God Is Not Afraid of Your Pain
Words of desperation uttered in a moment of resolute despair and distress, spoken from the deepest well of depression, disrepair, and dissolution toward whoever could hear them.
Job’s wife is left unnamed by scripture, therefore, I will give her a name: Samira.
Several women are named throughout the Bible. Some are listed as triumphant generals, warriors, prophetesses, and rulers. On the other side of the coin, many are mentioned as social failures, religious tyrants, murderers, and more.
But for some reason, we are not given the name of this woman who we know only as Job’s wife.
We must consider how we read and view scripture and the people mentioned in it. Their names, their placement in history, their ecological circumstances, whether war ravaged their neighboring towns, whether famine, pestilence, and drought sifted life in their communities or not. We must inquire, if possible, about their diets, their muscle mass, and body fat percentage, or if they were emaciated pescatarians who drank beer and wine daily.
When tackling the book of Job, or rather, the story of Job’s redemption, we focus primarily on Job, if not singularly, on Job. We read of the heavenly wager for Job’s religious integrity. We read of the successive disasters that fall upon Job’s family, his industry, and eventually upon his health.
Our focus is directed toward Job’s calamities which arrive all on the same day or around the same time, without a pause in between each. Job, is left nearly speechless. Four calamitous scenes take place in chapter one which, if we rush through them, we miss the gravity of loss and ensuing panic that must have taken Job and his contemporaries by storm.
“One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, ‘The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!'”
“While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, ‘The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!'”
“While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, ‘The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!'”
We dare not dismiss the resounding wave of grief experienced at the news of the first scene.
Imagine the presence of marauders in a neighboring town. You hear of the violent crusades, of men razing buildings to the ground, killing men, and kidnapping women and children. Collecting whatever booty and spoil they manage to find. Leaving behind nothing but burnt huts and tents, blood-drained corpses, and empty fields. Now, these same raiders visit your family member. This isn’t just news disaster in a far-off country, some misfortunate that overtook an unnamed people or a faceless family. No. They’re attacking a family member’s home. They raid the place, taking with them oxen and donkeys, which, to today’s estimates, would be equivalent to semi-trucks and pickup trucks. Crucial elements of our industrialized society, without which, we’d be catapulted back to the stone age within months.
Their family members’ workers, their faithful employees, and servants, people whom they loved and came to trust, we all murdered but one.
And while news of this calamity burns through Job and Samira’s ears, another servant rushes in testifying to the fact that lightning (fire from heaven) rained down on their livestock and servants, killing both. Their apparel and textile industry burnt to a crisp in the middle of the field. The smell of burnt flesh, that of men and beasts, rises from the distance attracting mountain lions and other savage beasts of the field to their next meal.
Job and Samira’s family business, their collective agreement between local systems of economics has just been shot in the foot. Oxen, donkeys, sheep, and servants, have all perished in a matter of moments at the hands of marauders and now of nature.
As they attempt to take in the gravity of this situation, the loss of resources, the loss of income, of winter provisions, and the loss of life, another lucky or unlucky bearer of bad news arrives at their door to deliver more calamity upon their calamity.
The Chaldeans, another ethnic group has encroached upon Job and Samira’s land and stolen their camels, their means of transportation, and killed every servant managing them, save one, the messenger.
Job and Samira are down oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, and servants.
This cannot possibly happen to a man whose entire existence is devoted to moral aptitude before God and men. Whose character and conduct is so widely known that once news of his calamity spreads through the region, friends, from distant lands travel through war-torn cities and towns to sit at his side to help him grieve.
Yet, their nightmare is far from over because as these three survivors of war, these refugees, possibly tired, dusty, injured and bleeding, or possibly maimed and carried to Job and Samira’s footsteps with the help of another servant, arrives to deliver the death knell to this financially secure and religiously minded family.
“While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, ‘your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!’”
Words cannot explain just how much pain Job and Samira must have felt at this moment.
Losing oxen, donkeys, sheep, and camels is financially ruinous. It may take years to recover from such a disaster. Family members may endure times of famine due to a lack of supplies and goods.
