When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. [Matthew 9:36 (NLT)]
When God gave Satan permission to test Job, He told the fallen angel that he could do anything he wanted to Job except take his life. As a result, Job lost his wealth, possessions, children, and health. The only things left were his home and wife. Some might say that one of Job’s trials was that his wife didn’t die when the rest of his family did. After all, this is the woman who told him to “Curse God and die.”
Let’s not forget that life as she once knew it was also taken from Mrs. Job. Although she kept her health, she suffered the same emotional, economic and social devastation as her husband. The ten children to whom she’d given birth, nursed and tended, were gone as were any grandchildren. Her mama’s heart had to be breaking. The family wealth (and status) had vanished in an instant; soon the bill collectors would arrive and, in all probability, the roof over their heads would vanish as well. Her strong and healthy husband, the man who loved and protected her, became an invalid overnight! He was covered with boils from head to toe and itched so badly that he scratched his skin with broken pottery. He had scabs all over his body and maggots and worms in his pus-filled sores. In deep depression, he was an insomniac who had nightmares when he managed to sleep. He was feverish, losing weight, in constant pain, had halitosis, his skin had turned dark and he was in constant pain. Today’s doctors might diagnose a necrotizing skin fasciitis—think “flesh eating bacteria.” Job’s future was doubtful.
The prognosis didn’t look good for Mrs. Job either. As far as she knew, she was facing imminent widowhood. A penniless widow with no children, she’d be the poorest of the poor, powerless and vulnerable. Frightened and distraught, she was understandably angry at a God who allowed this to happen. Unfortunately, the only words we read are ones in which she took that anger out on her husband. Giving Mrs. Job the benefit of the doubt, her words may have been a combination of anguish and compassion— anguish about a seemingly hopeless situation and a compassionate hope that her husband’s suffering would end with his quick death.
As I thought about Mrs. Job, I thought of other people whose spouses are suffering; strokes, cancer, Parkinson’s, MS, and dementia are stealing their loved ones. It seems that some have become rather cold to their afflicted partner and I’ve judged them unfairly (as I originally did Mrs. Job). I forgot that they, too, are suffering. The future as they once knew it has been stolen; their lives have become a struggle as they try to cope with increasing responsibilities, mounting financial burdens, and a spouse who is deteriorating daily. Perhaps their seeming aloofness and distance is a way of preparing themselves for the loss they eventually will face. It’s not easy to summon compassion for people who seem to lack compassion themselves but, if I can muster sympathy for Mrs. Job, I should be able to muster far more sympathy for people I know who are caught in similar situations.
If ever presented with challenges like those of Job’s wife, I pray that I’ll be strong, brave, supportive, hopeful, loving and trusting of God. As for now, I’ll no longer judge Mrs. Job or her brothers and sisters in similar situations. Whether or not I like their attitude or behavior is not my business. My job is simple—prayers, compassion and support, not just for the afflicted but also for their loved ones. Father, give them strength, wisdom and compassion in the face of their tremendous challenges.