“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Jesus in Matthew 5:4)
While theological perspective varies across the spectrum regarding the literal nature of Job’s testing and how exactly Satan influenced him, the opening chapters of one of the oldest narratives in the Scriptures are brutal and unflinching in their description of Job’s suffering.
In a short span of time, he literally loses everything – property, financial resources, physical appearance, the emotional support of his wife. Perhaps worst of all, a natural disaster collapses his oldest son’s house, killing all of Job’s children in one fell swoop. Three close friends hear of his great loss, and go to comfort him. When they saw Job, “they could hardly recognise him,” (Job 2:12) so great was his loss. And so they ‘sat shiva’ with Job, entering into his mourning with him, “no one saying a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was” (Job 2:13). They sat together low to the ground, embracing the loss of Job’s children with him. While not directly mentioned in the text, this Jewish custom of mourning often involved shared food, drink, and fasting together with family and friends sitting shiva with you. And thus, subtly read between the lines, but no less significant, the function of the table as a gathering place to mourn and “suffer with” (the root meaning of compassion) is understood anew.
While the table is a place of joyful celebration and boisterous feasting, it also is a place of sorrowful mourning and silent fasting, a holy place where brokenness is shouldered together. Consider whether your table is safely inviting in this manner as well. Invite a friend to share the table with you, using the spiritual practice of “Imagining the Text: Ignatian Contemplation” (see attached PDF) to imaginatively enter into the scene of Job 1:1-2:13 (in particular, 2:11-13).