Contributor: Randi Shepherd
Sometimes the most human answer we can give is, “I don’t know.”
Harvey. Uncontrollable fires. Racism. Death. Disease. Disappointment. Failure. Unanswered questions. On and on and on and on.
Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is evil allowed to prevail when God is good?
“Why do bad things happen to good people?
Why is evil allowed to prevail when God is good?”
I’m reading through the book of Job (pronounced Jobe) right now, which feels very timely to me. It is about a guy who excelled in every area of life and was an all around fantastic person. He loved God and was concerned with living a righteous lifestyle. From the outside looking in, in every sense of the phrase, he had it made. But that’s just the beginning of the first chapter.
Chapter two and beyond? He was completely crapped on. He lost his livelihood, his children died, his health declined to the point that his entire body was covered in sores, he lost his dignity, and his friends became complete jack-wagons.
Job is in the middle of the biggest disaster of his life and these are the kind of things his friends say to him (paraphrasing ahead):
- You should present your case to God, but if God is using this time to correct you or discipline you, remember, there is joy in that. (5:17)
- Your children must have sinned and you need to pray for God to return his favor (8:4)
- God is punishing you and (essentially) you should be grateful and not mock God (by being so upset) because it is far less than you deserve. (11:1-6)
- You are nothing but a windbag. You are a fool who has no reverence for God. (15:2)
- You are a wicked person and God is going to destroy you. (18; 20)
- You are too prideful. (22:4)
- You are not really a person of integrity. You must have been secretly sinning and made God angry. (22:5-10)
- You aren’t submitting to God enough. (22:21-22)
- You will never be innocent before God because you are human. (25)
On and on and on and on.
Job pleads with them to just leave him alone, to sit quietly, to stop, to be a good friend, but they continue to heap it on.
The friends feel the burning need to answer the question, “Why? Why did this bad thing happen?” But in trying so hard for an answer, they missed what was really needed. Job didn’t need the answer. Job needed help. Sometimes we don’t need the answers. Sometimes we just need help.
“Sometimes we don’t need the answers. Sometimes we just need help.”
Job’s friends had a lot to say. Not all of it was bogus. Some of it actually had a theological basis. But you know what? We see as the story goes on that it would have been better for them to just sit there and say, “I don’t know.” Because despite having *most* of the right answers, they did not have the answer as to why Job was suffering. God says to the friends at the end of the story, “I am angry with you because you have not spoken the truth about me…” (But that’s jumping ahead.)
We do this even today. We need a reason.
*You sinned.* *They sinned.* *God’s angry.* *God’s unjust.* *You caused this.* *God caused this.* *I caused this.*
On and on and on and on.
As Christians, we have a lot of answers that are sometimes theologically correct. We talk about original (Adam and Eve’s) sin; we talk about free-will and peoples’ choices to do evil; and we talk about Satan and his role of orchestrating terrible things in this world. There is truth in these words.
As people who live and move in this world we have a lot of answers that are sometimes correct. We talk about environmental challenges and changes, science, sociology, and the battle of human greed versus altruism. There is truth in these words.
But maybe, maybe sometimes, answers aren’t really what we need. Because does anybody actually know? For sure, for sure, do you actually know?
Do you know why a hurricane devastated an entire city, and why some died while others lived?
Do you know why some people have access to clean drinking water and some people still die of diseases that are completely preventable should they have that same access?
Do you know why on some days people are met with great disappointment while others are met with great abounding joy?
Do you really know the answers?
No. You don’t. I don’t. We don’t know.
So what do we do when people ask why? When we ask why? I think the most human answer we can give is, “I don’t know.”
“The most human answer we can give is, “I don’t know.””
I am a human limited in my knowledge and understanding. I know more now than I did 10 years ago and I’ll know more in 10 years than I know now. I will never know it all, and there are things beyond my capacity to ever know. I do not know why bad things happened to you or to people you love. I do not know why bad things have happened in my life.
I cannot answer the question: Why do bad things happen to good people?
But I can answer this question: How do I move forward in a world where bad things happen to good people?
Remember who God is.
God never actually answered Job’s questions. Instead, God reminded Job of who he is.
He is the one who laid the earth’s foundation, who marked off it’s dimensions. He set limits for the waters and brings forth the constellations in their seasons. He can count the clouds and sees when a mountain goat gives birth. He gives horses their strength and eagles will soar at his command. (38; 39)
God is the Almighty. God is all-knowing. God is all-powerful. God is all-good.
We know that God is still in charge. We know that God is watching over us. We know that we can ask God for help. We know that God made a way back to us because this world is breaking his heart and it is not the world he created. This is not the world God looked at and said, “It.Is.Good.” We know that God promises a new world that will come and that he will prepare a place for us there. We know that we will be pressed, but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed.* We know that death has lost it’s sting and no longer has any victory* because even still (EVEN STILL) we have hope that is found in Jesus.
We remember who God is.
Remember who we are.
We are people who God has given his spirit to. This is what it means to be a Christian or a Jesus follower. That we have asked for the forgiveness of our sins and traded our old lives for a new life. When we pray that prayer, God gives us new life and his spirit. The spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is the spirit that now lives in us* and therefore we are not helpless here on earth to simply watch bad things happen and do nothing. We have all power and all access to God to engage with this world and do something. God did not wind up this world and let it go, but instead he engages with people that we might be his hands and feet in a place where brokenness and darkness often reign.
“We are not helpless here on earth to simply watch bad things happen and do nothing.”
There is a passage in the book of Isaiah that I love because in it God asks the question, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Isaiah the prophet responds with, “Here am I Lord, send me! (6:8)
What do we do when bad things happen? Should we not be the ones who stand up and say, “Here am I Lord, send me!”
We do not be like Job’s friends who seriously needed a donkey punch to the throat. We go to be a help. We go to bring Jesus near to people. We go to bring compassion and mercy. We go to sit silently and wait with the down-trodden. We go to uphold one another. We go to love.
We remember who we are.
As we enter this new week is my prayer that we would hold tightly to the promise of who God is and that we would be quick to respond with that same spirit of love.
*2 Corinthians 4:8-9 *1 Corinthians 15:55-57 *Romans 8:11