People who’ve experienced the recent horrific theater attack in Aurora, CO, may come to doubt God’s goodness. How can a good God let such things happen? We may entertain those doubts ourselves. We’ve lived through many horrors. At times, those acts of outrage also touch our personal lives. In the wake of the Aurora killings, health professionals expect a rise in depression and in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Religious leaders may also expect their people to express serious doubts about God’s benevolence.
As with many people, Job’s experience of suffering arouses intense doubt about God’s goodness. Through the prism of his exceptional tragedies, with five separate hostile images, Job envisions a God who attacks: the Archer, the Eye, the Lion, the Soldier, and the General. God the Archer pierces Job’s body with poison-tipped arrows (6:4). God the Spy (the Eye in the Sky) watches for any misstep (7:8). God the hungry Lion tears him limb from limb (16:9-10). God the Soldier viciously grabs him by the neck to crush him (16:12). Like a city under siege, Job pictures himself besieged by God the General who surrounds him in his flimsy tent (19:11-12).
Like Job, people who’ve experienced traumatic loss can cast God’s image in a hostile light. It may take some time for them to grieve, to process their horrors, and to find support to survive. In the meantime, their trust in God’s goodness suffers, too.
Like Job’s doubt we can understand theirs.