This week we begin our journey into the heart of the most difficult aspect of our faith - how a good and loving God can allow the suffering we experience. Job seems to be a victim of a deadly game between God and the Satan - the Accuser. This story is not meant to be an account of an actual event. Rather it's more like a parable. Elie Wiesel, a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust and Pulitzer Prize author of "Night" said it was "like a fairy tale for adults." If the idea of someone calling anything in the Bible a fairy tale upsets you, you underestimate the truth and power of fairy tales.
What's at stake for God in the Satan's challenge? God has given these human creatures free will - the hope is that humans will use their free will to choose love - to love God. The Satan accuses God of making it too easy for Job - Job has a pretty charmed life. "What if he loses all that?" asks the Satan. "Will he still love you then, or is he in this just for the perks?"
If God refuses to allow the test, God can't prove the Satan wrong. If God allows the test, God risks Job's rejection. God allows the test.
Job's trials begin. They outline the different sources of our suffering. Credit here goes to author John Polkinghorne who is a physicist and Anglican priest.
Much human suffering comes from human sin - not just their own but that of others and of even generations of human sin. Job's servants are killed and his livestock are stolen by raiders.
Natural evil - suffering from natural causes - is perhaps the most difficult for us. Earthquakes, tsunamis, inexplicable diseases...it seems like God could do something about those.
But Dr. Polkinghorne calls these things the "shadow side of evolution." God gives creation great freedom to unfold as it will - science calls this process evolution. But it's a package deal - that freedom means the bad comes with the good. You don't get beautiful mountain ranges without earthquakes for example.
Job's children are all killed by what sounds like a tornado.
Job's suffering is terrible. But he doesn't give up on God or curse God at this point.
You can access the full sermon on the "Sermons" page of this website. What reactions do you have? What questions do you have?