Out of the Middle East, a woman’s voice of grief carries through the ages, preserved in the pages of an ancient document--The Holy Bible.
All of her children were killed when a tornado-force wind collapsed the house where they had been celebrating. If they had families, even her grandchildren were dead.
The family business was in ruins because of looting and natural disaster. Her husband, Job, was suffering from a disease that incapacitated him. (Job 1:13-19; 2:7-8, 13) Her emotional and mental strength was stretched to the breaking point.
In her mind, God had abandoned them. She had no place to turn for comfort or help. Even most of their friends and relatives stayed away while others verbally abused them.
She watched her husband suffer day after day, week after week, and month after month. Helpless to ease his pain or her own anguish, angry words came out of her wounded heart:
Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die! (Job 2:9)Job’s wife, as the rest of humanity still does, struggled to understand why a good, loving, and just God could allow so much suffering--especially upon the innocent.*
Job was one of the three most righteous men who ever lived. (Job 1:1, 8; Ezekiel 14:14, 20) He lived in a culture that believed that if bad things were happening, the person experiencing them must deserve it---that God was punishing them.
Three of his closest friends, horrified at all Job was suffering, accused him of having done some awful crime that he had managed to hide. (Job 20:12; 22:4-30) God, who is just, must be exacting a just punishment on Job.
Job’s wife may have suspected the same. Did she mean, “Why keep claiming you are innocent? Just admit it, totally reject God, die and get this over with!”
Or, perhaps, she knew better than most that Job really was a decent, God-fearing man. She may have thought that since his righteousness didn’t prevent this disaster, why try to hang on to that righteousness?
Don’t we hear echoes of both attitudes in today’s world? Some religious people loudly proclaim that the victims of disaster and tragedy must deserve it. Others lose faith and accuse God of heartless abandonment. Others think God does not exist at all or doesn’t involve himself in man’s affairs---or is caring, but impotent.
Job’s wife said out loud what most people down through the ages have thought or said.
Job’s reply must have seemed as inadequate to her as it would to many today. How could that meet her spiritual and emotional need?
You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? (Job 2:10)God inspired the author of this account to state that “Job did not sin in what he said.” [Author’s italics]
But Job had his own lessons to learn. He had to rethink his theological beliefs. He had to suffer the well-meaning comments of his closest friends. He had to accept words of wisdom from a fourth person who was a youth--much younger than he or his friends. Then God revealed himself to Job. Then Job responds with repentance and an acknowledgement of the greatness and glory of God. (Job 42:1-11)
After the lesson was learned and the test endured:
The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first….” (Job 42:12)When we read this account of Job’s season of suffering, we need to remember that his wife also suffered and learned right along with him. And when it was over, she received the same blessings of a new family and restored prosperity.
God preserved this account for us so we can learn through their hard experience. We can recognize our own attitudes and beliefs that we need to alter to fit the reality of who God is. Then we can turn to God and say with Job:
My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:5-6)
For the Scripture References and related Bible Study Guide, go to Bible Study Guide: Look Up At The Heavens