When Bad Things Happen to Good People

For some of us the unfairness of life is so galling that we can barely hide our bitterness, which often exudes onto others. Our deepest resentment and blame may be secretly directed at God. Perhaps because we fear the wrath, disapproval, or abandonment of God, we hide these dark unwanted feelings even from ourselves. We unconsciously curse God in the darkness of our interior being, believing that as long as we don't know that these feelings exist, then we are not held responsible for them.

But Job's wife was right. At the height of Job's misery, when God gave Satan the freedom not only to take all that he loved and possessed but also to afflict his body with putrefying sores, Job's wife told him to curse God and die. Although her motivations were ambiguous and may have been less than honorable, her disturbing exhortation holds an important and often overlooked truth. Sometimes, we need to take the risk of cursing God and dying.

When these bitter feelings exist, confessing them gives a better chance of healing our soul than hiding them from ourselves or God. Perhaps only with God can a relationship be nurtured and sustained by bitter outpourings of blame, resentment, and cursing.

If we do risk such "unrighteousness," the necessary death that follows may not be literal, but spiritual and psychological. Two deaths are necessary: one, the death of our persona, and two, the death of our image of God. Our secret self-image of being righteous and innocent and our image of God as a god of divine justice based on meritocracy keep us from truly experiencing grace. The death of our perceptions of self and God opens the doorway to grace. This is the great lesson of Job.

Is Suffering Just a Cruel Cosmic Joke?

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 1999
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