God and Human Suffering
I came forth from my mother's womb, and naked shall I go back again.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name
of the Lord.”
all this Job did not sin”
Everything: Children. House. Health. Good name. Property ...
You name it, Job lost it. Covered with boils
the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.”
he sat upon the ashes he poured over his head and scraped himself with
a potsherd. Even his wife reviled him:
God and die.”
Three friends came, barely recognizing Job, and sat a week with him
in silence. They then proceeded to console Job by convicting him of
Finally, Job himself uttered what we all have uttered at one time or
another in our lives:
did I not die at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?”
He would rather that his nakedness had never been
clothed in honor, good fortune, and prosperity, for then he would not
know the pain of losing what he had. God had
a hedge about him and his house and all that he had, on every side.”
The evil one knew this, tore down the hedge, devastated the house, and
tempted Job to despair ... to give up on God.
And, yet ...
all this, Job did not sin.”
Job was blameless before God.
We know Job.
been Job in one form or
We have been devastated, deprived, lost our health, our jobs, our dignity,
security, esteem ... even our families.
How do we console ourselves? As Job’s
friends consoled him? By telling ourselves that it is, in sense,
just ... a justice we had somehow managed
to escape and that has ineluctably and finally caught up with us?
misfortunes were not just.
They were not God’s
Even were justice demanded of us for our sins — and unlike Job, they
are many — it has already been rendered, raised in all our ignominy
heaped upon Christ on the Cross.
Yes, God is just! But it was God Himself who paid the price of justice
in the shattered humanity of Christ. He did not — and He does not —
exact it from us. We are far too poor to pay.
God Himself rendered justice to God!
So what of Job?
What of us?
You came into this world with nothing. You will leave it with nothing.
You think you have worked for, earned, all the good things
you enjoy, and reckon the day that it will be taken from you, an injustice.
But injustice was never done you, for you never earned them,
never deserved them. What, then, of all your hard work and sweat?
Have you worked harder, more diligently, more desperately, than the
poverty stricken farmer in Africa? Why is he not adorned as you?
Why is his plate empty?
If you possess power, wealth, esteem, glory, in this world, do not congratulate
yourself on your diligence, your
luck, and what you deem your “appropriately rewarded” success through
your own magnificent efforts. It is more appropriate to tremble.
And also behold Christ, Christ Who was also
tempted by that same evil one who, in his empty promise, is frightfully
the devil took Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of
the world in a moment of time, and said to Him, "To you
I will give all, this authority and their glory;
for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom
(St. Luke 4.5-6)
Ask yourself soberly: whence your prosperity, your power, your wealth?
Do you think it your due, yours in justice? From whom
and to what end have you acquired it? And over the dignity of how many
people did you accumulate it?
Job he tempted to despair in having lost all that was
not his to begin with.
Christ he tempted to idolatry by emptily promising to give Him
... what was already His!
Who said that wealth, prosperity, power was
his to give? And who was it that took it
away from Job — telling Christ Himself that it was his
to give and his to take?
Misfortunes are not from God. Nor are they the penalty
for your sins (for you would have nothing now, would you?)
Misfortunes, suffering, want, pain, destitution, illness, are evils
— out of which God ever brings good ... as He did to Job who,
all this did not sin.”
May we do likewise in the face of misfortune, knowing the ever redemptive
love of God lifting us up to holiness, before the relentless malice
that would pull us down to despair.
The house that God has prepared for you will not collapse. Let us put
our treasures there — and know our own nakedness.
Part II: The Suffering Servant
Totally Faithful to the Sacred
Deposit of Faith entrusted to the Holy See in Rome
opera tua ... quia modicum habes virtutem, et servasti verbum
Meum, nec non negasti Nomen Meum”
know your works ... that you have but little power, and
yet you have kept My word, and have not denied My Name.”
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