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May 6, 2015

Righteous Job the Much-Suffering as a Model for our Lives

Righteous Job the Much-Suffering (Feast Day - May 6)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The righteous Job came from the ancient city of Ausis, which was located in Arabia, near Damascus. He is known for his admirable patience in the temptations and tribulations he encountered, hence the well-known phrase "Job-like patience", which indicates his great patience in the difficulties and sorrows of life.

He was richly blessed by God with material wealth, but also through childbearing, having seven sons and three daughters. But God allowed all of his children to die together, to lose all his material goods, and then be infected with an incurable disease that tormented him throughout his body. His wounds were full of pus, that smelled bad and hurt, which is why he would scratch them with a shell while sitting on manure far from his home and people. But, despite his great sorrow and physical pain, he continued to glorify God. To his wife, who urged him to blaspheme God in order to end his life, he responded: "Why do you speak like a senseless woman? If we accept what is good from God, should we not endure what is evil?" Then he said: "The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away: as it seemed good to the Lord, so has it come to pass; blessed be the name of the Lord."

Naturally, at one point, while conversing with three friends who visited him due to his unbearable pain, he voiced some complaints to God, but he repented and God forgave him. His temptations became the occasion for Job's virtue to shine and eventually he became more blessed than he was before his trial, after being found worthy to see the glory of God and gain other children and more material goods than he previously had.

Commentary of Olympiadorus the Deacon on the Book of Job, 12th-13th century manuscript from Vatopaidi Monastery, Mount Athos

The life and conduct of the much-suffering Job gives us the opportunity to highlight the following:

First, temptations do not come from God, but from our passions, mistakes and sins, as well as from the devil. God cannot be tempted and He tempts no one. Yet He allows temptations to test the freedom of people, to awaken us from the slumber of sin, and to stimulate the struggle for purification from passions so that we can obtain communion with God. God allows the saints to be tempted in order for their virtue to shine and for them to become standards and models for imitation for those undergoing temptations.

Patience is a gift from God and is given to those who struggle to obtain it by showing patience in the temptations and trials of life. Besides, without the power and Grace of God no one can endure temptations till the end. It's the same with all the gifts God gives. Those who love prayer and try to pray continuously without ceasing, such will receive from God the gift of ceaseless prayer of the heart. Those who have sensitive hearts and try to show love to all, especially to those who hurt, who are poor, who are sick, etc., He gives the gift of perfect love, etc. Elder Paisios would say, in his own characteristic way, that we pray and supplicate to God to give us patience, love, humility, repentance, etc., and for this we do well. But how does this happen? God is not a grocer who will take a scooper and give us a pound of patience, a pound of love, a pound of humility, etc., but He allows temptations, sorrows, difficulties and failures, to humble ourselves, to show patience, love, repent sincerely and finally be able to realize the purpose of our life, which is deification and salvation.

Second, the friends of Job, although they intended to comfort him, unwittingly they upset him and forced him to react strongly to express his complaints to God, when they told him that he was suffering for his sins, while in fact he was righteous and virtuous. Surely, those who have not experienced pain and grief "in their skin", are not able to substantially help those who are hurting to the core, despite their good intentions, because they may bring even more pain to them rather than comfort and consolation. On the other hand, those who have been tempted, "have the ability to help the tempted."

We must learn to always place our hopes in God and from Him we should await strength and receive consolation in our sorrows, because people, even those who are sympathetic, possibly, despite their good intentions, will harm and disappoint us. God, who allows trials and tribulations, gives people the strength to endure. He waits to see our struggle, like a good coach does with an athlete at the right moment when he is about to become too weary, and having drank from the cup of patience to the full, then He visits, He embraces us with His Grace, He sweetens the pain, He strengthens, He comforts, and He fills us with spiritual gladness and rejoicing.

We should often study the life and conduct of the much-suffering Job, that we may learn to be inspired by his authentic love, his steadfast faith, and his unwavering hope in God, which were the inexhaustible sources from which he drew his patience.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Δίκαιος Ἰὼβ ὁ Πολύαθλος", May 2006. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.