Why Did Job’s Wife Have to Suffer?

jobs wife

In one the most bizarre and intriguing scenes in all of scripture, the book of Job pulls back the curtain of the heavenly courts and lets us eavesdrop on a conversation between God and Satan during a meeting of the heavenly host. The ever-accusing Satan has just alleged that man’s loyalty to God is entirely contingent upon His continual blessing and provision, and is contending that if the hand of blessing were ever removed, man would curse God to His face. In essence, he’s attempting to discredit God’s provision of freewill and accuse the bride of Christ of being a gold digger before a crowd of angelic onlookers.

To disprove and effectively silence these allegations, God issues a momentous earthly challenge, and puts forth his most devout and righteous man, Job, to be put to the test. The stakes could not be higher. Job was permitted to endure a period of unimaginable suffering, yet he remained faithful throughout the ordeal. His refusal to curse God in the face of severe tribulation would forever substantiate the merits of freewill and end the spread of Satan’s malicious speculations. Job would go on to be revered throughout the ages as one of the greatest Biblical heroes of all time.

Enter, Job’s wife.

We know that the ramifications of Job’s trial were paramount in the heavenly realms, but what about the poor wife that was dragged through it alongside him? They both endured the same barrage of calamities that wiped out everything they had in a moment’s notice. They lost their livestock and servants—effectively wiping out their wealth and livelihood—and then all ten of their ten children were killed in a sudden building collapse.

Why did Job’s wife have to go through the same ordeal he did? It wasn’t about her. She wasn’t the unwitting protagonist of some great celestial saga—he was! What was her role in all of this? Was she just collateral damage? Was it merely a matter hapless proximity that her life was destroyed alongside his?

In the end, it is only Job who would be venerated for his loyalty. She, in contrast, would be forever vilified for her infamous admonishment to “curse God and die.” In a state of unimaginable grief and distress, she uttered her ill-fated quote and was never heard from again. That’s frustratingly all we know about her. We aren’t even given her name.

But she had one. That single inscription doesn’t define her entire existence. She was a real woman with a multifaceted life beyond the snapshot that we see. She was a person with passions and dreams, strengths and weaknesses, just like the rest of us. We just happen to see her at her very worst. She had no idea that this moment was being recorded and published for eternal public scrutiny. She just thought she was a grieving mommy having a private conversation with her husband.

She’d just lost everything. Everything they’d ever worked for was gone in an instant and all of her children were dead. Under similar circumstances, who of us would come out looking any better?

She had it all. She was extremely wealthy and blessed with a large, tight-knit, highly respected family.  She was married to the greatest man among his people. He was passionate, strong, and intelligent. He had a razor sharp wit and a great sense of humor. He was generous and charitable in the community, and was influential among its leaders. God himself would describe Job as upright, blameless and unequaled among men. She must have been quite a vivacious woman herself to land such a catch.

And he was so very godly. Almost too godly. He was genuinely concerned with his family’s spiritual well-being, and that was a good and honorable thing, but he was obsessive about it—making constant sacrifices just in case one of his kids had offended God in some way. She probably found it irksome.

After all, he was practically perfect. He rarely did anything wrong, and when he did, he repented immediately. What did he have to worry about with God? If their family wasn’t in God’s good graces, then for heaven’s sake whose was?!

It must have made it all the more devastating and confusing on the fateful day when their worlds fell apart. There was no way to think that the series of consecutive calamities could have been anything but supernatural. There was no other explanation.

But why? If God himself had not caused it, he had at least allowed it. Why would God permit this to happen to his most devout and faithful servant?

This question surely tormented Job’s wife night and day. Everything she thought she knew about God was suddenly shattered. She had no idea what to believe anymore. She only knew she was hurting. She was experiencing a degree of pain that few people could ever survive. And when she cried out to God, there was no answer. There was no comfort, no explanation, no assurance that there was some grand plan behind all this. There was nothing. Just silence.

