What about Job’s wife?
“And the Lord said to Satan, Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord and smote Job with loathsome and painful sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself, and he sat down among the ashes. Then his wife said to him, Do you still hold fast your blameless uprightness? Renounce God and die!” Job 2:6-9
Over the years, I’ve heard sermons on Job and Job’s comforters. But I have never heard a sermon on Job’s wife. She is often given a fleeting mention, almost like a figure in a fiction—someone to move the plot along but isn’t significant in herself. Her name is not provided.
It is only recently that I’ve given thought to Job’s wife and her words. Indeed, Job is a difficult story to read. It starts with a consultation between God and Satan. I don’t know about you, but I find it abhorrent and chilling to think that God would not only allow one of His children to taste of suffering, but would actually bring him or her to Satan’s attention. Yet, according to scripture, it happens. As soon as Satan is given permission to test Job, the terror and tragedy begins.
· Bam—all the oxen (1,000) were stolen by the Sabeans and all the servants killed, save the one who escaped to bring the news.
· Bam—All the donkeys, (500 female) were also stolen by the Sabeans, save the one who escaped to bring the news.
· Bam—A great lightening storm struck, and burned up all the sheep,(7,000) and the shepherds, save the one who escaped to bring the news.
· Bam—The Chaldeans came and stole all the camels (3,000), and all the servants murdered, save the one who escaped to bring the news.
· Bam—worst of all, a tornado sweeps across the desert, striking the four corners of his eldest son’s house. In the destruction of the house Job’s seven sons and three daughters are killed, save the one who escaped to bring the news.
Yet Job does not sin with his mouth. Actually he says, “Naked came I into this world from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed (praised and magnified in worship) be the name of the Lord. In all this Job sinned not nor charged God Foolishly." [Job 1:21-22]
Now, not too long afterward Satan is allowed to touch Job’s body. The sores on his flesh are described as loathsome and painful, from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.
It is at this point we hear from Job’s wife. As a woman married to “the greatest of all the men of the East” (Job 1:3), Mrs. Job would have been a woman of authority and great responsibility. As I ponder her position, I think she must have been gifted with a strong ability to nurture, instruct and organise and administrate. And as Mrs. Job, all of Job’s losses were her losses. In one day she is stripped of:
· Her credibility—Public opinion may have been that if Job has done something wrong to deserve judgement, then surely she would have been an accomplice. Therefore she deserved to be punished “by the gods” as well.
· Her security—with no livestock, no flocks, no source of financial resources, how to provide and be provided for was a bleak mystery.
· Her children—All ten of them gone in an instant. To have lost one child would have been gut-wrenching, but all ten is unfathomable. A major source of joy has been ripped away.
· Her faith—She has worshipped with Job and the children each time they offered sacrifices, partaking in the purifying rituals to honour God. If she followed all the rules, how can these disasters, one on top of the other, be happening? Why have they happened?
· Her purpose—Everyone and everything that she is accustom to working with, managing and maintaining is no more. What is she to do with her time? How does she pick up the pieces and start again? Especially now that her husband is ill?
In a back-handed way Job provides a perspective of his wife, while giving her a reminder of who she is.
“Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your blameless uprightness? Renounce God and die’! But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the impious and foolish women would speak. What? Shall we accept [only] good at the hand of God and shall we not accept [also] misfortune and what is of a bad nature?’ In spite of all this, Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:9-10)
Mrs. Job is expressing the human condition—I hurt, and I want you to know it. With such a heavy load of grief, despondency is not far away. I am sure she would have forced herself out of bed in the morning to attend to Job with his terrible physical condition. It is at this point that I recognise Mrs. Job from the perspective of a care-giver.
Being a caregiver is taxing physically, emotionally and spiritually. When dealing with a loved one who has a condition with which strength, stamina and patience are required, exhaustion is a constant battle.
I remember an occasion when I was jetlagged, and desperately wanting to sleep; yet I couldn’t. Mom was restless, monotone groans escaping from her being. She lie on the bed while I rubbed and rubbed her legs, trying to quieten and comfort her. And I prayed.
In the darkness of the room, passing the wee hours, I felt isolated. I felt the most alone and lonely I have ever felt. The inability to bring Mom peace, rest and comfort frustrated and flummoxed me. I wanted to take her discomfort from her, but couldn’t. I did not want to feel helpless, fruitless and heartbroken. Yet, there was no escape.
In a very real and honest moment, I wanted Mom to know the beauty of death, to be released from this world and be joined with her Saviour, Jesus Christ. I wanted her to be free to join those who had gone on before—Dad, my grandparents, friends. Yet, her purpose was unfulfilled and she remained with us.
As the caregiver I felt stuck in the malaise of grief; not grieving death but grieving the loss of the healthy, vigorous, even joyous person Mom was previously. Simultaneously I was waiting to grieve a different sorrow, waiting for the “other shoe to drop” when “Mom-yet not Mom” would indeed finally be gone. I knew I would cry even more tears. I knew I would miss her—and I still do. Even so, I was ready to be “Finished.” I know I was not alone. I know other care givers who have moments when they would rather their family member would find the peace of release from this world.
There is guilt that attended these thoughts, and wishes. As a Christian I wrestled with wanting to love in a Christ-like way, to serve with joy, perseverance and grace while at the same time desiring to walk out the door and not have to face the situation again. I also felt guilty, because my time of caring for Mom was relatively short compared to my sister’s time. She was legally and practically Mom’s care-giver. She bore that responsibility on her own for almost ten years. I went to help when I could. I often wondered how she coped so well for so long. God certainly gave her grace. I feel I owe her a debt I cannot repay.
Circumstances overwhelmed Mrs. Job, her jibe at her husband provoked by profound heartbreak and frustration. I recognise myself in Mrs. Job.
It is interesting that God brings to task Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite because they spoke wrongly about God. Yet, God did not criticise or condemn Mrs. Job for her angry words. Mrs. Job was restored with Job—giving birth to ten more children with Job. She shared the Lord’s blessing in his latter days, when everything was doubled back to him.
Those are my thoughts about Job’s wife. She is a soul we can identify with—or at least I do.
Serving Jesus, Author of our faith,