Monday, January 31, 2011

Conversations with Job: suffering, accusations, and integrity

This past week, I've been reading the book of Job, a Biblical account of a good man who lost everything, including his health. Job's life turns upside down overnight, a riches to rags story.

When I consider Job's tremendous suffering, I think about people who are dealing with trigeminal neuralgia. Many have told me they relate to Job's situation because the pain from TN is so tremendous. I remember feeling the same way, years ago.

Facial pain can steal the things we cherish. People who are at the top of their game turn to focus on finding relief: an accurate diagnosis, a medication, or a procedure to erase pain.

In spite of the provisions the government has made for people with disabilities, individuals who have trigeminal neuralgia and other types of face pain sometimes lose their jobs. It's couched as "restructuring," or blamed on "this economy." After all, corporate America must abide by the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Friends and family sometimes expect us to "get over it" and get on with our lives. When we can't, many of them retreat. Some of Job's friends, if they can be called that, accused him. They told him that his misfortune was caused by his own actions.  Zophar tells him to leave his sins behind and to confess them to God. In other words, get over it and get well, Job.

When I got sick with trigeminal neuralgia, some of my friends looked for a spiritual cause. Was I dabbling in something I shouldn't? Was my husband in business with someone immoral? Did we live in a house with a violent history? The possibilities seemed endless. Maybe someone has intimated that you are somehow responsible for your pain.

Handling accusations of this nature is tricky. We don't want to be deserted or alone. Yet critical rhetoric can make the anguish of pain even more intense. How can we respond? With his body practically decaying while he was alive, Job blamed no one, not himself or God.

Job's buddies missed his money, his prestige. But Job's integrity remained intact. He stated that we can't take it with us and refused to dwell on his material loss. But his health was another matter. Physical suffering cannot be denied. It's the ultimate thief. And it was the most difficult loss for Job.

Later Job's health and wealth were restored. You may have suffered so long that you no longer believe you will have a life again. Have faith that you will get better. If you need counseling to help you regain hope, find a practitioner who is experienced in counseling people with chronic pain.

Without hope, it's difficult for people to overcome pain. Don't blame yourself for disability. It's not your fault.

For more information about The Americans with Disabilities Act and facial pain, please see "disability and loss" on my website.


  1. I'm so glad you got better, Kathy. This gives us hope for whatever we're dealing with.

    I love your wise perspective!

  2. Jen, the Lord brought me through it, and I appreciate YOUR perspective.