Job Loses His Health
1When the angels gathered around the Lord again, Satan was there with them, 2and the Lord asked, “Satan, where have you been?”
Satan replied, “I have been going all over the earth.”
3Then the Lord asked, “What do you think of my servant Job? No one on earth is like him—he is a truly good person, who respects me and refuses to do evil. And he hasn't changed, even though you persuaded me to destroy him for no reason.”
4Satan answered, “There's no pain like your own. People will do anything to stay alive. 5Try striking Job's own body with pain, and he will curse you to your face.”
6“All right!” the Lord replied. “Make Job suffer as much as you want, but just don't kill him.” 7Satan left and caused painful sores to break out all over Job's body—from head to toe.
8Then Job sat on the ash-heap to show his sorrow. And while he was scraping his sores with a broken piece of pottery, 9his wife asked, “Why do you still trust God? Why don't you curse him and die?”
10Job replied, “Don't talk like a fool! If we accept blessings from God, we must accept trouble as well.” In all that happened, Job never once said anything against God.
Job's Three Friends
11Eliphaz from Teman, Bildad from Shuah, and Zophar from Naamah were three of Job's friends, and they heard about his troubles. So they agreed to visit Job and comfort him. 12When they came near enough to see Job, they could hardly recognize him. And in their great sorrow, they tore their clothes, then sprinkled dust on their heads and cried bitterly. 13For seven days and nights, they sat silently on the ground beside him, because they realized what terrible pain he was in.
In the previous chapter, messenger after messenger arrives with the disastrous news that Job has been stripped of everything—family, lands, servants and possessions. Job’s response is still to worship God, refuting Satan’s accusation that Job’s faith was conditional on God’s abundant blessings.
Not to be defeated, Satan now ups the ante. He says, “Okay, he didn’t falter when his possessions were taken away, but certainly he will curse you if he has to suffer physical pain.”
God gives Satan permission to touch his body but not his life so he inflicted Job with painful sores from head to toe. That’s physical pain to be sure. It was also social isolation. In that culture open sores meant exclusion from social contact. So Job sat alone among the ashes – except for his wife who didn’t help much by mocking him for holding on to his integrity.
Eventually his friends heard about his calamity and arranged to come together to bring comfort. They were clearly not prepared for what they found. Job was scarcely recognizable and they were so shocked they tore their robes, sprinkled dust on their heads and sat speechless for seven days, observing the ritual of mourning the dead.
Sometimes that’s all we can do in the face of suffering! Sit in silence. And often that’s what we ought to do. Some suffering is so devastating that words are almost insulting—yet how often we try to explain it as if that helped. We may say, “Words are so inadequate!” and then go right on talking when our silent presence would convey far more compassion.
When have you been so moved by someone’s suffering that you have simply sat with them in silence? When have you needed someone to express that kind of compassion to you?
O Lord of compassion, open my eyes to those around me who are isolated, uncared for, feeling abandoned. Teach me how to be a comforting presence. Give me your wisdom to discern when compassion requires my silent presence instead of any feeble words I might have to offer. Amen