The Book of Job: A Three Thousand-Year-Old Story of Grief
By Rev John T. Schwiebert, MDiv
Part Five: "Is There Life After Grief?"
In our experience of working with people who have faced extreme loss, many have eventually been able to answer the above question with a resounding “yes!” And they have been able to do so without in anyway dismissing or minimizing the prolonged pain they went through before they got to the place where happiness was again possible for them.
This possibility is reflected also in the final verses of the Biblical story of Job, which we have been examining in this current series of newsletter articles.
In previous articles we followed Job through his experience of a series of devastating losses: the loss of his livestock, the destruction of his home, the death of his seven sons and three daughters, and, on top of it all, the loss of his health. We watched as he struggled to relate to friends, whom he called “miserable comforters,” as they tried to suggest that he must bear some blame for his losses. We saw his painful struggle to understand how God could allow such unjust suffering to come upon him. And we heard him offer a final response to God that bespoke humility before God, trust in God, and the ability to move forward in his grief in partnership with God, even though he would never fully understand why these things had happened to him:
“I know [God] that you can do all things
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted . . .
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know . . .
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you . . .”
--Job 42: 2-
In Job’s story, life after grief (see Job 42:10-17) includes the return of brothers and sisters who perhaps had chosen to avoid him because of their discomfort at being around a person who was grieving (how many readers of this newsletter have had a similar experience!) These siblings also decide to share their wealth with the brother who has lost everything. And most importantly Job’s life after grief includes a new family of sons and daughters.
There is no reason to suppose that Job did not continue to think about his earlier children who had died, and to continue to grieve their loss. And, as those of us who grieve the death of loved ones know so well from our own experience, Job’s new family did not in any sense replace the family that was no longer with him. Still, this story is a reminder that others who have gone through great loss have survived to testify that grief can be a turning point, an opening to something new, the beginning and not the end of happiness.
By coincidence, just last week the people in our 18th Ave Peace House community were reflecting on the final chapter of Job in our daily morning prayer gathering, because it was the assigned reading for that day. During the conversation our friend Laurie shared how she still feels the pain of grief following the loss of her husband, especially around the anniversary of his death more than 10 years ago. But she also told how thankful she is for her life since that loss, a life that includes a new husband who honors the flood of good memories that she still experiences whenever she thinks about her first husband.
Is there life after grief? Yes, if we are open to receiving it!
Do you have a story to tell about your experience of life after grief? Send it to us. If we have space we may share it in a future issue of this online newsletter.
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*This article is the fifth and last in series about Job’s struggle with grief (See the Book of Job in the Hebrew scriptures, also known as the Old Testament).