We often hear people speak of the patience of Job (pronounced ‘jobe’). His story is found in the Hebrew Scriptures, where he is the subject of a beautiful dramatic poem. It was written to help those, who knowing God to be just and loving, could not understand why good people often had to endure great suffering while bad people often prospered.
In the story, Job is an Arab sheikh. He is shown to be a man of great wealth, who lives devoutly with his family and enjoys the best of health. There is nothing in his life to make him doubt the goodness of God.
Then the devil has a word with God. “It is easy for a man to trust in God when everything is going well, but Job would turn against you if he lost his possessions.”
God knows that even if this was to happen, his servant Job would remain faithful. So he gives the devil permission to test Job by taking away his possessions and making him very poor. But Job refuses to blame God for his misfortune. Instead he falls down and worships him.
Then God has a word with the devil. “Well, I told you so! Job’s patience has endured in spite of all the nasty things you did to him.”
Once again the devil had a word with God. “After all, a man can manage without possessions as long as he has his health and strength, but suppose Job were to become sick…?”
God had another word with the devil. “I know that Job will remain faithful to me whatever happens, so you may do what you will to him, but his life must be spared. I insist on that.”
So the devil gets to work. Job becomes dreadfully ill, but still his faith remains steadfast and his patience endures. His suffering, however, continues.
At this point three friends – also noble sheikhs – come to visit Job in order to console him. Fine comforters they turn out to be!
They sit with Job in complete silence for some time. And when at last they find their tongues, what they have to say is not at all helpful. One by one they tell Job that the reason he is suffering is because he has sinned greatly, and that he must have done something very wrong to be punished in such a way. One of the men even goes so far as to tell Job he should think himself lucky that he has got off so lightly!
But Job knows that his conscience is clear. He is sure that his suffering is undeserved, and so he is puzzled as to why God should treat him thus. But he is not overcome, and his belief in God continues, and his patience endures and he is eventually rewarded. Finally, God reveals himself to Job, speaking to him out of a whirlwind, and Job is made to realise that the Lord’s ways are higher than man’s ways and that his purposes are often past our understanding.
The story has a happy ending. Job’s wealth is not only restored but doubled; he regains his former health and is even blessed with more sons and daughters – his steadfast faith in God and his enduring patience brought their reward.
How often do we become very impatient when things in our lives go wrong. It is in being patient in everything that happens to us and depending on our faith that are the things that will pull us through all the trials and tribulations of our life.