When Job lost everything, we read: "Then his wife said to him, 'Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!'" (Job 2:3-9).
It's easy for us to vilify Job's wife as a shallow, godless, unfaithful woman who failed to be a helpmate to her beloved husband. But let's not be too quick to judge this poor woman. Like Job, her life had been picture perfect. She was rightly respected because of her social position alongside her esteemed hubby. She had borne 10 healthy children, and she was happy in the knowledge that her family's future was financially secure. Who doesn't want that for their kids? If anyone ever had God's blessing it was Job, his wife and their 10 children. But then, in a moment of time, this woman's precious children were dead – all 10 of them. Whoever heard of such a tragedy!
Think of the mothers in Bethlehem whose children, 2,000 years ago, had been slaughtered by Herod simply because he was peeved that he had been deceived by the wise men (see Matt. 2:1-18). Scripture said that those grieving mothers refused to be comforted.
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No one could simply put an arm around them and say, "God is in control. This tragedy will work for your good. It's OK."
Each mother had conceived a child in joy, carried it for nine months, birthed it in pain and no doubt gloated over it with the delight that only a mother can know. Each of them had embraced, fed, nurtured and suckled her baby, listened to her child's first word and seen the baby's first stumbling step. In that culture these mothers would have looked deeply into the wide eyes of their children and heartily thanked God for such wonderful blessings. Children bring a joy to life to which nothing can compare.
But suddenly, for no real reason, each of these little children felt the sharp and merciless Roman sword thrust through their soft flesh. The mothers of Bethlehem embraced their dead children, their trembling hands covered in blood! The sweetness of life had suddenly turned bitter, and according to Scripture, no amount of consolation could help them rid themselves of grief. Multiply such grief by 10, and you have a taste of the bitterness of soul experienced by Job's unfortunate wife.
Perhaps Job's wife had been present as each of her precious children's crushed and blood-stained bodies had been pulled from the dust and rubble. No doubt she wailed in typical Middle Eastern fashion at such a sight and then wept until she could weep no more as each one of her beloved children was buried.
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If at any time in her life Job's wife needed the love and support of her husband, it was now. But Job wasn't able to stand up and put his strong and loving arms around her to at least try and comfort her in her grief. He was hardly recognizable as he sat in the dirt with his clothes torn, his head shaven and his body covered in raw and agonizing boils.
But there was something even worse that Job's wife may have considered. In the past God had blessed Job and his wife beyond words. To Job's wife, the terrible implication in their suffering was clear: despite Job's godly integrity, he and his family had lost heaven's blessing. God was clearly very angry at Job and her. They had obviously done something that had unleashed the wrath of heaven. And the result was so bitter that to Job's wife, death was a way of escape from the pain. God, she knew, is the giver and taker of life, and it seemed to her that He was obviously mad at them. Perhaps the intent of Job's wife was that her husband should provoke God further so that death would come quickly.
Adapted from Ray's new book, "God Speaks: Finding Hope in the Midst of Hopelessness" (208 pages, softcover) available the first week of June.