People think the story of Job is about suffering. But though Job’s losses are almost incomprehensible, the underlying question playing out here is: Is God just?
The common wisdom of the ancient world—as articulated by Job’s misguided friends—was that if we do good, then a good God will return the favor. If we do bad, then we will be punished. As a righteous man, Job should have been rewarded by God. It was a God-centered version of karma.
But it was (well-disguised) heresy. Beneath this philosophy is the question: If God doesn’t give us good in return for our good, then is the Good Shepherd really good?
Here’s the tense truth: Job was good. God allowed Job to suffer. God is good.
Job never found out why he suffered. Most times, we don’t either. Sometimes we see the big picture. Sometimes God reveals to us what He has in mind. Sometimes He doesn’t. We simply do not know the ways of God and are left no other option than to trust.
God never promised an easy life. Actually, He promises the opposite: “In this world you will have trouble.” However, this somber promise ends, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
I don’t know why suffering happens, and trite answers are offensive to those who are suffering. But I do know what happens when people see the pain of others and respond with Christ’s love. I have seen how God shows us what love looks like in pain. Meals delivered. Hospital rooms visited. Homes cleaned. Hope shared.
God doesn’t ask us to have all the answers but simply reminds us that this world is not our home. Suffering makes us desperately long for our King’s return and encourages us to follow His example of love in action for those in need.
Good things don’t always happen to good people—but the Good Shepherd is still good and invites you and me to be His hands and feet to those in need, even when we don’t have answers to the difficult problem of pain and suffering.
The ultimate miracle worth celebrating is not that God answers a specific prayer for life, health, or strength, but rather that He has given the gift of Emmanuel, a God who is with us and for us, even in pain.
Reflection: Have you unknowingly bought into the idea of Christian karma? If so, how has it affected your relationship with God?
Based on The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good, by Peter Greer with Anna Haggard, published by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group (www.bakerpublishinggroup.com), 2014. Used by permission.