Column: Job models patience amid suffering

Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.
Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.

by Father Mike Stubbs

Hand weaving takes patience. The shuttle shoots across the loom to interlace the weft thread with the warp threads, one weft thread at a time. The cloth builds up very gradually.

A fast weaver may produce only a few inches of fabric in the course of a day. Even though the shuttle speeds back and forth very quickly, the result looks very slow. It is painstaking work. That is why, in Sunday’s first reading, Job complains, “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, they come to an end without hope” (Jb 7:1- 4, 6-7). This vivid image suggests the tedious monotony of a life which does not produce much.

Hand weaving takes patience. And yet, in this image of the weaver’s shuttle, we see little of the proverbial patience of Job. Neither does that appear in any of the reading. Instead, we hear about his suffering: “So I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been allotted to me.” Job is certainly complaining a lot. And yet, there is more to the Book of Job than merely recounting his troubles. He is laying the ground for the principal theme of the book: the question of why the innocent must suffer.

We might remember that the English word “patience” derives from the Latin word which means suffering. Similarly, a “patient” is a person suffering from an illness or injury. Patience means the ability to endure suffering.

Certainly, we find that in abundance in the person of Job. He suffers the loss of his children, his wealth, even his good health. Yet, through it all, he is still standing. He does not give up. He endures it all.

In that respect, Christian tradition looks upon the figure of Job as anticipating Jesus Christ. In his passion and death on the cross, Jesus recalls the patience of Job. Like Job, Jesus was able to weather tremendous suffering, without giving up. He does not allow his suffering to defeat him. In that, he offers us a model of patience. Above all, Jesus is the innocent one who is made to suffer. Job’s question of why the innocent must suffer reaches its high point in Jesus.

Whether we are enduring physical suffering or financial hardship, or whether we are only trying to put up with the February blahs, we can learn from the patience of Job. His example can encourage us to stick it out, no matter what.

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