Lenten Meditation 5: Job and the Question of Evil

Lenten Meditations: Job and the Question of Evil

I don’t have an answer to the question of why there is so much evil and pain in this world. All I can do is encourage you to speak directly to God if you have questions about God’s ways. Speak as one friend to another, even if anger is the only emotion you can voice. The book of Job, I believe, encourages such honest relating with friends and indicates that God is willing to respond, even if the response is not, at first hearing, as comforting as we might hope.

Loving God, help me read the book of Job with an open heart and mind, that I might come to peace, if not understanding, about the question of evil in the world.

—William A. Barry, SJ, in Lenten Meditations: Growing in Friendship with God

As we watched the evening news while preparing dinner, I had to mute the volume and distract my daughter as the story about the latest ISIS violence was broadcast. My initial response, I must confess, was disgust, horror, and a desire to use whatever means available to stop them. But nowhere in my heart did I find the desire to pray for them. That didn’t even cross my mind! Yes, I have heard Jesus’ teaching to “love your enemies and pray for those who curse you” thousands of times in my faith studies and in church, but even 40-some years of trying to live this faith was no match for my defensive and hostile human nature in the face of atrocities.

Only when I sat in prayer, my time of conversation with God as Job suggests, and looked back over my day to see what stirred my angst and negativity, did I recognize in myself the very hatred that they are spewing out on others. It was not pretty to admit. And then, as promised, in the still, small voice, the teaching finally came back to me: Love them. Pray for them.

Again I resisted. You can’t be serious! I am supposed to pray for ISIS? For people who are perpetrating horrid violence on innocents? What is there to pray for them?

Again the Voice in my gut came: Perhaps to will that they would be able to experience love. That they would see the beauty of creation, of Divinity, in each person around them regardless of their faith proclamations. They are missing so much beauty in this world by trying to control and conform it. Somehow in that time of prayer and conversation, my hostility and resistance turned to pity.

In the book of Job, the only evil God directly addresses is not that which rained down from Satan, but that which came from Job’s supposed friends. They encourage him not to share his woes with God, to quit complaining and keep doing the prescribed rituals even if they feel empty, lest they all get in trouble. They encourage Job to accept that God is just going to do what God wants to do, and Job must somehow deserve it. God’s response to them—like that of Jesus, who undoubtedly was raised knowing the story of Job—was for Job to pray for God to forgive this evil.

Perhaps the great question of our life is not, “Why is there evil in this world?” but instead, “How is my heart responding?” We can’t change the why, but we can change our response to evil and pain. Do we perpetuate it and spew it back into the world, or do we pray for the strength to love and will what is truly good for the other? Can we at least begin our response to evil and pain by sitting with it in prayer?

This is part five of a seven-part series. Read the rest at Growing in Friendship with God This Lent.

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Lisa Kelly
Lisa Kelly is a wife, mother, and Ignatian Associate living in Omaha, Nebraska. She works to help organizations integrate spirituality into their planning and systems. She and her husband, Tom, completed the 19th Annotation in 2005, just prior to spending two years living in the Dominican Republic with their three young children, supporting the work of the Jesuit Institute for Latin American Concern. Additionally they have lived in El Salvador and Bolivia for extended periods.


  1. After reading these comments, I can see in my mind praying for those that hurt us, or others, but where does that come in to a soldier at the front line? a soldier would be justified in protecting others in the face of an attack, but how can it be thought to be allowed to present an attack on those that would hurt others, to prevent their possibly hurting others? It is hard to reconcile in my mind. The continued attacks by Boko Haram in taking children hostage, and attacking them, it presents a moral question for me

  2. Thank you for today’s meditation, it put me in a very uncomfortable spot, I.e. praying for my enemies. I do consider ISIS my enemy, and it is! I also consider political leaders of all stripes to be somewhat an enemy of all I hold as good and value.
    This reflection woke the sleeping Goliath within me, now I must subdue it, with prayer and reflection.

    St Joseph, pray for me
    St Patrick pray for my interior conversion.

  3. Thank you for the reminder to look at my heart before judging others. Also, the reminder that nothing is impossible for God!

  4. This was so helpful. I tend to de-humanize my enemies – which is exactly what they do! So, I will remember that they, too, (ISIS) are created in the image of God. I will remember that Lent points to the Cross, where Jesus died for EVERYONE who hates and who does evil.

  5. As I came to this weeks Lenten Meditation 5, (for th record, I have not read the previous weeks- I never noticed it before) I read the title and first paragraph, I knew I had found the subject I struggled with also (like Jacob struggled with God). I was shocked and angered over the very thought of praying for ISIS. I so related with her reaction to this idea. I, however, broke down in sobs when I read God’s response to her doubts and hatred for I was unaware I too had hatred in my heart for ISIS. I considered myself a loving, caring, forgiving child of God but there it was, hanging over me…. I actually hated ISIS. After I read the entire article and struggled with “Job”, I realized that I never thought too much about ISIS being people who need my prayers. I need lots more time with my God concerning how my heart hide from me I too felt hatred, so much, for the horrible things they did to innocent people, that I forgot they are Gods’ people who needs my prayer of deliverance from evil and pain and gift of Jesus’ love. Thank you so much.

  6. This is great. I have been praying for God to put mercy on the minds and hearts of all in ISIS, as they think or act in anger, as they participate in or witness acts of violence and hatred, as they see the faces of the innocent.
    Matthew Kelly posed the question in one of his talks : “what if after 9/11 we had been praying for Bin Laden in our churches?” Pondering what change could have been made on his soul? Wouldnt it be more miraculous and beautiful and life giving to have a terrorist’s heart turned to good? It makes my heart delight in the prospect of such a work of God!
    Thank you for sharing your discovery and encouraging the prayer for ISIS! Blessings.

  7. Different ‘answer’ to questions of suffering/pain in this world. Prayer can move mountains. ” Sitting in prayer” -not, “An eye for eye, tooth for a tooth.”


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