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Published Date: January 29, 2014

Published Date: January 29, 2014

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Job — A Limited Understanding of Pain

Job has always been one of my favorite books of the Bible. When I was a teenager my family went through a very difficult time. While going through the heartache of losing my grandfather to cancer, my father was diagnosed with it. I was attending a Christian school at the time and my Bible class was going through the wisdom literature texts. During this time of loss and struggle, the book of Job spoke to me in ways that it never had before. On a very small scale, I identified with the loss that Job had gone through. I struggled through questions similar to his, and I tried to build my faith on the wisdom from that book. By the grace of God my father lived, but we still mourned the loss of my grandfather. Job 1:21 was my struggle and has been my life verse ever since: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

The book of Job has helped me through difficult times and has given me truth to stand on when sorrow blurred my vision of God’s goodness. I understand why the Church holds up the book of Job as the example of faith in the midst of pain and suffering and, until recently, I agreed with the conventional idea that ‘nobody knows pain like Job’. Then I went to my small group and a friend said something that reached to the core of me. He talked about women who are victims of sex trafficking; Women who are kidnapped, beaten, enslaved; Women who might never fully recover from what they have gone through. My friend asked about God’s goodness in the darkest of situations, and when someone mentioned Job, he pointed out that everything in the book of Job got tied up in a nice bow at the end. Then he said, “What about them? Job’s got nothing on them”.

It shot right through me.

All the reading on the plight of women around the world came back to my mind; The stats of violence against women, the reality of child slavery, the personal stories of women who had been trafficked. Suddenly, everything that I had been pushing down and trying to make sense of for months came gushing out. Tears spilled out of my eyes as the reality sank in that there is pain deeper and darker than Job had ever experienced. Today, an estimated 11.4 million women and girls are exploited through sex trafficking. They experience incredible, unjust pain that rarely gets tied up nicely in a bow and doesn’t fit into the Christian understanding of God caring for His children. Job’s got nothing on them. I realized right there that I had been struggling to reconcile the goodness of God with the fact that women are raped, enslaved, beaten, bought, sold, and killed, and it seems that God is silent. Their stories screamed out at me, and I was overwhelmed by confusion. The Church had always taught me to look to Job when I had questions about pain, but what about when the pain exceeds Job’s? What about them?

My friend’s statement haunted me for days as I tried to grapple with the injustice of it all. I had trouble sleeping. I cried and prayed. In my own efforts to end human trafficking, what difference did my Christian faith make? Is the Bible truly silent on such an important issue? Does God even care? If you take a look through the Old Testament, it sure seems like He doesn’t. The rule of patriarchy and the violence inflicted on women are enough to make any woman reading it question whether God truly loves and values her as much as He values and loves men. Where is the hope that we are supposed to preach?

Then one mundane day, as I was driving in my car, the voice of Natalie Grant came through my speakers and I listened to the most important truth anyone could ever preach; “In Christ alone my hope is found.” I burst into tears as I realized that this was my answer. Stuck in the middle of a worship song that I had heard a thousand times, this incredible truth spoke to me anew. I was reminded that Christ alone is the answer for women. It is a misunderstanding to think that the Bible stays silent on the plight of women, when the pinnacle of the entire book holds the answer for us. When God incarnate came to Earth, He came to restore this broken world to its original design. He defeated death and freed us from the results of sin, including “He will rule over you” and the differentiation of roles based upon gender. Christ reinstated gender equality in His kingdom and taught against hierarchy and the abuse of power. He came to set the captives free, bind the broken-hearted, and to establish His kingdom here on Earth; a kingdom where “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, for all are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). In the words of Dorothy Sayers, “Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man—there never has been such another.”

With the reality that so many people are suffering on a scale that is difficult to comprehend, we need something more than “nobody knows pain like Job”. The Church needs a deeper understanding of the difference that Christ made for women-a better understanding of biblical equality. Without this egalitarian understanding of the power of Jesus to fully and completely restore a woman’s dignity and worth to the equal status of a man’s (both ontological and functional), the Church will not be able to reach the hundreds of thousands of women in slavery. If the Church keeps preaching that the best Christ has to offer women is subordination to the very system that has enslaved them for centuries, we will never set the captives free. Patriarchy is harmful in any and all forms, but the freedom of Christ brings hope for change.

The book of Job tells an amazing story of hope and faith in the midst of pain, but we must remember that it is a limited story. In our efforts to bring reconciliation and justice to a broken world, we must preach the freedom of Jesus, for in Christ alone our hope is found.

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe.
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain.
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine –
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me.
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of Hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand.
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

Three women smiling at the camera, each is holding a present.

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