Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Perseverance, Nor Patience

Until I read The Fire of Delayed Answers by Bob Sorge, I never questioned where the expression “the patience of Job” came from.

“Keep in mind that Job wasn’t writing a book of the Bible,” Sorge writes. “He was journaling his honest, gut-wrenching wrestlings with God. He’s not tiptoeing through the tulips in his discourses, trying to say it nicely, nor is he trying to keep from offending God. You’re getting him in the privacy of his inner thoughts, and in that transparency we see a man who survived a horrific ordeal but never relinquished his fundamental faith in and trust in God.”

That’s not a description of patience. It doesn’t resemble anything close to patience.

So when, and where, did we come to associate Job with patience?

I looked up “the patience of Job.” Every reference associated with the story on the Bible. Most acknowledged that it had at some time in the past become proverbial. All referred to Job’s faith in waiting on God to answer him.

What I found most interesting, though, was that these are explanations that have the big picture – that know how the Book of Job ends. God restores (or replaces) Job’s family and possessions. All’s well that ends well.

But when Job is going through the trials he endured – loss of his family, destruction of his property, physical affliction, and no help from his friends – he doesn’t know how the story will end. He is suffering unimaginable physical and emotional agonies, and he has no idea of whether or not God will hear and answer his cries.

Job is adrift in a ferocious storm, and he has no idea when or if the storm will end.

This isn’t patience. This is perseverance. This is hanging on by your fingernails, and they’re breaking apart.

Job’s wife tells him to curse God and die. He refuses to do that, but still he hurts and questions – he profoundly questions God. He slips into serious depression. He feels utterly alone and utterly abandoned, and his friends and their wisdom are worse than useless.

He doesn’t wait patiently, believing that good things are just around the corner.

He perseveres.

That’s what Job is about.


Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’re reading The Fire of Delayed Answers. This week’s discussion is on chapter 2, “The Perseverance of Job.” To see more posts on this chapter, please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact.

Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


TC Avey said...

Perseveres...I like that reference to Job.

Good post.

diana said...

Seems like the same verb - wait - fits both ideas, doesn't it? Interesting distinction and helpful for those who are in the slough up to their necks. Hang in, friends. Hang in.

Rick Dawson said...

It *is* the most common mistake - ascribing patience to a man who suffers more than anyone else I've ever known. You described his situation well, Glynn.

S. Etole said...

And in the end, He was doubly blessed.

jasonS said...

Good point, Glynn. Maybe our definition of patience is too limited. We think of it as just being quiet and calm, but perseverance is more white-knuckled tenacity. Maybe you can be intense and patient. Jesus was. Very thought-provoking! Thanks Glynn.

joellhmorris said...

I like this perspective and the distinction you made between perseverance and patience. Very well said, Glynn!