Is Job a trauma survivor?
Distressing situations and stressful events reveal our limitations, vulnerability, and lack of control over fate. This produces a deep wound known as trauma. But even traumatic events, these exceptionally difficult situations, can give us the opportunity to grow spiritually and find new meaning in life. The biblical story of Job portrays a trauma survivor who searches for the meaning of life. To find a response, Job meets three therapists who try to explain what is happening to him. One of them says that Job’s sins are the cause of his troubles. A second one says Job’s suffering is in accordance with God’s justice. The third says that the disasters serve as God’s correction or chastening. However, God finally says all of these responses are incorrect. The last chapter of the Book of Job indicates that the only one who can find the correct response is the trauma survivor himself. The biblical story of Job affirms that each situation calls for a response that is unique to each trauma survivor.
Job meets God directly and then says, “All of us born from women have few days, are full of turmoil. Like flowers, we bloom then wither, flee like a shadow, and don’t last.” He finds the meaning of life for himself and says, “Therefore, I repent and find comfort in dust and ashes.” Finally, God restores his fortunes and gives him twice as much as he had before. In sum, Job— powerless and out of control—embraces life as he finds it. Thus, he must accept it. Ultimately, Job opens himself to a new beginning, and at the end of the story Job is
“satisfied.” Job’s acceptance of his fate and its entailed suffering involves a movement from an old meaning of life to a new meaning of life, from a destroyed old heaven and earth to a new heaven and earth. The message is that new life comes for trauma survivors when they pass from the old life. The envisioned new heaven and new earth emerge from the ruins of the past. That’s why Job says, “I repent and find comfort in dust and ashes” and uses the image of the fate of flowers and cosmic redemption. Many of us have experienced trauma in our lives. God calls us to move from this old earth, heaven, and life and to find the new earth, new heaven, and new life. Let’s enter into God’s new heaven through the teachings of our savior, Jesus Christ!