And pain. More pain than she could bear. A part of her died that day with her children, but there was this thin shell of her that was forced to live on. Her nightmares began when she awoke, not when she went to sleep; though sleep brought little relief. And she was acutely aware that she was alone in her bed. There was no one beside her to pull her close and soothe her aching heart.

Where was her husband? Her rock? Her companion and guide through all of life’s trials? He was out in the front yard sitting in an ash heap, too grief stricken to even speak, and too overwhelmed by his own misery to be of any comfort in hers.

She was angry with God, and she felt justified. Didn’t she have the right to be upset? Wasn’t a full-fledged temper tantrum perfectly in order? She wanted Job to be angry along with her. She wanted to stay up all night and talk this out with the one person in the world who could possibly understand what she was going through. She wanted to vent. She wanted to complain. She wanted to purge herself of all of her pent up animosity toward God—just one long session of lashing out together, noting each and every infraction and lamenting together about the injustice of it all. She wanted the tiny shred of comfort that comes from having someone to commiserate with. But he wouldn’t give her that.

Instead, he worshiped. Without any more of an inkling of understanding about the situation than she had, and with just as much pain, he still refused to curse God with her in his agony. This must have infuriated her, and made her feel so incredibly alone.

She was all by herself in their pleasant home filled with treasured belongings that seemed of so little value now. There had been so much love in this home. So much joy and hope, and now it was all gone. After all the years of happy commotion of raising ten children in that home, the silence must have been a constant agonizing reminder of the loss. The only sounds now were the deep, mournful groans from a voice she didn’t recognize as her own—unfamiliar sounds coming from an unfamiliar place inside of her.

She felt dead, but she lived on. She probably thought about suicide. Maybe she thought that if she just let loose and screamed out at God in all of her pain and anger, He would strike her dead and she wouldn’t have to go on like this any longer. Maybe that’s why she said what she did.

We don’t know what ever happened to her. We don’t know if she lived or died. We aren’t given the end of her story. We only know that she spoke her one fateful line, and was never heard from again.

God rewarded Job’s faithfulness with complete healing and restoration. All of his wealth was restored in double portions, and he was blessed with ten more children.

But what ever happened to her? Was she cursed with infamy for a failure in her private life that she never realized would go public? Is she forever defined by an isolated quote spoken during the worst tragedy of her life? What an unfortunate conclusion to such meaningless suffering.

But what if her suffering wasn’t meaningless? What if her story mattered too?

What if Job, in demonstrating that man could still love God without the coercive influence of blessings, only gave us half the picture of freewill?

What if she completed the picture, by proving that we also have the freedom to break relations with God if we choose to do so?

What if, side by side, Job and his wife depict the full representation of God’s gift of free choice to mankind?

What if her story proved to the spirit and human world alike that God will not force us to love Him? That he puts such a high premium on human freedom, that He is willing to allow his creation to reject Him, even at the cost of great pain and loss to Himself?

If that is what her suffering accomplished, than there was profound meaning and purpose in it, and it wasn’t just a sloppy spillover of Job’s life-shattering spiritual challenge.

Their opposing responses to identical circumstances carve out a Y-shaped freewill road map for the rest of humanity to follow. When we reach our own fork in the road, when suffering comes and life seems unfair, we can choose the difficult path of Job and proclaim, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Or we can follow Job’s wife and exercise our freedom to, “curse God and die.”

We don’t know if that’s where the story ended for her: if she continued down that path and never turned back.

I like to think that she eventually softened and repented, and turned back to God for healing and restoration. It is my hope that He made her the mother of Job’s ten additional children. After all, it doesn’t say that he ever remarried or that he had any other wives. And we know that God delights in restoring relationship with those who return to Him. Maybe she did, and then she and Job received their double portion of blessing and lived happily ever after. Or maybe they didn’t. We just don’t know.

But can we trust that her suffering mattered? That is wasn’t for nothing?

Can we accept that sometimes God’s best people get the toughest assignments?

Can we believe that if God allows us to go through hell, the stakes in Heaven must be exceedingly high?

Maybe her suffering mattered. Maybe yours does too. Maybe mine does too.

What choice will you make?

As for me, I choose trust.



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