When shall I arise and the night be gone?
– The Book of Job
Job has got to be, in the words of singer-songwriter Sting, the ultimate “king of pain.” I have a little copy of The Book of Job, with sections underlined in different shades of ink, depending on the profound suffering he describes. Charles Frazier, author of Cold Mountain, declares that it contains one of the “greatest and most terse expressions of despair and soul weariness we have.”
Job may have been the first to so clearly articulate the fundamental lament of human suffering: “WHY?” Why have God and Satan colluded in a bet to find a “perfect and upright” man who will keep the faith despite every lousy thing they do to him, including slaughtering all his animals, then his 10 children, then covering him with boils, and throwing him into a heap of ashes. The one thing they leave him with, for a while, is a less than supportive wife, who advises him, “Curse God and die.”
Overwhelmed by his ruin, he cries, “I am afraid of all my sorrows.” Those sorrows take form in powerful words that are both extraordinarily raw and current, a scriptural gift for generations whose suffering is abandoned by the very language that could help at least to define it.
When Job comes to “complain in the bitterness” of his soul, he graphically describes the pain itself, the confusion about why it’s happening, and the isolation it’s caused him. But most of all, he shares…