Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

Remembering Job in Tough Times

Three weeks ago, my husband and I volunteered to read the Book of Job.

My Episcopal Church, the Church of the Epiphany, offered a review of the Bible in four weeks taught by a seminary student who has a special interest in Biblical history.  This was four Sundays, after church, for two hours each session.  This course, covering the entire Bible was offered to those of us who wanted an overview of the history of the Bible as a foundation for more intensive study.

Religious scholars of all persuasions may regard this brief exposure to Biblical study as much too short, but for those of us who want to read the Bible with more understanding, any education in our overwhelmed lives is welcome.

We’d been asked to read our designated book of the Bible, create a synopsis and answer a few questions on a form given to us by our teacher. As a child I was always concerned about Job’s suffering, especially the boils and flesh being clothed with worms.  Perhaps that is the reason I chose a healing profession.

Job was described in the first verse of the first chapter as, “perfect and upright, and one who feared God, and eschewed evil”.  The Lord had a conversation with Satan in which God pointed out that “there was none like Job in the earth, perfect and upright”.   Satan told the Lord that the only reason that Job lived such a perfect life was that he had been very fortunate.  Take away all that he has, destroy his health, make him suffer, then he will “curse you to your face”, Satan told God.  God allowed Satan to take everything from Job; his children, his health, his wealth.

In a remarkable literary debate, Job discusses his afflictions and their cause with three friends who feel that Job must have been wicked or God would not have punished him.  This takes place over the course of most of the Book of Job. They address the question of who is punished and why.   This is an eternal question, one that we struggle with today.  Why do bad things happen to good people?

Job is counseled by these men who speak for God, without God’s authority, that the truly innocent and righteous are never punished.  Job responds by saying that God destroys both the perfect and the wicked.   Job continues to ask, “Why?”  He asks to know his sins and God’s purpose in afflicting him.

In the last three chapters of the text, God speaks to Job and demands answers. He learns that Job has remained faithful in spite of suffering and acting as God has instructed. When the questioning is complete, Job’s life once more is blessed.

Religious study is a way to actively engage in living a moral life. We are often too busy to consider the spiritual in our hustling daily lives. I am grateful for this immersion into Bible study.

It is important in these terrible and confusing times that each of us find ways to think about our actions, our choices and our contributions to the planet and all the people on it.  For some, that will involve study and conversation about the great spiritual and moral issues that men and women have always struggled to understand.

We are leaving a period of inexhaustible materialism, deceit, greed, aggression, and manipulation of the general population by political leaders. One of the hallmarks of most major religions is the idea of putting the self in service to the whole, the larger group, the greater good. These are aspects of the human spirit which often emerge in times of trouble, seen in periods like The Great Depression and World War II.

I want to hear a call for personal sacrifice and service in this period of transition.    I want to believe that there is a leader who will not ask to be elected because our taxes will be lowered or we will be victorious in battle or we will be given more by our government.  American citizens must now accept that our government’s policies and our public priorities have given each of us an unimaginable debt to repay.  It is time for us to give what we have to improve our communities, our cities and our country.  It is time for us to care for those who are in need.  I want a leader who will ask each of us to become part of the restoration of our democratic ideals in this country and in the eyes of the world.  In the short run it does no good to ask, “Why?”   We need to just ask how.

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