Recently, I mentioned that I had returned to reading the Bible during a particularly challenging period of my life. After sitting in a church service on Mother’s Day, I heard the guest lecturer speak about Job’s patience. I could barely hear most of what this person said because, like many speakers, they don’t understand the concept of “put the mic near your mouth.” Therefore, I have no idea what she actually said, it was just those two words that sat in my head. Why was Job patient? What happened to him? I went home and began reading this chapter. I quickly realized how much I could relate to Job and how his struggles with God, which were inflicted by God, were similar to my own and those of the clients I serve (and most anyone who has struggled and feels it was – too much to bear).
In reading Job, you will first learn that he is quite well off for that time period. He has many acres, livestock, married and about ten children, more sons than daughters. Sons back then would have been more worthwhile than daughters, for the work they could perform on the property. Also, they would bring in more families to the household whereas the daughter would probably leave to join her husband and his family. The stage is set to let us know that he is in a good place financially. He is also a God-fearing family man. He is not worried about anything except the wrath of God.
Then the chapter checks in with God. God decided to put him to a heavy test and sent Satan over to pillage his livelihood as much as possible as long as Job is not killed. As a result, Satan destroys the livestock, all of the adult children are killed in an accident while at a party at one of the sons’ homes. Job is beside himself. If this wasn’t enough, God then decides to tackle Job physically, again through Satan, and now Job is at his wits end.
Job does his best to continue serving God but like all of us, when the obstacles continue to pile up, one after another, we begin to question God and our faith.
Job 19:4-12 If it is true that I have gone astray, my error remains my concern alone. If indeed you would exalt yourselves above me and use my humiliation against me, then know that God has wronged me and drawn his net around me. Though I cry, “Violence!” I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice. He has blocked my way so I cannot pass; he has shrouded my paths in darkness. He has stripped me of my honor and removed the crown from my head. He tears me down on every side till I am gone; he uproots my hope like a tree. His anger burns against me; he counts me among his enemies. His troops advance in force; they build siege ramp against me and encamp around my tent.
When I look at the travesties of my own life, child being removed from my care, death of a teen sibling, narcissistic parent and partners, homelessness, early divorce, multiple deaths of loved ones: one after another, I feel his pain. I feel his questioning of God.
When I look back at all the love I have lost, my son, my brother, father abandonment, death of stepfather, death of very close loved ones. In my last situation, I have never felt happier in my life and I thought I was with someone who loved me greatly. Then one day, out of nowhere, I am accused of things I would never do and all I had taken for granted was whisked away. It is not the first time I have felt completely happy in my life, only to have that reason end. These are the moments when you wonder – “Am I not allowed to be happy?” I then ask “What do I need to learn from this?”
Job 30:26-27 Yet when I hoped for good, evil came; when I looked for light, then came darkness. The churning inside me never stops; days of suffering confront me.
Job 31:5-6 If I have walked with falsehood or my foot has hurried after deceit – let God weigh me in honest scales and he will know that I am blameless.
The above passages will go on to say that if I have done something wrong, by all means, take my property, my children, and ruin my life. Like some people will say “If I am lying, let God strike me with lighting.” Though, life is not always seamless and as I will explain later, good people can have bad things happen to them. Alas, bad people get away with lots and lots, until at some point their tongues are brought against them. Or like Adolph Hitler who had to face reality at some point and take a pill to end his life; dying with some sense of control for what he knows he will be most definitely be judged for until the end of time.
When I look at my client’s situations and all they have been through, especially the women who are tortured or sexually abused at young ages, who question how a parent could do such a thing. Who wonder how a man could do such a thing? Women who join the military wanting to serve their country are met with hostilities from men and then some meet with rape at the hands of their fellow soldiers or even officers; all trained to go into battle with them and serve side by side. All meant to be people they should “trust.” They question their pain, sometimes even God. When they try to ask for help, within their own, they are met with harassment.
What is also interesting in Job’s story, is the amount of judgement and ridicule he faces from his “friends” or neighbors. Who needs social media in a village? Rather than empathizing and supporting a friend in need, they listen to his struggles and fight with him and try to tell him he is wrong for questioning God. Instead of pitying him for losing ten children, they blame him for most certainly having bad behaviors and start to come up with excuses for why his children were killed. How many times over the course of history are people blamed by others for their fears of God, countrymen, village, small minds, and group think. Now we would call this “Victim Shaming.”
It is one thing for a therapist to help a person take responsibility for their life. This is done through empathic confrontation. They are in a safe space, where there is a great deal of love and tenderness in the room. It is another thing when the client’s own friends and family are telling them to “Get over it,” or “When are you going to get past this?” or simply blaming them for bringing it up because it makes the perpetrator, or the parent look bad.
