Today’s reading: Job 1-10, Psalm 66-67
For anyone who has never read the book of Job, your main association with this Biblical figure before today was likely the phrase, “the patience of Job.” What we discover in today’s reading, however, doesn’t exactly look like patience. Granted, Job does not immediately question God when bad things begin to happen (chs. 1-2); but once his friends arrive on the scene, he does not hesitate to bemoan his situation and question God for what is happening to him.
When they first arrive, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar do exactly what good friends should when someone is suffering–they listen (Job 2:13). Things go downhill quickly from there, though. Once Job opens his mouth to ask the inevitable question, “Why?” his friends do what friends all too often feel compelled to do in times of grief–they try to come up with answers. This is not what Job needs at this moment. What he needs are friends who will sit with him as he cries out, giving him the space to grieve and to ask the hard questions without rushing to offer him canned, unsatisfactory reasons for his agony. It takes a good and wise friend indeed to be able to just sit in the presence of such pain.
The phrase, “patience of Job,” actually comes from the King James translation of a verse from the New Testament letter of James (James 5:11); in more recent translations, the Greek word hypomone is instead translated as “endurance” or “perseverance,” words that are a much better fit for what we witness in the book of Job. As you sit with him the next three days, perhaps you will gain a deeper appreciation for the value of just being with someone as they grieve.