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The Book of Job: A Three Thousand-Year-Old Story of Grief

 

By John Schwiebert, MDiv  
john@metanoiaumc.org

 

Those who have suffered loss can easily identify with a man named Job, whose story is told in the book of Job, found in the Hebrew scripture.  I suggest that those who are grieving any personal loss might find help in their grief journey by reading the book of Job and comparing their own experience with that of this famous figure in the Bible.

The first point of identification will be in the nature of the loss itself.  Job--who is described in the book’s prologue as  “blameless and upright, one who feared  God and turned away from evil,”—has  everything anyone could hope for:  material prosperity, good health and the respect of virtually everyone in his hometown.  Then in a series of reversals, he loses it all.  After the death of seven sons and three daughters, plus his house and all of his livestock, followed by a chronic and painful physical illness, Job is faced with a burden of grief almost too great to bear.

As you and I grieve we will also recognize the ways in which the various aspects of Job’s grief mirror our own.  Job’s experiences include denial, disbelief, depression, anger towards God, and a gradual movement toward acceptance.  These feelings are described in the rich language of poetry that helps to summarize and validate our own grief in all of these same aspects.

Finally we who also grieve will identify with attempts by Job’s so-called friends, to help him make sense of the calamities that have befallen him, sometimes even openly questioning the validity of his grief rather than honoring Job’s sorrow by offering support and a listening ear.

My intention is to explore Job’s experience of grief in more detail in subsequent articles in this newsletter.  If you want to join me in this journey of discovery, I encourage you to read the book of Job in its entirety sometime during this next month in preparation for this journey.