Church of England Diocese of Leicester Skeffington

Why does God let bad things happen to good people? (Job 38:1-11)

21 Jun 2021, 8 p.m.

I think to better understand the context of today’s passage from Job, you need to know a bit of the background and forgive me if you are already very familiar with the whole story.

Job is not a happy man, to put it mildly, he has lost everything, added to that, his friends are giving him a hard time and they start to become quite angry and bitter towards him. Job can’t understand it, he is a good, God-fearing man, honest and upright but his life has turned from triumph to tragedy.

His troubles centre around the age old question “why does God let bad things happen to good people”? I think you might agree, currently a very topical question. Job doesn’t know the answer and feels his friends are just winding him up with empty words, so finally he wants to confront God.

He has got some serious questions and he wants answers. Earlier, in chapter 13 he says “I would speak to the Almighty: I desire to argue my case with God”. Once he has got this off his chest he feels a bit happier about things, he admits he knows that God is magnificent but still the rancour continues until finally, “from out of the storm” the Almighty answers Job, however, to his disappointment, the answers come in the form of questions, serving as answers, as we have heard in today’s reading.

God doesn’t tell Job ‘I am awe-inspiringly powerful and have got your back’, no, instead God asks him the questions “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?”

Job hears the rebuke, he knows he has overstepped the mark and later, in chapter 42 he says to God “Who am I to answer you, I did speak once or twice, but never again” he realises he has talked about things which are as we say today, ‘far beyond his pay grade’ or his understanding, he realises that for all his questions he has to trust God, to base his faith in God as the omnipotent Almighty.

In today’s gospel reading I feel Jesus is taking a similar approach when he says to the disciples “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith”? In other words had the disciples not seen enough to know that Jesus would never let them perish and that he had the power, in a moment, to calm the wind and still the waves.

Similar to Job, the disciples are angry, they think Jesus has no regard for the possible loss of their boat, or even that they are putting their lives at risk by following Him.

This story about Jesus always makes me smile, we hear that he was asleep in the boat, and maybe he was, but I like to imagine him lying there, in control of what is going on, pretending to be asleep and wondering just how much the disciples could take before fear overtook them and for their faith to be stretched to breaking point. In all fairness, the boat was their livelihood and they were being battered by the waves, they were being severely tested and rightly they wonder “what have we done to deserve this”? They turned to Jesus expecting some reassuring motivational words but His initial response was not what they were hoping for.

Inviting God into our conversation can be a huge ask but maybe we can draw strength from today’s stories. We are usually reasonably confident about inviting God to listen to our prayers, we have a handy selection of liturgical phrases: Lord graciously hear us! Almighty God, hear me when I call! but inviting divine conversation – real dialogue leading to a better understanding – is different.

Having dared to challenge God, Job discovers the Almighty has questions for him, so if we give it out to God, we have to be ready for what comes back, it might not be what we are expecting or even what we particularly want to hear.

Perhaps we are suffering through adversity in our lives just now, we do not need to feel guilty about it, there are many life storms that can lead us to want to question God, to say it how it is, but then, in the stillness, we need to listen for the answer.

Job found that God had not abandoned him, God ultimately restored his fortunes and similarly, the disciples found stronger faith and appreciation in Jesus. Gradually it dawned on Job and the disciples that without knowing why they were being made to suffer, they could face it, so long as they were assured that God was by their side, their friend and saviour.

Be strong and dare to invite God in, invite God to speak into or out of your storm.