Job's Story of Suffering
Job serves as the biblical archetype of unwarranted, senseless suffering. Job, like us, must have thought that it was easy to doubt God’s existence in such dire times of loss, suffering and death. If He truly existed, God’s compliance to allow such evil to happen is inconceivable. Job’s relentless resistance makes him the voice for those suffer and helps us reflect on our pain. As a teen, I was very angry. I was frustrated with the injustice, sorrow and apathy surrounding me. So much loss, brokenness and pain circled me. Bulimia, divorce, suicide, cutting, abortion, fights, back-stabbing. So much pain with no answers. So I started to read about suffering and looked at the Book of Job.
Job is not the perfect martyr or example of suffering. Like us, he too gets angry, wails, and deals with periods of depression, desperation and anxiety-ridden silence. He is very human and I think that’s why he intrigues me. Job articulates his suffering when he cries that he “would choose strangling, and death rather than this body” because he openly “loathe[s]” his existence and he asks God to “Let [him] alone, for [his] days are a breath” (Job 7: 15-16). So many times I have wondered why God lets me faces the crosses in my life. I have asked this question more times that I can count: Why me? I suffer with comparison, anxiety, worry and dealing with stress. Job can relate to my suffering and that comforts me. He groans and expresses that he is “not at ease,” has no quiet, “no rest”, but only “fear” and he has developed“terrors” (Job 3:24-26; 6:4). I used to fear the dark and have anxiety about dying. I would think about how I would die and if anyone would care. I was afraid to lose the few people I loved. Job lost his “honor” and “prosperity” and he suffers dreadful “disgrace” (Job 30:15; 10:15). I too was let down by my own family. They insulted me in public and put me down because I was not smart enough or skinny enough. I did not fit the mold. His community also condemn him and his “acquaintances”, “close friends”, ”servant[s]” and “family” are “wholly estranged” from him (Job 30:1-14; 19:13-l6). I didn’t belong to anyone or anywhere in particular for a long time. I had to create my own home slowly. Job has lost all “hope”, his “spirit is broken” and he believes God “cast him into the hands of the wicked” (Job 7:6; 17:1; 16:11). The wickedness of poverty, broken families, heartache plagued my trembling, little heart. The suffering Job endures resounds with the internal torture that scourges our hearts when we suffer heartache, a job loss, or a death in the family.
The book of Job offers different perspectives on suffering, there is no explanation in the end. Instead, God reveals himself to Job, their bond is restored, and that satisfies Job as his life, property and family are doubly renewed. An optimistic stance was that God blessed Job twice as much, and so He will also do the same for us when we suffer, so we can rise from the ashes of misery. However, a moment of peace doesn’t always close up the old wound. The loss that was irreplaceable and the devastation caused by our circumstance cannot be understood. The significance of common human vulnerability in the midst of overcoming trauma becomes key to the human person as our identity is revolved around memories and we consciously or subconsciously choose to either repress or retain a memory.
When the period of suffering subsides and has ended, a new identity can surface as you can be liberated from your past if you choose. Let others support you and lift you up. Create a transformation of spirit within you. We all desire to recover, whether it is from a heart break or an addiction, we want healing. When we suffer, we grow stronger and our healing is cathartic to our future selves. Our suffering connects us to our core and our capacity for endurance. We become centered on purpose, and we all desire to have purpose. It is in our deepest desires. When we finally crawl out of the pit that made us slaves to despair and are exposed to freedom, we are able to find new meanings in old truths. We are given a voice in our own destiny and we are able to refuse passivity and find a voice to defend our right to live a full, joyful life. This does not mean that the suffering will end. It just means that we will learn to thrive under pain. A friend wrote this and it resounded with me: “resuscitation is resuming the old life. Resurrection is entry into a new kind of life. What are you leaving behind? What new life is emerging in you?” So I ask you the same question: what are you leaving behind? Are you clinging to something that is destroying you?
The bodily and emotional suffering we face can sometimes never be justified but our lives can bear witness through poignant testimonies, mourning, and anger. We can gain a cathartic perspective by describing our past stories to friends and loved ones. When we articulate our suffering into words, it makes it real and it helps us to thrive in anticipation to restore our shattered heart and put together the pieces. Even though suffering can bring about the beginning of apathy and abhorrence, suffering can also bring restoration and purpose. A sure renewal from trauma to deliverance is possible. The quality of your life never becomes a declined quality of life if you continue to pursue survival. But survival is not enough. Survival does not bring joy and peace. We need to thrive. We need to feed on God’s goodness in the small things. Small things like the smell of rain, a walk, a kind compliment, or not missing the bus can change our heart. Healing is always a slow renewal towards a return to our past selves but the promise of hope gives us a reason to continue the fight for healing and restoration. Sometimes people ask God why doesn’t He heal others from sickness or financial loss, but I think that’s part of the mystery. Even Jesus asked for the cup to be removed but it wasn’t, He still had to suffer to bring us a new life of salvation. In our faith, there is no salvation without suffering, we are joined to the suffering of Jesus for the salvation of the world when we carry our crosses with braveness and endurance. “Even in resurrection Jesus’ scars remain. They are a reminder that suffering is a part of life. We don’t make it out unscathed. But, in His suffering and in His love, our own wounds become more bearable”-Eric Immel, SJ. I love this quote, pain becomes bearable with Christ by our side.
I know sometimes we cannot understand our pain. We cannot come to terms or heal fully even though we try as hard as we can. But we are a new creation. We are called to live authentic, full lives that are oozing with potential and possibility. Be FULL of joy, embrace the joy of Christ. For joy saves, joy cures. In every act of kindness, every smile, and love, there is joy. Each day do something to lift another out of despair or doubt. We are broken people living among broken people. We need to be broken open to learn about vulnerability, freedom, and love. You’ve been broken open. Don’t let the shards become shrapnel or toxic waste. Be gentle with yourself, but do not withdraw from the world. Go love people, for only love will mend a broken heart.Cast your burden upon Him and in your lightheartedness turn and help another with a burden pressing heavily upon him or her. In giving to others, you gain joy of “a good measure, pressed down and running over” (Luke 6:38). Refuse to be downcast, o my soul. Let joy be victorious!