By Frank van Steenbergen
In the Eyyüb Peygamber Caddesi neighborhood of Urfa in Southeastern Anatolia, there is a place of patience, tranquility and spiritual force, Unknown to many believers, this peaceful abode is said to be place where Job endured his suffering but also the place where his life was restored. Here people fill water containers with healing water to bring home, whereas others stay at the night. It is here where the story of suffering and persistent faith is believed to have taken place: Job’s story.
Job was God’s model follower. He was the person who had everything but also the person who gave everything. The Book of Job describes how Job is put to horrible ordeals, whereby all he owned, he lost and more than that. His trials start when God and the Devil talk, and God expresses satisfaction on Job, his exemplary follower. The Devil challenges God – yes Job is a model believer, but it is because he has everything? What would happen if Job would be faced with misfortune and would be living in misery, would Job still put all his faith in God?
God then allows the Devil to test Job and Job is faced with almost unbearable hardship: his wife dies, his children pass away, his house goes up in flames, all his livestock breaks loose and disappears, his grain storage is damaged. His health is broken by disease and his body is covered with sores. The Book of Job describes how one bad tiding is replaced by another and in matter of days all that Job once had is gone.
The terrible losses are made worse by the visit of his friends, that with glee almost discuss his suffering. They come with the same questions: what did he do to earn such a wrath? What mistakes he made to insult God and if it were not his mistakes who is this God that makes all this misery happen? It is a double suffering, adding insult to injury, and that from close friends. As Job (6:14-17) assesses:
Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend
forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
But my brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams,
as the streams that overflow
when darkened by thawing ice
and swollen with melting snow,
but that stop flowing in the dry season,
and in the heat vanish from their channels.
Job however remains unerringly patient. He is not aware of any wrong-doing and lament his unjust fate. At the same time he retains his faith in God, who may have a reason that we are not aware of, as his wisdom is beyond all of us. Job retains his faith in God and keeps patiently asking for forgiving and an end to suffering (Job 23, 11-13)
My feet have closely followed his steps;
I have kept to his way without turning aside.
I have not departed from the commands of his lips;
I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.
But he stands alone, and who can oppose him?
He does whatever he pleases.
It takes seven years before God, convinced of Job’s sincerity, put an end to Job’s ordeal. A well is created with healing water. God responds to Job: “Tap your foot on the ground. There it is the fresh water to drink and get washed ”. When Job drinks the water, he miracalously got healthy again. All Job’s well-being is restored. New children are borne, his cattle comes wondering back, he becomes now even more wealthy.
One can descend the simple enchanting steps to Job’s cave and feel the power of his faith and the ability to endure hardship. The cave is much visited. Men and women from nearby come in turns, bring their own suffering into the cave and pray to witness the nearness of hope and be inspired by Job’s patience. At a stone throw from the cave also is Job’s well – which God made spring up. The well is constructed with fragments of buildings from Roman times. The water can be tapped and many do so, filling containers with water from the well, water which carries the promise of suffering ultimately reversed and adversity ended.