Once there was a man named Job. Job was a man of virtue and moral fortitude, and thus God had blessed Job with a beautiful wife, good health, a two-thousand-square-foot apartment in the Upper West Side, and a refurbished Xbox.
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. And the Lord said to Satan, “As thou hast traveled the Earth, seeding temptation, hast thou taken note of my servant Job? There is none other like him—he is a man of unflappable character.”
“Ah,” replied Satan. “But that is only because thou hast smiled upon Job with such blessings, such as his beautiful wife, good health, and his modeling career. Sure, it’s mostly commercial stuff—brochures, product catalogs—but it’s surprisingly lucrative and offers excellent dental.”
God nodded. You could get superb dental in commercial modeling these days.
“But put forth thine hand,” continued Satan. “And taketh away all that thou hast given Job—and see how his piety wavers.”
“You are wrong, Satan.” said God. “Job’s faith shall not yield. Watch now—I shall indeed put forth my hand, and take away his current thirteen-body killstreak in Call of Duty: Warzone.” It was so, and He and Satan looked down upon Earth.
“God DAMN it!” cried Job. “CHRIST! JESUS FUCKING CHRIST ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?! GOD DAMN IT! FUCK!”
“Wow,” said God. “That did not break the way I thought it would.”
And even Satan, too, was surprised how quickly Job had gone from zero to, like, eighty.
They looked back down at Job, who was slamming his fists into his couch cushions while ripping out the throw pillows’ decorative tassels with his teeth. “Why, God!?” cried Job. “Why! Must! I! Suffer!?”
God turned back to Satan. “This is not over Satan,” said God. “You will see, even as Job’s blessings are taken away, he will soon return to the bedrock of his faith.”
“Very well,” said Satan. “So put forth thine hand again, and smite Job with a plague of bone and skin—mark him with a pestilence of boils that tears the flesh asunder. Mark him, and you shall see how Job forsakes thy holy name when afflicted with a curse that harks from the wickedest chasms of Hell itself.”
“Whoa,” said God. “Maybe we start smaller, and work up to that.”
Satan paused, then agreed. “Sorry,” said Satan.
“It’s okay,” said God.
And so instead God put forth His hand once more, and through His Almighty Power, imbued the decorative tassels of Job’s throw pillows with the strength of ten thousand angels.
“Ow!” yelled Job, hearing a cracking sound. “My goddamn tooth!”
Job’s dentist entered the room, her eyes quickly scanning the contents of a manila folder. “It’s good to see you, Job” said Dr. Kolar. “I understand we have a broken tooth here.”
“Yes,” replied Job. “I think it cracked when I bit into, like, a weird pistachio?”
God closed His eyes, for He could not believe this guy at this point.
Dr. Kolar sat down on a rolling stool and wheeled over to a boxy computer, quickly keying in Job’s information. “Well, the good news is that you have excellent dental benefits, so—” She suddenly stopped, frowning. “That’s odd. It… it looks like you don’t have any dental insurance at all. It’s just… gone.”
Satan suddenly turned to God. “Hey, I’m sorry I came in so hot back there, with that whole pestilence thing,” said Satan. “It’s just that I’m the Devil.”
“I know,” said God. “It’s okay.”
“It’s so crazy that we’re doing this,” continued Satan. “Like, it’s wild to me that we are even talking.”
They turned back to watch Job, who was flailing in the dentist’s chair and cursing God’s name while Dr. Kolar politely pretended to read a poster about teeth.
“All this, and yet you still believe in Job?” asked Satan. “If so, then put forth your hand once more, and give him adult braces.”
God scowled, for He did not want to give Job adult braces, but He was in too deep at this point.
Dr. Kolar looked back at her monitor, squinting. “And… um, well, it looks like you also need adult braces.” Dr. Kolar suddenly felt a twitch run up her spine and quickly shook her head. “Er… braces. I’m sorry, I… I’m not sure why I specified adult.”
Job stopped thrashing around and stared into his dentist’s eyes. “I think God has abandoned me.”
Dr. Kolar nodded. This was something people often said in the dentist’s office.
“Job,” she said. “When my faith is tested, I think about one of my favorite sayings: God gives His toughest battles to His strongest warriors.”
Satan glanced at God, raising an eyebrow. God quickly shook his head no.
“In fact,” Dr. Kolar continued. “It’s the slogan of my practice.” She handed Job a pamphlet reading “Bright Smiles Dentistry: God Gives His Toughest Battles to His Strongest Warriors”. It had a photo of Dr. Kolar smiling confidently next to a dancing cartoon toothbrush.
“Now,” said Dr. Kolar, revving up a small hydraulic drill. “Let’s get those braces on.”
“CUT!” the director yelled, waving off the photographer. “I don’t know, Job. I don’t think this is going to work.”
Job removed his porkpie hat and picked at the itchy striped sweater he was wearing. His agency had landed him a gig modeling for the packaging of knockoff Halloween costumes and was currently posing as a copyright-free imitation of Freddy Krueger.
“I’m sorry, Job. I love your work—I really do!—but the adult braces are just too distracting. I’m afraid we’re going to have to find someone else for Rude Dream Goblin.”
Job started to detach the whisk taped to his hand, trying to hide his disappointment. “Well, couldn’t Rude Dream Goblin just have adult braces?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said the director.
“Or we could try some different costumes?” Job offered, his eyes pleading. “I could do Wolverine—”
“Mr. Fingernails,” the director corrected.
“Dennis the Menace?”
“Ruinous Child (Name Is Alan).”
Job’s hands clenched into fists. “I hate you, God,” he whispered to himself.
Satan smirked. “Time to cut your losses, God. Job’s faith in you has never been lower.”
“You know nothing of faith, Satan.” said God. “No matter how many times Job seems to have forsaken Me, no matter how many times it seems he has abandoned Me, my devotion to Job will never waver. Just as all of my children have had faith in me, I must now have faith in Job.”
They looked down at Job, who had just googled “sciemtology” on the public computer at his local library. “I’m just curious about it is all,” said Job aloud, to nobody in particular. A librarian shushed him.
Job walked into his two-thousand-square-foot apartment on the Upper West Side and closed the door behind him.
“How was your day, honey?”
Job dropped his coat on the floor and stared at his beautiful wife, who was reading a book on the couch.
“Why do you think there is suffering in the world?” Job asked.
Job’s wife looked up from her book. “That kind of day, hunh?”
“They say God gives His toughest battles to His strongest warriors,” Job said.
“You’re not a warrior. You’re not even good at Call of Duty.”
“I know,” said Job. “I don’t think God gives His toughest battles to His strongest warriors.” He punched his fist into his other hand. “I think He kills His strongest warriors immediately, so they can fight for Him in the eternal war between Heaven and Hell.”
“Yeah,” said Job’s wife, avoiding eye contact. “Maybe.”
“I’m not sure why people suffer, Job,” she continued. “But I’m reminded of how Nelson Mandela once said, ‘Our human compassion binds us the one to the other—not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.’”
Job’s wife paused.
“Also, there’s something wrong with our throw pillows. I think the decorative tassels have been imbued with the strength of a shitload of angels.”
“Okay,” said Job. “I’ll look into that tomorrow.”
“No matter what happens, we have each other,” said Job’s wife.
“Thank God for that,” said Job, slowly breaking into a metallic smile.
“Thank God,” Job repeated.
And God turned to Satan, and for the first time that day He smiled too, revealing the most immaculately shining braces the devil had ever seen.