If you’re familiar with the bible, you would most likely also be familiar with the story of Job. I’ve just completed a study of the book and, like before, I couldn’t stop wondering.
Here was a man minding his own business, being good, when all of a sudden he was inundated with every bad thing possible, save the loss of his life.
He began asking the age old question we still ask today. “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
Not only did he think, he knew that he was good. He knew he was righteous and it baffled him why a good God would allow such evil to befall such a good man like him.
His friends had different answers for him. Some of them even accused him of being so prideful as to think he was righteous. They were so sure he had done something to deserve what he was going through.
At the end, Job demanded an answer from God Himself. And God showed up, not particularly to give him an answer, but to give him a virtual tour of the world instead. God showed him how everything in the world, no matter how big or small, was so intricately connected that it took an all-knowing and all-seeing being to be in charge of everything and mete out reward and punishment when due.
He showed him all of creation and asked him the rhetorical question: Where were you when I created all of this?
In essence, as long as Job could not run the world as seamlessly as God did, he was owed no explanations and therefore could not question God’s judgment. He even went on to say that Job’s friends were wrong, meaning that Job was actually a good man to whom a lot of bad things happened.
I remember my first Philosophy class in University. The assignment was to write an essay titled: If God is Good, Why Evil?
Sometimes, bad things do happen to genuinely good people. And before we question God or conclude that He’s either evil or non-existent, we should take a look at the type of world He created. Take a virtual world tour like Job, if you will.
We will notice that He has created a world where everything is intricately connected and we as human beings thrive best when we live for others; when we love our neighbours as much as we love ourselves.
He has created a world where the consequences of our actions don’t just end with us, but affect others around us.
Think about a very clean, neat and tidy person like me (I know, I just had to), living in a city where majority of the inhabitants are dirty and untidy. Everyone is a litterbug. They eat bananas and toss the peels on the streets. Same thing with their egg shells, snack wrappers and other garbage – onto the streets with reckless abandon!
I try so hard to pick up garbage from the streets whenever I’m walking by, but the effort of one clean person is not enough in the multitude of pigs. And so I, a clean and tidy person, over time find myself living in a slum because of the actions of other people. A very bad thing happening to a very good person.
Flip the story around. I’m the litterbug this time and everyone else in the city is clean. Whenever I eat in my car, I fling the trash out the window and onto the streets. People around pick up my litter and properly dispose of them. As a result, a dirty pig like me would find himself living in the best of neighbourhoods because of the actions of others. A very good thing happening to a rather bad person.
Our actions have ripple effects, and our collective good actions may drown out the singular bad ones by the few miscreants around us.
And sometimes not so much.
An entire town may get overridden with a disease because a singular doctor forgot to sterilize his equipment before using it on another patient. Two entire countries may find themselves at war with each other because of the immaturity of their two leaders.
The bottom line is for us to acknowledge that our actions, no matter how small, have either positive or negative consequences that others would also have to bear with us, because we are so intricately connected with one another.
Sometimes, we may find a very good person, like Job, suffering and we wonder why such bad things would be allowed to happen to such good people. Those ones we might not be able to explain.
But in most other cases, someone out there is suffering today because of the actions you took yesterday. Therefore, let us be mindful of others and realize that selfish actions only contribute to the collective bad that everyone – including us – ends up suffering.
Walk in love instead and encourage others to. It is the one good action with a good ripple effect. It repays evil for good because it keeps no record of wrongs. It looks out for others because it is patient and kind, not jealous, not boastful, not proud, rude or selfish and not easily angered. It always bears up, always trusts, always hopes and always endures long enough to drown out the actions of the miscreants among us.
And soon enough it would appear like, in this world of ours, only good things happen to good and bad people alike because love covers a multitude of bad deeds.