The book of Job is the greatest poem of ancient and modern times. — Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
Tennyson may be right in his analysis of the literature of the Book of Job, but it has never been one of my favorite biblical stories. I know it is a wonderful story about the problem of divine justice and attempts to answer the theological question known as “theodicy” — “Why do the righteous suffer?” My problems lie with God letting Satan destroy an otherwise good man on a bet, and I am not totally satisfied with God’s non-answer where he never explains the reason for Job’s suffering nor defends his justice.
It is argued that the Book of Job is the oldest book in the bible, which makes sense. I suspect the question of why do bad things happen to good people is as old as humanity exists. Maybe that’s the point of the end of Job — that is there is no answer within the confines of our understanding. It is one of those mysteries that leads us to wonder.
Do I have an answer, absolutely not, but age and experience has taught me one thing. After we get over the natural human emotions of “why me” and “isn’t this piling on,” we come to that moment where we can continue to ask questions or we can go about living as best we can. On my sabbatical, I witnessed a lot of suffering, cruelty, and heartache some self-inflicted and some not. Each brother had a choice to make on how to deal with their own hell on earth. They could either continue to go about their day asking “why me” and wandering the compound like deer in the headlights, or they could find joy, wonder, and life is some of the worst circumstances imaginable. It was the latter who solved the mystery we each face many times in our life.
Whether we live in a prison cell or a mansion the theological question of theodicy will become our reality more than once. How you decide to solve the mystery is your solution.