The Story of Job
“If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete” (Frankl, 1959, p. 67). A man named Job, pronounced [j oh b], was the epitome of this statement. His name literally meant persecution or hate. He was a man known for the ultimate suffering more than any other man on earth. He poetically illustrates his emotional outburst of pain, hurt and tragedy. Job was a man of integrity, dedication, faithfulness, and greatness but everything was taken from him. Philosophers and psychologists both have tried to comprehend the magnitude of suffering within their own lives. Here, we’ll look at how suffering and psychology go hand in hand with one another and the lasting effects will illustrate that it has had on the view of human nature through the story of Job and his journey of grief.
The book of Job can be recognized as the story of us all because he “lost everything in one day – his family, his wealth, his health” (Scazzero, 2017, p. 118). Us, we lose our youthfulness, our dreams, our stability of routines, family members, our health and so much more Scazzero, 2017, p. 118). Job’s story is representative of a man who is doing everything right, yet still endures suffering through the loss of everything that mattered to him. He owned thousands of livestock including camels, donkeys, sheep and oxen. He was abundantly blessed with 10 children, 7 sons and 3 daughters. Yet, the dreadful day of agony and destruction fell upon him (Job 1:1-22, New International Version).
To begin, he lost his livestock which he had built up on his own. All 12,000 of the animals vanished in an instant. Although they were a culmination of Job’s life work, they were only animals. One could say that he loved them dearly, as farmers do to their livestock now, but he lost all of them in the same day. Were these animals able to feel the pain of death on their bodies? Of course. Even though they may feel physical pain similarly to how humans do, the way in which they respond and react drastically differs. The act of submerging your physical, emotional and spiritual body into a season of grief and loss enlarges your soul’s thirst for the meaning behind the circumstances. Animals may endure these hardships yet cannot put a meaning or tangible understanding behind the why. Whereas Job believed that despite this agony of losing his life’s work that everything would work out according to the will in which he was called to live.
The possessions he had left, an army of men came and stole his precious belongings away. Not only had he lost his camels, donkeys, sheep and oxen but his identity had been stripped (Job 1:1-22, NIV). If he didn’t own these materialistic belongings, who was he? This is just the beginning of his suffering and pain. He had been stolen from and was lost in the purpose of this tragedy. Then, the most devastating, heart breaking, cruel and sad thing took place. A massive storm swept over the place in which his 10 children were staying and killed them all. The walls fell in and the wind collapsed on them and in one second Job lost his children.
The story of Job and Darwin parallel the recognition of suffering by the loss of a child. Darwin himself knew this feeling of pain. When his daughter Annie was 10, she passed away. Not only to mention, he and his wife had lost two other children as infants as well (Spencer, 2009). After these incidents, Darwin decided to leave his study of focus from theology and shifted to the idea and thought of creation from an evolutionary perspective instead of through the lens of Genesis, where the world was designed by a divine creator (Genesis 1: 1-2, NIV).
In the creation account, we can see the vast difference between humans and animals in and through the language used in Genesis 1 (NIV). In the beginning, as the foundation of the earth was set, the verbiage used to describe creation was non-relational whereas when God made humans it says, “Let us make man…”, implying the importance in creating man and woman uniquely (Sailhamer, 2011). Sailhamer (2011) discusses how previously every other living creature was made “according to its own kind”, but man and woman were instead made in the image of God. Thirdly, up until this point in the creation story gender was not revealed yet in the description of humans the differentiation was apparent (Sailhamer, 2011). Lastly, Sailhamer (2011) illustrates how humans are set apart from other living creatures because they have “dominion over God’s creation” through the order in which they were made and the responsibility as image bearers of him. Where Darwin’s theory doesn’t connect with this story is through the explanation that humans came from animals, not that they are uniquely set apart, but that in their similarities of embryonic development and body structure, as well as the reproduction process there is a complex evolutionary parallel (Darwin, 1874). Therefore, if Job was made human, he would be made in God’s image and he would be uniquely set apart from other living creatures. Job illustrates this uniqueness through his ability to have a relationship with the creator of the universe, as well as complex emotional, mental and spiritual components that animals do not possess. Darwin’s life journey and suffering connects to Job’s as they both understand the suffering in losing a child, yet Job sought out meaning of his suffering and Darwin denied it. As we get back to the story of Job, I believe Darwin entered the different stages of grief when he decided to no longer follow a faith-based life anymore as he was in denial of his own suffering.
