At times, when we feel unable to put our anguish into words, our body speaks for us. In 1994, Robert Sapolsky published Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers (revised and updated, 2004). Renowned biologist Sapolksy describes how prolonged stress causes or intensifies a whole range of physical and mental illnesses. When we experience stress, like others in the animal kingdom, our physiology responds. Unlike animals, however, who either fight or flee to survive, we find it harder to turn off our stress-response. In time, our chronic activation of that response causes us to respond with illness.
When, in a matter of moments, Job learns he’s lost his businesses, employees, and children, he speaks words universally admired: “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:21). Although he expresses his anguish, he does so with gestures, by tearing his robe, cutting his hair, and throwing himself on the ground in worship. He cannot yet speak his anguish.
Initially defeated by Job’s loyalty to the Lord in tragedy, Satan next attacks his body. The Adversary inflicts “a severe inflammation on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (2:7). Now we know the mechanism by which Satan may have attacked Job–his prolonged stress response. Unable to verbalize his anguish at this point (it takes Job most of the rest of the book to work his way through his anguish with words), his body speaks for him.
I wonder, are you struggling with some illness? Do you have a physical condition or a mental disorder? Would you be willing to look at your life again? Can you also identify some stress(es) you’ve yet to resolve?