Job’s Wife – A Witness to Pain and Suffering
Job’s wife has a very brief appearance on the stage of this drama. She has two lines of script that can be interpreted in a variety of ways. In the midst of seeing her beloved husband in pain and agony, she says, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9)
It’s easy to criticize the words of Job’s wife, sitting here in my climate controlled office, sipping my premium brewed coffee, with cash and credit cards in my wallet, looking at a picture of my wife who is in good health and thinking of how I am going to enjoy my next vacation to visit my family back east. The words of this ‘foolish’ woman can really trigger my pious, self-righteous and holier-than-thou nature. How dare she even consider this early form of euthanasia? Doesn’t she know that it is wrong to curse God? Doesn’t she know that this is only a test from God? Doesn’t she realize in the end, God will restore Job to a greater position in life with more land and possessions?
She is in the midst of the storm of her life. Hopelessness rules her day. All she has known is gone, and the one person whom she has devoted her life to is sitting in ashes, covered with boils and cursing the day of his birth. Imagine yourself in her shoes. Take a look at the world through her eyes. I would love to say that I would be strong in the face of such calamity, but I know how weak I am with my own pain. I also know that my weakness increases when I see someone I love enduring pain.
While in seminary, I wrote a scathing indictment againsteuthanasia. I was young and opinionated, and I was inexperienced with caring for people as a pastor through their pain and suffering. I was an academic pastor, not a practitioner. That all changed when my mother began her decline in health with Alzheimer’s, strokes, diabetes, heart disease and had to be fed through a feeding tube. Though I didn’t want to loose my mother, I could not bear to see her suffering. I could identify with Job’s wife during this time. Only through the lens of the Gospel could I find hope for tomorrow and peace for today even in the midst of the storm.
From her perspective, if Job died, he’d be free of pain and this whole nightmare would be over. Death seemed to be the only rational option. But Job knows that his redeemer lives and has a hope that is far greater than the pain. Compared to all of the dialogue he has with the three friends, Job gives a very brief response to her words: “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive [only] good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). Later in the book he shows great respect for his wife (Job 31:1-12) whom he does not condemn, but merely instructs.
So, when it comes to suffering or caring for those in pain, are you academic in your approach, or are you a practitioner? Which outlook do you think Jesus held?
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