After Job found out the news that all of his children were dead in an instant Job fell to the ground. He tore his clothes and shaved his head (Job 2: 1-13, NIV). Here, he fell into the first stage of grief: denial (Vogels, 1981). How else do you react to a situation in which it is completely out of your hands? Job is reacting out of grief and utter confusion. At first, he tries to accept it and yet underneath the surface he can’t deal with the pain that’s been inflicted on him. All he could think is, is this a test? Why would this happen to me? What have I done to deserve this? Have I not done a good job as a father, brother and husband? Job was in the darkest cave that he had ever encountered (Job 3: 1-26, NIV). Yet, as he lay in agony, he became inflicted with sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. He was now diseased, and had lost his family, his home and his job. He is overwhelmed by the loss of control and overwhelming feeling of hopelessness.
Shortly after the initial denial Job faces, soon he becomes angry. As Job sits in despair, his three friends stay with him in silence for seven days. Only the human soul could understand the empathy and depth of this pain, unlike any other creature on this earth. They are set apart and uniquely made to pursue, to love, to care, to live. If Job’s friends were able to set aside their wants, their desires and their control they’re surely not only of biological and instinctual traits but of divine nature and spirituality. Would biology help Job get through this suffering? Regardless of this silence and his friends staying by his side for days on end, he still felt lonely (Vogels, 1981). He feels as if no one can comfort him, he even questions the reason for him living any longer wondering, “Why was I ever born?” (Vogels 1981, Job 3: 1-26, NIV). The anger he feels starts to rise within him as his three friends blame this tragedy on his own pride and immorality. The three friends seem as if they would be considered sincere, loving and caring humans as they mourn with Job. After the silence they don’t empathize with Job. They scorn and ridicule him. This corruption is not just through these humans but through the sin that first came into the world, creating all people to be born inherently bad (Genesis 3:6, NIV).
Job continues to exchange in conversation with his friends despite the emotional and physical pain that he is going through. Job begins to bargain with himself knowing that he alone cannot take away this agony, disease and trauma that he has been put through. His mind becomes a whirlwind as he thinks through the different situations in what he could’ve changed to avoid this situation. In this, Job ignores the reality of what has taken place and the actions that could have helped him avoid the suffering, similarly to Victor E. Frankl in his bookA Man’s Search for Meaning.
Frankl (1959), dually writes an autobiography into a capturing story illustrating his personal experience of surviving four separate yet grueling concentration camps. There is a tragic yet beautiful parallel between the sufferings of Victor Frankl and Job. They both encounter the suffering that some couldn’t imagine going through in their lifetime. Immediately as Frankl steps into the flashback and narration of his experiences, the audience can feel the weight of his pain. During the time of staying in these different camps Frankl encounters three different psychological stages in which he understands from a doctrinal and psychiatric perspective. First, prisoners suffered from shock as they encountered the camp. Then, their emotional response to their current circumstances became numb in order to protect themselves from the reality of where they were. Lastly, there becomes a disconnect from their body, mind, soul and everything within them screams uncertainty (Frankl, 1959). The different ways in which the men responded to the suffering of the concentration camp illustrates the thirst of metaphorical water individuals long for yet fail to achieve because they are living through their own strength not a divine creator’s.
As Frankl continued to engage and survive through the concentration camps, he recognized that prisoners who had an optimistic hope on what they were going through could influence their will to survive. Frankl alludes to a being of higher power by referencing throughout his book during his journey.
The psychological viewpoint that despite harsh circumstances an optimistic outlook, motivation and perseverance are key to survival is known as logotherapy (Bolton et al., 2014). This is the major key parallel between Job and Frankl’s journey. However, the most important yet critical relationship and connection between these two stories is that the suffering both Job and Frankl went through had a greater meaning and purpose. To achieve this mentality, it is greater than a biological virtue. The advancement of emotional maturity and the perspective both Job and Frankl used in their moments of tragedy is outside of the physical body itself. If human life only required biological desires and needs, wouldn’t we simply just be intellectual animals? Through his surrender Job strives for the nourishment of his soul through silence.
Similarly, Frankl illustrates this perspective as him and his fellow prisoners experience the same psychological state that Job did as he initially comes into shock after losing everything (Frankl, 1959). His emotional, physical and mental response is to sit in silence for seven days. In utter loss for words at his circumstances. Then, Job falls into a state of meaningless confusion as his anger initially spikes and then falls into a deep depression. The depression Job expresses comes in the form of isolation through distancing himself in total silence and depravity (Axelrod, 2019). He begins to blame himself for everything, the disease, the loss and the pain. Even another friend comes to comfort him, yet nothing seems as if it can get him out of this cave of dullness and hopelessness.
Despite the tragedy he is going through he was predestined to go encounter this trial in his life. Job displays that we are to grieve during these times of loss yet remember who is ultimately in control. Sadly, in our individualistic culture we tend to deny and minimize our wounds and over time, we become less human (Scazzero, 2017, p. 121-122). But, if only we had the perspective of what the big picture in life looked like and trust the one who is in control, we would become comforted as Job eventually did. Even from the beginning of time, Job was predestined to walk through this tragedy, just as Frankl did, just as Darwin did and just like Plato described.
