Job and Hopkins

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College lends itself well to pondering things. A good education will make you ponder deeply and often. And more often than not, all of your areas of study will overlap, teaching you one great theme that will remain with you for years.

In my daily Bible reading, I am exploring the book of Job. I go to my 8:00 modern poetry class and come back at 9:00 with my head in the perfect space for analyzing deep poems—which is precisely what the book of Job is. The margins of my Bible are filled with notes; allusions are circled, repeated themes are underlined—it’s a mess in there.

The book of Job explores the age-old question “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The main character, Job, is a righteous man. Satan tells God that he can bring Job to curse God’s name if he can remove all happiness from him, and God allows him to try. All hell breaks loose in Job’s life—he loses his family, his possessions, and his health. His “friends” come to comfort him by telling him he must have sinned, so all he has to do is repent and life will be awesome again. But Job didn’t sin. Could God still be just?

Gerard Manley Hopkins addresses this same issue in his poem “Thou Art Indeed Just, Lord, If I Contend.” He says that it seems the enemies of God accomplish more for wickedness in their spare time than he has done for righteousness in his whole life—and he’s lived a while. God allows his enemies to grow like weeds, but he feels withered. He writes on the assumption that God is still just—and He will “send [his] roots rain.”

So is God still just if He allows His servants to suffer?

Yes.

There’s no simple answer to this question. Not really. But, speaking as a servant of God who has suffered, this much I know: every dark valley has led to greater light. Every broken bone has healed back stronger. Every scar is a story and a warning to others. Because I have suffered, I am a better servant. There are others I know who are fighting the same battles, or worse ones—but I can be there for them now in a way I couldn’t have been if I had never known pain.

Maybe my assertions sound masochistic—but I will remind you that I await an ultimate prize, an eternal life, and unending joy at the end of my life. Those who do not follow my God can’t look forward to that.

Perhaps He lets them win now because He knows that “the now” is all they have.  

So God is just. In every possible way, His plan is right. 

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One response »

  1. Your conclusions are confirmed in the writings of David, specifically Psalm 73 that ponders why the wicked thrive while the godly suffer. David concludes that this life is all they have, so we shouldn’t bemoan their increase, but praise God for His work in our lives as preparation for heaven: “For it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works.” Thank you for modeling this conclusion.

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