Losing servants is almost like losing family members. People you commune with every day, assisting with oxen; pushing donkeys; fleecing sheep; and traversing long stretches of desert lands together while seated on camelbacks. These are relationships and friendships developed with those we work with. Connections that become inseparable over time. The hurt of losing these friends and workers must have cut through them like when we lose our best friends to car accidents or drug overdose.
The disaster was ripe and they had bitten from its fruit.
But nothing compares to the loss of family members. Nothing compares to the loss of your children!
We can imagine Job taking this in, Samira by his side, while both of them fell to their knees, perhaps, seeking to better understand, better comprehend, rationalize, or give existential meaning to why this would happen to them, of all families in the region.
Had Job not informed his children of the high wind speeds, the tornadoes, the chinook winds, and thunderstorms? Had he not informed his children of the questionability of the establishment they would dine within? Had he not mentioned that they ought to celebrate, dine, and party, elsewhere? Did Job know that wind speeds, at such speeds, could topple edifices made of stone, nonetheless those made of wood and cloth, held down by rope?
Whether the structure was sound and nature was not; whether nature was sound but the structure was compromised it mattered not in the end.
What happened to Job and Samira was a cluster bomb of pain, loss, and death. Each explosive violently falls over their perfectly stable life, incinerating everything before their eyes.
Parents aren’t meant to bury their children, you know. Yet, here, this lovely and God-fearing couple would have to bear the brunt of locating, carrying, and burying the carcasses of servants, friends, and children.
They might have done all these things on their own; their servants fearing for their lives might have fled, thinking that the couple was cursed. Who would want to spend another minute beside a man and a woman whose investments went up in flames within minutes, whose servants were murdered, and whose children suffered calamity at the hands of nature, all, on the same day?
Here, at this moment, we hear Job speak for the first time in this story.
“At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.’”
To rip one’s robes, shave one’s head, and mingle with dirt was culturally accepted as a sign of utter repentance and humility before God and man. Like a book coming undone at the spine, glue and paper detaching from one another, was Job at this moment before anyone left around to watch his demise.
We can imagine Samira, who was moments ago standing next to her husband, watching and wailing. This act of humiliation she never thought she would see her husband perform is now a sight she wishes she could forget.
The man she married was righteous. She knew that he offered sacrifices for himself and their family, just in case they had sinned. He went out of his way to place himself as a priest and mediator between his family and God. Their wealth had given them financial protection and peace; their leadership had provided them with expansion and diplomatic leverage; their marriage had granted them love, security, companionship, and children.
They had everything to be envied by others yet here, before her eyes, she saw not a man but what was left of a man when life was kicked from under him. She saw tears, snot, weakness, uncertainty, poverty, depression, and survivor’s guilt.
She saw Vilomah, which is what we call a parent who has lost a child or their children. The word is new to our vocabulary and not entirely known nor used very often because we rather not describe a person who has lost a child. We call parentless children, orphans. Husbands or wives who have lost their spouse, widowers, or widows. But what then do we call parents who have lost their offspring?
Vilomah. Vilomah. Grief. Inexpressible, unexplainable, irredeemable grief.
She saw it and perhaps did not recognize the man she loved so dearly because this new person was sapped of everything she had once known and loved.
What was there for him to repent from? What sin could he have committed that would cost them their livelihood and their children? What unholy alliance had he made with the devil that cost them this much? What could he have done to anger God to this extent?
Perhaps she had sinned, too. Maybe it was her fault because she had not fulfilled a vow, perhaps not honored a rite, not followed a ritual, dismissed a tradition, abandoned a commitment between her and God. Perhaps. But she knew not. She did not recognize her husband and in this moment of complete existential implosion, she may not have recognized herself either.
Was there hatred present in her heart? Was she experiencing that which Holocaust survivors speak of? The moment where, in the presence of gas chambers, mass graves, and of industrial furnaces where bodies are turned to ash; in the presence of heinous evil, an unspeakable crime against humanity and reason that goes unpunished, unmentioned, and unchallenged, the person then gives up on the possibility, on the believability of God.