Job can’t get a break. Everyone around him is ridiculing him. Even his own wife is starting to look at him differently. The poor man is having a mental, spiritual and physical breakdown and all of his support systems could care less. If he weren’t so strong and devout, he might have killed himself. Though a truly pious man such as Job, knows that God has control over when you will die. Suicide is a fate worse than death. Instead, he will add:
Job 23:14-17 He carries out his decree against me, and many such plans he still has in store. That is why I am terrified before him; when I think of all this, I fear him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me. Yet I am not silenced by the darkness, by the thick darkness that covers my face.
He is a survivor and is saying “Bring it on!” Not something most of us would be able to do. Though we may not say it, as a survivor, we will walk forward with tears coming from the ducts of our eyes, our feet feeling as if they are encased in cement, all our burdens weighing on our shoulders like heavy sacks of potatoes and a lump in our throat the size of a baseball. Do we have a choice?
Job 28:28 “The fear of the Lord – that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”
When I read these words from scripture, I am brought to a humble place. A realization that the way I have lived my life has been filled with much ignorance and mistakes that made my burdens, of my own doing. To have been more humble from the beginning, to have been more focused on my values, I might have lived an easier life. “Fearing” is no more than living a good life, with values, boundaries, and confidence that many of us do not have a grasp of early on in life. “Evil” is doing whatever you feel like doing; coming from the ego. Not having a faith in anything, or assuming that your thoughts are the right thoughts and judging others or condemning people or just being a bad person overall (liars, manipulators, mean spirited, angry people).
As I say the above, I still have empathy for myself, for others (even those who do bad things) as we are all so very ignorant of what is the best way to go about doing things. If we are raised in trauma or difficult circumstances of one kind or another, it is hard to come to grips with life in a good and decent way. We are just surviving blindly, hoping to make it through the day. When I worked in the inner city, in Oakland, CA, their world view was quite different than my world view from Columbus, OH. While it wasn’t a good way to live, nor was mine – just in a different way. While I have never done anything evil or intentionally harmed someone; my mistakes have still caused my circumstances to be as they were, just like the person in the inner city. Different but the same in a metaphorical way.
The “just world myth,” is “Good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people.” However, bad things can happen to good people – this reminds me of the song by Billy Joel “Only the Good Die Young.” Or, good things can happen to bad people – such as a criminal getting off for a heinous crime because he has an outstanding attorney (s). This brings me to the O.J. Simpson trial, that once many people lived for in their daily lives. Many women shed tears at the verdict, including myself, while I stood in my retail store, as a manager and all the people in the small town I worked in stood still or sat in their cars glued to that radio announcement.
We are essentially responsible for all that happens to us, one way or another. It is not God’s fault, as we would hear in Job’s case. It is the bane of human existence. It is that one little rumor that is spoken to another; which is received and believed, that will set off a chain of events that cannot be overturned, no matter how you would like them to. You can’t turn back the clock and re-start and pretend it didn’t happen. You can only go forward – hopefully with an apology; so that growth can occur. Turning to God helps at the end of the day; so that you don’t feel alone. Praying for a wrong to be turned into a right and that justice will come to you; brings solace and hope.
And when you end up with no justice or no apology and find that you are still alone at the end of the day…you must continue to go to bed with a prayer for your beloved on your lips and a song of praise in your heart (Kahlil Gibran). You wake up the next morning and put your clothes on and eat the food you cannot fathom, just to push yourself to get through the day. Then one day, it will get easier to do. As the months go by, you begin to have a renewed since of courage. Answers come to you, like whispers in the night. The next thing you know it is another year and you look back at your crisis like a memory which has now taken on a new meaning. This is being a survivor. This is toughening up. This is enlightenment or maturity.
The conclusion for Job is that God comes and speaks to him and chastises him for not trusting his plan for him and just blaming him for his life and all the obstacles he has been through. Job, feeling beside himself that God is actually speaking to “him” humbles himself once more and apologizes for his weakness. God then turns to the neighbors who disrespected Job and has them give Job part of their livestock and other things that he had lost and Job ends up with 10 x more than he started with at the beginning of the chapter. He also ends up with the ten more children again (now his wife has delivered 20 children total) and lives to the age of 140 happy and healthy with lots and lots of grandchildren.
The moral of the Bible story is: when you are faced with an obstacle in life, go with the pain until you are delivered out of the darkness and into the light. There are reasons why God brings us the lessons he provides and we have to just trust this. Since we are humans and don’t often talk to God, we have egos and lives to lead and it is often hard to trust that which you cannot see. Luckily, there are therapists to help guide you along the way! 🙂