The book of Job raises many questions about God and suffering: is he in control in our suffering; is he with us in our suffering; is there some purpose for our suffering? We are considering these questions here at Grace Community Church during this sermon series on Job.
Another part of the suffering experience that comes out in the book of Job is how we suffer in relation to other people. Reading Job raises questions about how to help people who are suffering and what kind of church we want to be for sufferers. I have found an unexpected place in Job for some insight into these questions.
Job’s brief conversation with his wife (Job 2:9-10) is powerfully instructive for friends, families, and churches to learn to weep with those who weep. We are reminded in this account that when one member of the body suffers, all the members suffer, too. (1 Corinthians 12:26)
Job lost his children; his wife did, too. Job lost his possessions. These possessions supported her, so she lost them, too. Job’s body was covered in painful boils, so she lost the intimate conversation and touch of her husband. She was the other sufferer in this whole ordeal.
The only recorded words from Job’s wife while he sat in ashes are, “Do you still cling to your integrity? Curse God and die.” She is so pained by the pain of her husband, and so grieved by her own loss, that she sees death as the only relief for him, and her. Her words reveal her loss of hope. Suffering can do that to a person.
Job replies with a tenderness almost beyond comprehension. “You are speaking like a foolish person.” Job could have said so much more, and worse. Just the use of the word, “like”, shows that he saw her to actually be something other than a fool, heartless and cruel.
Then, Job includes her in his suffering. “Should we be willing to receive good from the Lord and not bad? Will we only worship him when we are blessed, and not when we face calamity?” He said, “we.” They are married. They are one. And, they are fellow sufferers.
In our friendships, families, and congregations, we suffer together. When we do, we hope to speak to one another with the tenderness and understanding that Job had for his wife. Though suffering is in some ways a solitary experience, we hope in some appropriate way to use “we” language because our hearts are knit together by the love of Christ. We hope to share pain, faith, grief, truth, silence and worship for however long it takes to see each other through. We hope not to speak as Job’s wife did. But if we do, we can always return to hope and tell those who heard us that we’re sorry.
This Sunday at Grace, we will consider what it means to suffer together. Read Job 2 this weekend, and pray for someone who is suffering.