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Job Suffered: Coping with Anxiety and the Unexpected

When I think of how Job suffered, I usually think of depression. I think of losing everything – family, friends, possessions, and health. Job tried to maintain faith when everyone around him told him to give up. He could not see a way out from his current situation. Uncertainty, discomfort, and pain surrounded his head like smog.

My biggest takeaway from Job was that his friends were most helpful when they sat with him in silence. After that, their conversation consistently discouraged Job. In fact, God calls them out on their pious “you weren’t religious enough” talk at the end. This passage makes it pretty clear to me what works and what doesn’t work to help friends enduring suffering.

However, the stress of unexpected events and future uncertainty can appear in more forms than just depression. For many, stress reveals itself in blatantly physical issues like upset stomachs and a string of infections. For others, the physical response is less obvious and appears as anxiety due to overactive “fight or flight” hormones.

Job suffered and definitely endured stress in his time of trial. Can Job teach us anything about coping with anxiety in spite of the unexpected? Let’s dig in!

The Passage

“If I have concealed my sin as people do, by hiding my guilt in my heart because I so feared the contempt of the clans that I kept silent and would not go outside – (Oh, that I had someone to hear me! I sign now my defense – let the Almighty answer me; let my accuser put his indictment in writing. Surely I would wear it on my shoulder, and I would put it on like a crown. I would give him an account of my every step; I would present it to him as to a ruler.) – if my land cries out against me and all its furrows are wet with tears, if I have devoured its yield without payment or broken the spirit of its tenants, then let briers come up instead of wheat and stinkweed instead of barley.”

The words of Job are ended.

Job 31:33-40 NIV

Two Tips for Coping with Anxiety like Job

  1. 10 Minutes of Meditation: Not to be confused with “prayer makes your anxiety go away,” prayer as a form of meditation reduces levels of stress in the body. Job spends numerous chapters of the book praying to God, which could help his body cope with the physical aspects he endured. In fact, Job speaks in 10 separate monologues before God responds in the storm. Job suffered, and his prayers allowed his emotional and mental response to ebb and flow. He does not reject any emotion but allows himself to feel it and move on. He does not cling to thoughts but practices release. We, too, can practice prayerful meditation to cope with stress hormones and anxiety.
  2. Focus on Logic: Job uses logic in the face of his friends’ accusations. He knows that he has not sinned. The monologue in Job 31 shows him proving to himself that he did not sin and cause his suffering. Even after God tests Job in chapters 38-41, He acknowledges that Job did not sin against Him but instead maintained a true view of God. In Job 42:7, God proves this: “After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.'” Like Job, we can use logic to keep negative thoughts at bay.

For More Information…

First, this article provides a good explanation of the similarities and differences between meditation and prayer. It clarified some of the traditions and history we aren’t necessarily taught in Evangelical churches. Second, I was first introduced to the idea of centering prayer in Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood. I highly recommend reading her book for an authentic, humorous attempt of focused prayer.

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