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.
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.