Friday, November 26, 2004

Why Does God Let Good People Suffer?

Many years ago, I stumbled upon a book written by Harold Kushner entitled When Bad Things Happen to Good People. I read it cover to cover in one sitting, then coincidentally found a friend at my front door who was in serious emotional distress. Thanks to Harold Kushner's book, I knew what to say to my friend, . . . and what not to say.

At the heart of Kushner's book is a theodicy based on the Book of Job. Truth be told, I was not particularly impressed by Kushner's theodicy, but this did not detract from the value of his theodicy as a basis for dealing with people experiencing psychic pain. To wit, when people ask, "Why me?" they are not asking for a theological exegesis of the Book of Job; they are crying out for help and comfort.

Comforting people in pain is a tricky business. Feelings of guilt and shame are universal among people who have suffered a tragic loss, and almost anything you say to comfort someone at such times will be construed as an accusation or a moral judgment. Truth be told, it is human nature to blame the victim, so you have to censor even seemingly innocent thoughts when consoling a victim and guard against making pointless accusations and moral judgments.

Consoling victims is all well and good, but once you help a victim find closure through whatever means are available, you are left with the existential angst about why God lets good people suffer. To remedy this angst, I turn (once again) to the Book of Job. On this note, whenever I encounter a self-described Christian, I ask them if they have read the Book of Job, and then I ask them for an explanation as to why an all powerful and benevolent God would allow Satan to persecute someone who was as virtuous and blameless as Job was.

It is rare that I get a thoughtful or considered response to the question of why God allowed Satan to persecute Job, but on occasion I do. On this note, the most intellectually satisfying theodicy that I have encountered to date is found on a Web site published by one Rob Sheldon, The Book of Job: A multiperspectival approach to the problem of evil, the suffering of the righteous, and the justice of God. A theodicy.

Why does God let good people suffer? The short answer is that Satan moves God for permission to persecute the righteous, and God grants Satan that permission to prove that the righteous love God whether or not God rewards them. To wit, Satan throws down the gauntlet, and God picks it up. As I said, this is the short answer. For a more meaningful answer, one must dig much, much deeper.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might be interested in this website ( and companion book "Putting God on Trial- The Biblical Book of Job". The entire commentary is online and has been highly praised by Job scholars and the Review of Biblical Literature.

Sutherland's thesis is that the Book of Job is a Hegelian theodicy where a world of undeserved evil is morally necessary for the production of the highest form of selfless love, a completely selfless love of men and women for God.

1:22 PM, December 23, 2004  
Blogger Internet Esquire said...

<< You might be interested in this website ( and companion book "Putting God on Trial- The Biblical Book of Job". >>

Live link:

8:05 AM, December 25, 2004  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My 14-year-old niece (baptised into Christ when she was 7, living a clean life and loving God faithfully) is suffering severe abuse and neglect at the hands of her "Christian" mother. The child has acid reflux, anxiety, IBS and possibly depression. Her mother is controlled by evil and hatred. The child is being used in a child custody battlefield. The struggle is all about money not the welfare of the child. I've been a christian since I was 13. Raised in a christian home. Grandfather was a gospel minister. But this? I'm having a hard time watching this child suffer and her mother appears to win every battle while her daughter suffers. My faith in God's love is wavering here.

9:50 AM, November 08, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a lot going on at home,things I could not have dill with. I prayed God but the next day it got worst. I know he is here but why is he leting this happen. Everything I do to make it better actually make it worst. I can't take it anymore.

12:08 PM, July 14, 2007  
Anonymous kmldirtwalker said...

I have never believed in god, i have seen poor innocent children suffering for things that they had nothing to do with. We are all suffering right now with global warming and such, so if there is a god, is he bored with us? Does he want to end us? Is he maniacal, becausee he lets innocent people suffer, they do not deserve to die because he wants to have some fun, he is corrupt ( if he is truly real) If there is a god, he has fucked us all over.

10:10 AM, December 14, 2007  
Blogger Michael said...

I agree that God exists but I really feel that he loves watching people suffer. Our problem is that we were taught,(brain-washed) that God was good. Our perception of GOOD was that he was compassionate, forgiving, and loving. The OLD TESTAMENT shows a jealous and maniacal God. These Bible thumpers do not want to face that. In essence if you accept that God is not Good as we see the definition of good, then sufferering makes sense.

6:59 PM, February 20, 2010  

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