been God’s counselor?”
“Were any of us there when God laid out the plan for the universe?”
When all was said and done – Job acknowledged that God has a plan, God is in charge, and we don’t always understand – but we are called to trust God.
As we struggle with the mystery of evil and suffering, we, too, have to acknowledge that God has a plan and we are not in charge. But we also know that God never wills evil and suffering. Rather, God wants what is good for us, in spite of the existence of evil in the world. Sometimes that means working through hardships, enduring suffering and pain, and losses that are part of being human and living in an imperfect world. God’s will for us is to do whatever we can to alleviate suffering and to right injustices. And at the same time, to trust that in the midst of all that surrounds us – we are loved and sustained by God and by people God provides to support us on this journey.