I'm reading Job right now. I got the archaelogy Bible for Christmas which I'm loving. It helps me to read the passages in light of what was common in other cultures' contemporary passages. For example, when Job was lamenting his awful fate, there is no hint in his words (or the words of his errant friends) that God is capricious. There's no hint that God is a God who punishes us out of whim or pettiness - much unlike stories contemporary to it that tell of jealous and petty gods.
The words of Job are such poetry and oddly comforting in their stark reality.
One man dies in full vigor, completely secure and at ease,
his body well nourished, his bones rich with marrow.
Another man dies in bitterness of soul, never having enjoyed anything good.
Side by side they lie in the dust, and worms cover them both.
Job's friends are rather poor comforters, and Job's response to them is "How long will you torment me and crush me with words?" I hope I don't torment and crush my friends with my so-called words of comfort.
Job is reminding me of a book I recently read, A Place of Healing by Joni Eareckson Tada. She has been repeatedly approached over the past many years by people saying that she is in a wheelchair because of her sin - that if she would just repent, God would heal her. Now she is living in severe chronic pain and, as the subtitle states, "wrestling with the mysteries of suffering, pain, and God's sovereignty."
I'd recommend the book to anyone dealing with suffering. In fact, if you'd like a copy, I'll give you mine. Just leave me a comment and let me know if you'd like it. (If more than one person comments, I'll draw a name on Saturday.)
Another book that I really learned from about suffering was When I Lay My Isaac Down. Both women relate their experiences of unthinkable suffering with such compassion that you really feel as if they are "suffering with" you (the root of the words "com" and "passion") and not judging you or self-righteously telling you to fix your feelings.
Leave me a comment if you'd like Joni's book!