As Job feels as if he is living in isolation, he illustrates merely what Plato was symbolizing in theAllegory of the Cave(Plato, 360 BCE). Job wants to escape this truth of darkness as Plato alludes to escaping the cave in search of light and truth. During the time of Job’s loss, it’s almost as if he is in a cave of darkness and there is no way out (Job 10:21-22, NIV). However, the light brings life into the dark as Job struggles through the different stages of grief into a new identity. As Plato explains in his symbolism, that the light brings fulfillment in which nothing else can compare to. This illustrates Job’s acceptance of what he has gone through and how he can live harmoniously now despite the suffering he’s encountered. Although Job lacked knowledge in understanding his circumstances, a spirit of divine knowledge and power knew exactly what was happening and the meaning for it. The creator of the universe who surpasses all understanding and who is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient knew that this was going to happen to Job and his family (Job 42:2-3, NIV).
Plato describes the sunlight as the source of life to the prisoners within the cave. Just as he illustrated this metaphorically Job walked through his allegory quiet literally in that if he was disconnected from the source he would wither. Just like a tree is planted into soil that’s rich, full nutrients and prosperous it will succeed in growing and its full potential. Yet, if it’s planted in rugged soil with rocks and weeds it will not succeed in growth (Matthew 13: 1-9, NIV). If Job was the plant, he needs to be connected to the source of which gives him life, meaning and unfaltering water… the holy spirit. Without this connection to the spirit humans cannot prosper and live out their full calling and meaning in life. They wouldn’t even be able to understand the magnificence behind how one moment in time can change their life forever.
A Kairos moment is defined as, a moment in time that could change all other moments in time (Hearn, 2020). That it is a call for action, a time of opportunity, a time of transformation of one individual’s life that will impact every individual after them. I believe each of these intellectuals possess a Kairos moment in their lifetime leaving a legacy behind that has influenced generations after them. Frankl, through his grueling yet beautiful story of suffering in a concentration camp. To Darwin, creating a spectacular and monumental theory of evolution in the midst of his tragedy. While Plato encompasses what each Darwin and Frankl went through in brilliant writing. Each one of them had a Kairos moment and defined the future of what human nature is and has come forth from their work and dedication. Suffering of these men may not look as if it has a meaning, yet their own Kairos moment led others to see meaning in their own life, even if they didn’t.
“The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – even under the most difficult circumstances – to add a deeper meaning to his life” (Frankl, 1959, p. 67). In the same way, Job intersects the story, philosophy and theory of Darwin, Plato and Frankl by symbolizing the significance of suffering in the life of a human. The question comes to, so why does suffering happen? The first human to enter the world creates a ripple effect of unrighteousness that still affects each and every one of us daily. Yet, there was one human to walk the earth who is forever, holy and righteous, consequently making everyone else after him to be unrighteous. He is the only one who is made good, the Light of the World, the Fruit of the Vine, the Bread of Life. Jesus.
Axelrod, J. (2019, November 20).The 5 Stages of Grief & Loss. Psych Central.https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-5-stages-of-loss-and-grief/
Bolton, T., Knapp, P., & Tonder, E. (2014, May 27).God in Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy. Onedaring Jew.https://onedaringjew.wordpress.com/2010/07/06/god-in-viktor-frankls-logotherapy/
Darwin, C. (1874).The Descendent of Man(2nd Edition). Classics in the History of Psychology. http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Darwin/Descent/descent1.htm
Frankl, V. E. (1959). Man’s Search for Meaning.
Hearn, M. [Michael, Hearn]. (April 19th, 2020).The Feast of Booths (John 7:1-24)[Video]. YouTube.https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1440&v=Tg6d2y7MvpI&feature=emb_logo
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Sailhamer, J. H. (2011).Genesis unbound: a provocative new look at the creation account. Colorado Springs, CO: Dawson Media.
Scazzero, P. (2017).Emotionally healthy spirituality: It’s impossible to be spiritually mature, while remaining emotionally immature. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Spencer, N. (2009, September 17).Darwin’s complex loss of faith. The Guardian. Retrieved March 14th fromhttps://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2009/sep/17/darwin-evolution-religion
Plato (360 BCE) The Republic. Translation by B. Jowett.http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/republic.8.vii.html
Vogels, W. (1981). The Spiritual Growth of Job: A Psychological Approach to the Book of Job.Biblical Theology Bulletin,11(3), 77–80.https://doi.org/10.1177/014610798101100304
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