Sunday, November 7, 2010
I Don't Know How Job Felt (Part One)
(Part TWO is here)
"Always remember, things could be a lot worse!"
I love it when friends encourage me with this old saying and it barely even makes me want to hit them.
Look, I don't know how Job felt when he went through his painful tests, but if you want to know better why we suffer or just receive encouragement in your trials, the book of Job in the Bible is definitely a great book to stay away from.
In all seriousness, it is actually a very important book on the topic of suffering, but "answers" and "encouragement" are not its strong suits. In fact, if you study it carefully, you realize that is kind of the point it is making.
You have 37 chapters of some of the most horrific suffering ever written about one good man enduring and Job demanding, "WHY ME, GOD? WHY?!" and then 4 chapters of God finally showing up and saying, "Dude, I made the whole universe, I don't have to tell you!".
So, all in all, very inspiring and heart warming.
(I joke, but there are some great lessons within it.)
I certainly have never endured the intensity of pain and loss that Job experienced, but I think there is a lot to be said about suffering a trial that eventually ends.
Theologians are unsure how long Job suffered, but they know from certain things said and written in the book, that it was more than a week. Estimates range from several weeks to months.
It is amazing how quickly you can forget about the worst trials imaginable, after they have finally ended.
After I had suffered with chronic nerve pain for over 10 years and it finally struck me that there was a very strong chance I would be in pain every single day for the rest of my life, I remember thinking to myself, "well, shoot".
Or something along those lines.
The American Chronic Pain Association recently documented that more than 50 million Americans suffer chronic pain.
And yet amazingly it remains one of the most poorly understood and outright misunderstood medical conditions. It is both telling and tragic that one of the most Frequently Asked Questions on the ACPA's website is:
"How can I make my family understand how much pain I'm in?"
While I am not an expert on chronic pain, I am a pretty good resource on what it is like to suffer chronic pain. I know what it is like to be in pain for every second of every day of every week of every month of every year for over a decade.
I have seen a lot of doctors, read a lot of books, done a lot of complaining like Job and have even been blessed with a few "comforters" like Job.
If you are unaware of "Job's Comforters", they were a group of friends who showed up to inspire and uplift him with direct assurances that his suffering was probably his own fault. And they also were pretty sure that God told them to tell Job this. Good people.
It is amazing how much our compassion for others' suffering will move us to try to help them by saying something truly stupid.
"Could it all just be in your head?"
"Why can't the doctors just fix it?"
"Are you doing it just to get pain medicine?"
"How can I extricate my head from my backside?"
These are all very important and inspiring questions you should go out of your way to never ever ask someone suffering chronic pain.
Again, I am no expert. But I have learned a lot over the years. Because of that and the fact that large numbers of people I know also suffer chronic pain, I am going to write a little bit about it. It will be a good chance to vent, but more importantly do a little informing for those who are friends or family members of those who suffer chronic pain in migraines, fibromyalgia or any other of its forms.
I don't know how Job felt. And nobody knows exactly what I have both gone and am now going through. That's life.
Feeling isolated in your trial is often in and of itself a great source of anxiety and depression. Feeling helpless is particularly frustrating, especially if you are a control freak, like some people I know.
Accepting that although one may always be in pain, we still can and must do our best to manage it as well as possible is a crucial breakthrough point for sufferers.
If you know someone who suffers chronic pain, you may have felt compassion for their situation but also have been unsure how to approach them with some kind of truly useful encouragement or support.
I hope to shed a little light on this before I get to the end of this 20 part series.
(OK, maybe 10. Fine... no more than 3. I promise.)