I have just finished reading a book titled “Why do the righteous suffer?” by an author I suspect most like me have never heard of: J.R.Chopra, which is introduced as “the book of Job explained in a simple manner”. The book is remarkably non heavy and yet makes several pertinent points as it seeks to unravel this vital question by looking at the contents of maybe the oldest book in the Bible.
For those who don’t know, the book of Job is about a man called Job, who had everything, lost everything and regained what he had lost with interest. He was also depicted as a good and God fearing man who excelled in this department ahead of all his peers. It was a conundrum to everyone in the story that Job should suffer, with many of the questions that have been asked down the ages raised.
This question (and included in this is the “innocent”) is one that has exercised great minds more than any other down the ages, and the lack of a satisfactory answer has cause many to lose their faith in or not come to faith in a “loving” God. Often those who try to answer the question fail to convince and often the matter only becomes real when we experience unfair suffering ourselves or by loved ones.
It is tempting to come up with my own theological perspective concerning this huge question but how can I compete with greater minds than I? And yet my faith in a loving God who does all things right, just, good etc. is indicative that I believe there is an answer even if I can’t fully grasp it myself. Certainly, I must not fall into the trap of Job and his friends, void of the big picture, as they sought to rationalize why Job’s suffering came about in the first place, e.g. he was not quite as good as he appeared on the surface.
One of the helpful pointers in the book of Job is that his suffering had little to do with what he did or did not do. It also showed the futility into delving into things beyond our understanding. As readers of the book of Job we get a glimpse in what happens in the unseen, spiritual world, which contributed to Job’s misfortunes. Life is unfair and what happens in life, especially when bad things happen to good people defies all explanation. Sometimes we can only maintain silence, something in hindsight Job’s friends might have been better doing rather than pontificate on the why question.
The bottom line is despite all our rationalizing, we never make sense of suffering this side of the grave. Besides believing everything happens for a purpose, like building up character including things like empathy and humility, even if we don’t understand what that purpose is, my great hope is in God’s love shown by His Son, the only truly righteous man to have ever lived, dying on the cross for we sinners. And yet to my dying day, I will continue to grieve and agonise when the people who least deserve it suffer when they do.