Mrs. Job

Sahara In A Rainy Day

Henri Nouwen says that the purest form of prayer is listening. I have been trying to remember to leave more space in my prayers for God to speak, to guide my prayers or to answer my questions, to say what He wants to say.

Recently while praying for someone I love, Job’s wife came to mind. I wondered into the stillness of an open-ended prayer what she had to do with this situation where a person of strong faith is suffering. She is famous for being not the most supportive wife when her husband was afflicted by Satan himself as a test of his faith. As Job mourns the loss of all his children, his vast material wealth and sits in ashes scraping boils with broken pottery, she chimes in with a single line of dialogue: “Are you holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die.”

Sometimes it’s harder to watch someone you love suffer than to bear the suffering yourself. Sometimes a chasm of despair opens up to swallow not the afflicted person, but the person standing next to them watching them lose everything. Job’s wife had lost nearly everything alongside her husband – her children had been crushed under a tent, the stability of her future had been wiped out by raiders and natural disaster, and now her husband, a devotedly righteous man, was wracked with pain. While Job accepted his turn of fortune, she lashed out against it.

For me, the reminder is that witnesses to suffering need as much prayer as the suffering do. When God is sustaining the faith of a person who relies on Him to get through every challenge, I understand the bitterness that can rise up on the part of their loved ones who are not receiving the same strength, who are not grounded in the same faith or who simply don’t see how a just God can allow the righteous to suffer. I think as a Church, it is particularly important to prayerfully and practically support those who suffer and their loved ones without always expecting them to absorb their lot in life with serenity and peace. Certainly I hope we are never the ones to say, “curse God and die!” but I hope when it’s necessary we have the grace to hear those words from others and respond with compassion not judgment.

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