Suffering part of the human condition: calls for faithfulness to God

      Some days, it’s harder than others to recognize the thread that runs through the first and second readings into the Gospel. Not today.

      In this Sunday’s first reading (Jb 7:1-4,6-7), we meet Job, by all accounts not a great sinner, but rather recognized as a righteous man. All manner of tragedy has fallen upon poor Job: he has lost his children, his livestock and his wealth. He becomes afflicted with all manner of bodily traumas.

      While friends try to console him, Job struggles with his suffering and the miseries that have befallen him. Contrary to common thought at the time, Job’s respectability has not seemed to give him an “in” with God.

      Puzzling, isn’t it. Plus it sounds familiar…something like a chapter from our own lives?

      Unbeknownst to Job, God and Satan are discussing him off to the side. The only reason Job is such a good man is because God has given him many gifts, Satan argues. It’s easy to be faithful to someone who is so good to you. If all Job’s blessings were taken away, surely he would curse God.

      Our knowing God tells Satan to go ahead, take it all away and we’ll see what happens.

      And so he does. One after another, Job’s blessings disappear. He laments, he whines, he moans. “So I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been allotted to me.”

      While we might not get the whole picture from this short reading from the Book of Job, Job doesn’t disappoint. He perseveres in his faith in God. Job might complain but he remains faithful and, eventually, his good fortune is restored to him.

      God: 1. Satan: 0.

      Fast forward to the Gospel (Mk 1:29-39). Jesus enters the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s  mother-in-law is seriously ill with a fever, unable to extend the proper hospitality one would expect in this ancient culture. Jesus heals her of her affliction: “He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.” At that point, she is restored to her place in the community and she resumed her role of serving her Lord and others. Jesus made her whole in ways more complex than simply curing her illness.

      In his Sermon 18, Peter Chrysologus (bishop, c. 400-450), writes, “Here you see how fever loosens its grip on a person whose hand is held by Christ’s; no sickness can stand its ground in the face of the very source of health. Where the Lord of life has entered, there is no room for death.”

      We might not understand why people suffer, but suffering is a life experience that plays no favorites. Suffering is part of the human condition and, regardless of our perceived worth or stature, we can’t barter our way out of it with God. If anyone deserved to be spared the pain of loss and suffering, it was Jesus, and we know how that turned out. Jesus, better than anyone, understands.

      Job suffered; Jesus heals. We might not understand the whys of suffering but when we turn to Jesus, there we find healing in a myriad of ways we often don’t grasp or appreciate at the time. This type of healing is born out of a deep faith that no matter how bad it gets, God is there, as God was with Jesus, to take our hands and draw us out of the depths of our despair, just as he did with Job.

      Job teaches us that all we need to do is remain faithful.


      Debbie Bosak is the editor and general manager of Northwest Indiana Catholic Publications and a member of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Merrillville. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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