Comfort in the Ashes: Explorations in the Book of Job to Support Trauma Survivors, By Michelle K. Keener

Comfort in the Ashes

Explorations in the Book of Job to Support Trauma Survivors

by Michelle K. Keener
Foreword by Scot McKnight

Comfort in the Ashes
  • Length: 208 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: January 14, 2025
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: A1034
  • ISBN: 9781514010341

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Navigating Trauma in the Church

It's time for church leaders and believers to stop offering prettily packaged responses from a safe distance. It's time for us to sit in the ashes with the hurting, our Sunday clothes covered in dirt and grime, our faces lined with tears. Trauma brings people to the ash heap, so that is where the church needs to go.

The church should serve as a refuge for people in pain. And yet, we often end up unintentionally causing more hurt to trauma survivors. Theological platitudes and positive thinking aren't simply dismissive to those who suffer, but they inevitably retraumatize the wounded. Does the Bible have anything practical to offer for church leaders as they engage the pain in their congregations?

Biblical scholar Michelle Keener shows us that the book of Job provides embodied and practical answers for the church today. In this incredible tool for ministry leaders and trauma survivors alike, Keener offers:

  • deep wisdom at the intersection of trauma theory and the book of Job for Christian communities
  • reflection questions for ministry practitioners and those walking alongside those who have experienced trauma
  • engagement with the idea of a shattered worldview and how to overcome the effects of that experience.

Comfort in the Ashes helps leaders navigate their own trauma and gives practical guidance for supporting others whose worlds are falling apart. God meets us in our ashes and our pain. It's time for the church to do the same.

"Biblical scholar Michelle Keener has taken up the book of Job and made it sing. And the song it sings, in the hands of this trauma survivor, is surprising and tender. It is a song of grief and loss expressed, of friendship that succeeds and fails, of a shattered world painfully reconstructed. Above all, this book sings of a Scripture that is sensitive to survivors of trauma, and a God who meets them in the ashes."

Helen Paynter, executive director of the Centre for the Study of Bible and Violence

"Michelle Keener has provided an excellent resource for those who want to become better stewards of other people's pain. Her research on trauma and the book of Job are insightful and invaluable. This book is instructive for individuals as well as church communities on how to deal with trauma in ways that promote healing."

May Young, associate professor of biblical studies at Taylor University

"Michelle Keener has given us all a gift to be treasured—whether we have experienced trauma or want to walk well with those who have. Comfort in the Ashes assists readers in understanding trauma and the healing process while offering a perceptive and illuminating reading of the book of Job. Reading Job through the lens of trauma recovery makes space for a healing encounter with God on the pages of Scripture. I'm personally grateful for the way this book taught and ministered to me, and I'm eager to share it with others!"

Carmen Joy Imes, associate professor of Old Testament at the Talbot School of Theology and author of Bearing God's Name and Being God's Image

"How can churches support those living in the wake of trauma? How do we love those with shattered lives well? Drawing on the latest psychological research into trauma, Michelle Keener provides a way forward that is deeply rooted in the biblical text. Based on extensive research and written with a compassion that comes only from experience, Comfort in the Ashes invites us to minister well to those with shattered lives, providing sanctuary, avoiding additional harm, and inviting their presence as beloved members of our communities."

Jennifer Brown Jones, professor of Old Testament at Liberty University

For those who have ever asked, 'Why me?' or 'Where is God?' Michelle Keener offers a path forward in her trauma-informed reading of Job. Keener breaks new ground in biblical studies as she views Job's experiences through the lens of trauma theory. Keener's unflinching focus on hard questions and her multilayered research into trauma's impact make this book a must-read for pastors and scholars, as well as those impacted by trauma. Comfort in the Ashes provides practical steps for churches and individuals to create a safe environment for survivors to resolve their trauma and embrace a deeper understanding of God's comfort and care."

Lynn H. Cohick, distinguished professor of New Testament at Houston Christian University


1. What is Trauma
2. Job's Experience of Trauma
3. The Ministry of Presence
4. Talking About Trauma
5. When Words Fail
6. Where is the Justice?
7. Out of the Whirlwind
8. Behemoth, Leviathan, and Job
9. Putting a Shattered World Back Together
10. A Church of Dust and Ashes
11. Conclusion


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Michelle K. Keener (PhD, Liberty) is an associate research fellow with the Kirby-Laing Centre for Public Theology and the director of discipleship for a growing church in Las Vegas. She is an award-winning novelist and devotional author. Keener and her family live in beautiful southern Nevada.