Rev. Stephen Baldwin
OT: Job 1.1, 11-12, 18-22; 19.1-7, 38.1-11; 42.1-6
Some questions just can’t be answered. Why do you park on a driveway and drive on a parkway? Why is abbreviated such a long word? And…why does it always rain at the state fair?
Every year, no matter what the weather has been like all year, it will rain the week of the fair. Like clockwork. We could be in the midst of a drought and it would start raining on the first day of the fair. Guaranteed.
Why does it always rain at the fair? This is one of the questions in life to which we will never know the answer. And it’s another way of saying, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
We’ve waited for the fair all year long. We’ve planned concerts and exhibits and food trailers and family events. It’s only ten days. There are 355 other days of the year it can rain. Why is this happening to us?
Which is just another way of asking the oldest question in history: Why must we suffer? Does God allow it? Can God stop it? Is it our fault? Why do some people suffer more than others?
The most frequent question asked of any minister is some version of: Why must we suffer? We ask it not just about silly things like rain at the fair. We ask it when our kids are in the hospital. We ask it when tragedy strikes. We ask it when sickness steals our dreams. We ask it all the time.
As we study this question, we look to the story of Job. Let’s start by getting the story straight.
Job was a good man. He feared God and shunned evil. His kids liked to party a little too much, so he regularly sacrificed burnt offerings for them.
One day a group of angels came to visit God, and Satan came with them. In the Hebrew Bible, Satan isn’t the devil, like we think of with a red tail, horns, and a pitchfork. Satan is a fallen angel. The accuser, whose power is that of influence. Satan accuses you of things to try and take you off the righteous path.
Satan wants to test Job. God says, “Everything he has in your hands, but don’t lay a finger on him.”
Not long after that, Job’s livestock was taken. Then a fire destroyed some of his farm, his sheep, and his staff. Then his camels were taken and his remaining servants killed. Then his children were killed in a violent wind.
Job was overcome with so much suffering that his physical appearance changed. His friends barely recognized him. He cursed the day of his birth. He cried out to God for help.
In due time, God responds. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Who marked off its dimensions? Who shut the sea behind its doors? Have you ever given orders to the morning? Can you raise your voice to the clouds?”
Job is angry that he has suffered so greatly. God is angry that Job blames God for what happened to him. And in the end, after God finishes speaking, Job replies, “I know you can do all things. I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. I repent in dust and ashes.”
Job went on to live another life, blessed with children and livestock and love. And he died, old and full of years.
Why does it always rain during the fair? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why must we suffer? We don’t know.
My reading of the Job story is that God is in charge, God wants the best for us, God is pained when we suffer, and through it all…God will be there for us.
God was with Job the whole time. He was never alone. He was never forgotten or forsaken. God never directly responds to Job’s question asking why he had to suffer.
Barbara Brown Taylor, Episcopal priest and noted preacher, says this: “Job’s question was about justice. God’s answer is about omnipotence, and as far as I know, that is the only answer human beings have ever gotten about why things happen the way they do. God only
knows. And none of us is God.”
Why does it always rain at the fair? Only God knows. But you can bet God will be there, probably eatin’ a donut under a shade tree watchin’ kids show their animals. Because God never leaves us alone. We are never forgotten. Never forsaken. God will be with us always, no matter what rain or suffering comes. Amen.