Had she given up on Divine Providence since Divinity had purportedly taken everything from her except this man who now sits in the dirt, destitute and outcast? And if Divinity did not sift her treasures, namely, her children, then surely God did nothing to protect them from their disastrous end.
Was she embittered? Embittered people become so because of perceived injustices they have endured and have yet to find a resolution for. No finish line in sight for their redemption. No one to petition restitution for their cause. No friends. No understanding shoulder to cry on.
The heart grows cold. Worse. It boils and spills over, day after day, draining the heart of its substance and killing its owner, one bitter beat at a time.
Where was her heart?
We know not the answer to these questions but we know what her first and final words were in this sad story.
The serpent of old returns to Job’s life after he, the devil, fails to convince Job to abandon his faith and curse God. This time, however, God allows the serpent to take even more from Job, save his life and that of his wife. And take the devil does. It’s the only thing he’s good at. Giving you fruit in one hand whilst removing the ground from under you so that you fall into depravity, sunken, and hopeless were it not for the grace of God to deliver you from his schemes.
And so, we get the rest of Job’s calamitous story:
“So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.
His wife said to him, ‘Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!’
He replied, ‘You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’
In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”
Job is now left disfigured by a skin disease. His health is gone, his upstanding stature reduced to that of a street wanderer, a vagabond with skin fissures and sores, whose only consolation is scraps of clay which he uses to scrape at his lesions. He sat, no one knows how long or how often, in a pile of ash, yet another cultural sign of repentance for wrongdoing, although the book of Job does not give us, the readers, any reason or sin Job must have committed to deserve such a fate. Yet, there he sat, bubbling at the mouth, praying, perhaps, tirelessly weeping without tears, suffering the cuts of grief time and again at the memory of laughter, jokes, running children, and a noisome home.
Hope, at times, is a man’s worst enemy.
“Are you still maintaining your integrity?”
When clouded by depression and grief, the last thing we want to see is joy and gladness in others. When angered, what angers us further is the sound of laughter. When burdened by worry and stress, what complicates our circumstances further is the sight of people enjoying peaceful and worry-free lives. Debt-free lives.
It would be foolish of us to look upon Job and think of him enjoying anything or celebrating anything.
But Samira might’ve seen something in Job she might have lost or was in the throes of losing in herself.
Her inner spiritual integrity and love for God might have been waning.
And how can we judge her sentiment? She had been faithful in all aspects until calamity of apocalyptic proportions reached her door. She had prayed, sacrificed, humbled herself, worshipped, followed rituals and traditions, burned her offerings, and tithed unto God. Yet in all of this, she still lost everything.
In a moment like this, we might assume she connected her faith to her calamity or vice versa. It is not rare of us to do such a thing as well. If that which we value most ends of being connected to that which brings us most grief, we might end up finding that item loathsome. Reprehensible!
We might love visiting a particular ice cream parlor on a particular street with our loved ones but should we suffer some traumatic harm at this location that ends up taking the lives of our loved ones, that location and its previous meaning will cease to exist as a place of good memories. It will become a place we avoid at all costs for fear of reliving our greatest sadness again.
I cannot assume she found God loathsome but I may presume that the desire to seek Him became muddled in her pain therefore she thought of nothing more than to stop seeking God for fear of reliving her trauma. Maintaining spiritual integrity in a faith system that wrought calamity and grief, seems Nietzschian, at best.
What was the point?
I see her question and ensuing suggestion less as accusatory and more as a desperate plea for meaning in all of her pain.
Because if we can derive meaning from our pain it makes the process of dealing with pain more bearable, nobler, and worthy. But enduring pain with no end in sight nor ultimate goal is hell on earth.
If being on God’s side got them into this situation, perhaps, she thought, walking away from Him would help them recoup all that was lost and also break the unseen curse hanging over their heads.
Samira sought answers for their calamitous situation in a man whereas Job sought meaning and purpose in God.
Samira wanted back the blessings God had initially given them whereas Job had graduated from a benefits-focused relationship between him and God and found refuge in the character of God more than in the things God could give.
“Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”
The New International Translation of this verse inputs an exclamation mark at the end of her suggestion, perhaps with the idea that Samira might have been spiteful or angered. But perhaps she was exasperated and drained. Completely drained of her willpower and drive; her drive to live.
And in this moment of existential lapse, she beckoned Job to join her in her desperation to walk away from a God she believed would take everything from them. And after committing Deicide, they could join hands and walk into the afterlife together to see their children once again.
We are so quick to judge Samira, stating that her faith was in the wrong place or perhaps it was not as strong and mature as that of Job’s faith.
But truth dictates that most of us would have committed Deicide at the first mention of oxen and donkeys gone missing and workers being lynched.
Not many of us have a character as noble as that of Samira.
Samira was herself a valiant righteous woman who Job fell in love with. He married a friend and a person with whom he could worship God, raise a family, and lead a business. She was a Proverbs 31 woman and beyond that because scholars believe the book of Job, this narrative, precedes the writings of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
And so, Samira reaching a breaking point might not have been as an egregious act as that of Judas Iscariot or likened to Korah’s rebellion against Moses in the desert.
Samira was at this moment rending her heart to Job, God, and us, displaying a vulnerability easily found within many of King David’s pain-riddled psalms.
God is not afraid nor is He shocked at the sight and sound of the midnight of the soul.
He not only sees it, but He also welcomes it. He also allows such inquiries to reach His throne daily. He isn’t shy of difficult questions and inquiries. He isn’t afraid of insults launched hailed at Him in moments of fear and anger. He isn’t surprised by anything or anyone.
I value this book so much because Job and Samira were blessed, abundantly so at the end of this story. A testament, less so of Job’s moral and spiritual aptitude and more so about God’s redemptive and restorative disposition.
“After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.
The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.
After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so Job died, an old man and full of years.”
This book, this tale of loss and reward, of wagers and bets, of disease and death, of conversations about behemoths and whirlwinds, of resurrection, of broken and restored friendships and relationships, of one man and his God, can be lost in the hum buzz of cultural blindness.
We see God. We shun the devil. We sympathize with Job. We scold his wife. We chide his friends.
But let us not forget that Samira, the woman whose select few words were added to this story to be told time and again for thousands of years to come after its happening, was equally blessed by God even though initially, it seemed as if she would have been cursed and damned for eternity.
She may have advised Job to abandon his integral character, but Job did not. It would be daring of us to suggest that she had lost her integrity through it all.
Job did not curse God. We know he did die but long after this incident. So it is equally wrong of us to suspect that Samira had cursed God and died because they went on to have many more children together later in life.
I am sure the bible would have referenced her demise as it has mentioned Jezebel’s fall and the ensuing sustenance her corpse provided to the beasts of the field.
The bible is seldom shy of describing someone’s demise. Especially when that someone challenges God, curses Him, stands against Him and His people, only to face a catastrophic end.
But there is no mention of Samira suffering some supposedly deserved retribution at the hands of an angry God. No hint that she would have been the target of divine anathema. Not even a mention that God allowed the devil to touch her life after her problematic admonition.
I believe that Job, a man of integrity, stood by his wife, Samira, a woman of equal integrity, although human and subject to failure, as we all are, until the very end.
And I believe that God blessed them both, equally.
With more oxen, donkeys, sheep, and camels.
More servants and workers and friends.
And yes, God restituted to them children, posterity, which, at that time, as it is today, worth more than all the world’s treasures.
Samira was me. Samira was you.
In a moment of extreme deprivation of joy and overwhelming grief she did what any of us would have done; she was transparent.
Thankfully, Samira did not curse God and die.
Samira was blessed by a God she came to better understand and love through pain and suffering. A God who wasn’t God based on the number of blessings He dispersed over curses.
A God who supersedes gifts and blessings.
A God who walks amongst us. Feels what we feel. A God raises the dead.
A God who saw Samira as she was and loved her still.
Samira blessed God.
Follow in Samira’s steps, as you also follow in those of Job.
In the midnight hour of your soul, do not be afraid to approach God with your heart and your hurt laid bare before His feet.
Featured Image by Yaopey Yong.