Suffering and Job’s Wife

Some years ago, a minister was going through a great deal of stress.  Although he was hanging on, his wife exploded in frustration and in a sense of betrayal, asking why God was allowing this to happen.  What I appreciate about the account of that outburst is that it made me think immediately of Job’s wife and her outburst, “Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!’” [Job 2:9]

What I realized was that Job’s wife was not some terrible person.  She was not evil where she was earnestly trying to destroy her husband’s faith.  Instead of being judgemental, who has ever taken the time to be mindful of her suffering?  She also was drowning in grief, because after all, it was her children that died as well, and now she must stand and watch her husband suffer.  It makes me think of an article I had once read which talked about what happens to a family when a child dies.  The comment was made, “Who do you lean on when the one you depend on is already doubled over with their own grief?”

How many times I have watched a family by the bedside of one who suffering, perhaps even dying.  How painful is the frustration of those who must look on and be a mere bystander – sometimes that is the hardest and most exquisite of all torments!  It is that helpless feeling that comes when one wants to do something, but cannot: if only Job’s wife could take some of the suffering upon herself in order to ease her husband’s anguish, or to give him some of her strength.  If only there is something she could do to “fix it,” to “make it all better.”

Instead, she has the agony of watching someone she loves suffer without apparent meaning and she is locked out on the outside his suffering.  Job, even as he handles his pain, is involved in the battle and in a way this affords an occupation of his mind and resources.  At least he is doing something, even if it isn’t the most pleasant of experiences.  But she can do nothing – nothing!

It is out of her utter helplessness and tortured love that she cries out, “Curse God and die!”

Yes, her outburst is wrong, imprudent at best, and yet how many of us have found ourselves with this same frustration, just wanting the suffering of our beloved to stop?  How many, with one of our own loved ones, have considered hastening such an equally unbearable situation to its end, whatever action it may take – perhaps even to the point of “Curse God and die!”?  In fact, although many have been reluctant to take such a step, yet how often has this agony been the prime motivation behind “mercy deaths” of loved ones?

And the problem of Job is that there does not seem to be any reason for the suffering!  As mentioned the last posts, not even afterwards is Job told why the suffering had to occur.  Yet as we see the situation unfold in the Bible book, we discover that the purpose is of cosmic proportions: this is not merely about one small man on this earth, this is a demonstration to Satan and also to all creation that, for a believer, sin and rebellion are no longer inevitable.
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This does not mean that the agony and suffering of both Job and his wife are trivial, yet Jehovah of Covenant stresses to Job in the final chapters of the book, “trust Me.”  That is far easier said than done.  But as we look at the book, there is the strong statement that this Jehovah is very much involved, even to prescribing limits beyond which Satan cannot go.  And the story ends with blessing – sometimes, though, that blessing is not for this world.  The last post ended with a woman who in her dying had witnessed so powerfully, yet on this side of death probably was never aware as to how great was her effectiveness.  Yet she was noticed by God, because, as was discussed a number of posts ago, God does notice.

And we have an advantage that Job and his wife did not have: we know that Jehovah God Himself put feet on our earth – Jesus came to walk in our lives.  He was not one to merely pontificate from some remote, detached throne, touching us only through some proverbial ten-foot pole – perhaps only through an angel.  After all, He is the God of the universe – what is He doing here among us, walking in our day, experiencing our lives, touching us with His very own hands?  He is weeping over grief, wrestling with frustration, dealing with discouragement, experiencing betrayal.  In Gethsemane, He struggles in the agony of knowing the suffering He must face.  On the cross, the Beloved Son of the Father is actually feeling pain and cries out as He experiences abandonment.

But what is especially poignant is God the Father.  Imagine Him Who is all-powerful, to Whom nothing is impossible; Whose very Word brings creation out of nothing – not out of virtually nothing, but really out of nothingHis Son is on that cross suffering.  His Son cries out to Him.  His Son is dying!  Yet the almighty God can only watch.  It can well be imagined that a path is worn in heaven, paced by the God of the universe Who must helplessly stand by.

Of course, it should be asked “what has so tied the hands of the Father?”  The answer simply is love.  Yet the Son is the Father’s most beloved Object in the universe!  What could make the Father so tie down this love so as to make Him unable to alleviate any of that suffering?  The bewildering answer is: His love for us.  But how can this be?  He simply cannot love us more than His own Son!  Yet that is His choice.  And so He stands by without lifting a finger, watching His Beloved suffer and even die.

The wonder we are faced with is that God has put feet on the ground of our lives so that we would know that we are not abandoned, but rather must stand amazed at the depth of love by which He has chosen to love us.  He has demonstrated that He is not afraid of suffering and He will do what it takes to walk with us through our day, whether it is a good day or not as good.  And in Jesus’ death and resurrection, He has shown that there is blessing awaiting us when the suffering is all over.

As we look at Job’s wife, God’s helplessness sheds light on her helplessness – and her helplessness sheds light on God’s helplessness.  But we also become aware that God is not afraid of suffering, and to use suffering as His tool when it brings about worthwhile blessings, even on a cosmic scale – even if it creates a situation where He voluntarily is made helpless.

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