There’s nothing like profound loss to unleash questions about our assumptions. What surfaces, if we can stand it, is the faulty bedrock upon which we have built our lives. It no longer sustains us. To survive, an enlargement of our myopic worldview is critical. But how approach such a herculean task? Observing another’s achievement helps.

Remember Job, the god-fearing gentile who lived in the land of Uz? Who lost everything? Whose do-gooder friends intruded upon his angst with pious platitudes about good and evil? Enraging Job even further? Stephen Mitchell’s paperback, The Book of Job (1979), puts a different spin on this story, dating in oral tradition from the seventh through fifth centuries, BCE, the earliest Hebrew manuscript appearing some fifteen hundred years later. We’re not alone in upheavals that rent our very souls. Stories from Ferguson, MO, speak to this chaos, as well.

Mitchell’s poetic translation from the Hebrew reveals Job’s movement from stunning grief, to maintaining his innocence, to rejecting all previous theologies, to piercing the mystery of God as God is. Wholeheartedly, Job surrenders; in his surrender is found absolute poverty and absolute generosity. He says,

“I know you can do all things

and nothing you wish is impossible.


I had heard of you with my ears;

But now my eyes have seen you.

Therefore, I will be quiet,

comforted that I am dust.”

Thus Job, the giver, becomes the gift. After the restoration of Job’s family and possessions, he lives long years and dies peacefully among them, his spiritual transformation, now complete.

Such reflections continue helping me with the loss of my brother.