An artist's rendering of Job. (Adobe Stock)
An artist's rendering of Job. (Adobe Stock)

With coronavirus bearing down on the United States, people of faith might reasonably ask, “Why does God allow this?”

It’s the question of all questions and it comes to mind with every disaster, accident and illness.

Philosophers and theologians tried for centuries to finesse an answer for suffering, but none really satisfy reason. A better source is the book of Job, which is almost a manual on human misery.

The inspired writer makes four main points: suffering is not punishment; we can’t understand everything; we may have the wrong idea about God’s omnipotence; and we encounter God in moments of suffering.

Our instinct is to think God is rendering justice with every storm and sickness. Job agonizes over this. But the book concludes that God has such broad and bright vision that we can’t possibly understand. Job also decides that God has given the dignity of freedom to humans, meaning that God will not swoop in and solve every problem, lest we be puppets and not people.

The best we can do is remain open to what God does with the pain that is a part of natural processes. That’s hope. We can then declare with Job, “I know that my redeemer lives.”

The suffering servant motif in the book of Isaiah shows us that sufferers have a ministry; they help others see more clearly and identify what’s important.

In the New Testament, Jesus in himself melds the messiah and the suffering servant. In Christ, we have a God who suffers with us.

The chief example of what God does with our human missteps and our suffering is the paschal mystery. Jesus withstood misunderstanding, slander, torture and a degrading death. But God took that and turned it into nothing less than human salvation.

We would not choose this path, but they truth is that while God does not will our suffering, God can make something of it.