Tag Archives: pain

Emotions in the face of suffering: Thoughts by Joni Eareckson Tada

“Most people think that living with quadriplegia is overwhelming. And it is.” Speaking at #CCEF16, she says this even as she says that now, nearly 50 years later, she would not give up her intimacy and depth in Christ, deepened through suffering, in order to walk. How do we bring these two opposing experiences together.

Joni tells us there are 1 billion disabled people in the world, most living in the developing world–people who are at greatest risk of being abused, neglected, and not protected. 

She spoke of her chronic pain that grew over the years and exploded in the mid 2000s and how it robbed her of joy and capacity to do the work she wanted to do. “It (the pain) made my quadriplegia a walk in the park.” “I know I am under the sovereignty of God but now his sovereignty seemed so scary.” “My depression lifted the day I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.” She said this with a smile, “Oh God, you might be taking me home now.” 

“I knew in my head that God is sovereign and that I trust him. Why can’t my emotions fall in line?” She then used the idea that in this life we experience “splashovers” of hell and “splashovers of heaven.” “There is nothing more sweet than finding Jesus in your moment of hell.” Pain tends to bring us into self-focus. But when we see the affliction of Jesus on the cross, our focus is changed. It doesn’t mean we no longer suffer but that our suffering done in and with Christ, “no longer afraid of it.” There is comfort in the promises of God even in the dark seasons. 

How can counselors convince others that Jesus is enough even if the pain is not able to be fixed? We start by counseling with compassion (being with them in their pain and suffering). When the sufferer sees they have a place in the body of Christ, that they are not isolated, this is of great importance. Spiritual community helps the sufferer to accept the pain as their own. God never intended us to suffer alone. Together, healing begins. We don’t just declare God is over all suffering, we demonstrate it through deep relationships. 

Someone who knows suffering can say things that many able-bodied people cannot say, or cannot be heard to say. Joni’s voice is prophetic for the Church. She calls us to walk with those with disabilities rather than avoid. May we listen. May be validate their pain first as we sit with them. May we never tired to hear of their difficulties. May we never put our need for assurance that “everything will turn out right” ahead of their need to be heard and loved. 

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Filed under biblical counseling, CCEF, conferences, counseling, suffering

Counseling those with chronic conditions

My friends and colleagues here at Biblical Seminary–Jenn Zuck and Bonnie Steich–are teaching a class this weekend about the role of counseling in helping those with chronic conditions. Need CEUs anyone? Info here.

This is such an important issue given our increase in capacity to manage or maintain life with chronic conditions. Some cancers now are more like chronic conditions. HIV can be a chronic condition. And of course there are the more well-known problems such as MS, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, neuropathy, diabetes, liver dysfunction, etc.

How do you respond to those who seem to be struggling with a long-term condition? Especially when the condition is vague and not visible to the eye? Do you get worn out comforting that person?

I just read a study where they assessed whether major life events or daily hassles were more negatively impacting chronic pain conditions. It turns out that daily hassles increase chronic conditions symptoms far more than do major life stressors. It makes sense but also challenges us to consider how we might overlook the “normal” life of counselees and secretly want them to stop their whining and complaining about how hard it is to …

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Filed under christian counseling, christian psychology, counseling, counseling science, counseling skills, suffering, teaching counseling

Suffering and Divine Sovereignty?

What is similar and different counselors and beauty queens? Well, we both want to end human suffering and seek world peace BUT the counselor no longer talks as if it is possible in this life. We know that sitting in suffering is, in fact, an important act in this life.

So, for all you counselor types out there, I have a theology book for you. Currently, I am reading Suffering and the Goodness of God, edited by Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson (Crossway, 2008).

Not all theology books are stuffy. Really. This one is very readable and helpful. Chapter one (Robert Yarbrough) lists 11 theses about suffering. I will not repeat them all here but each one is illustrated from Scripture and personal experience. Here is a taste:

1. Suffering is neither good nor completely explicable

2. Suffering in itself is no validation of religious truth

3. Accounting for suffering is forced upon us by our times

4. Suffering may be a stumbling block to Gospel reception

5. Suffering Creates teachable moments for Gospel reception (though this does not make suffering, in itself, good)

7. Suffering is the price of much fruitful ministry

10. Suffering unites us with other sinners we seek to serve

Lest you think this book takes a happy view of suffering, consider this quote:

It is certainly true that it is primarily God himself who in his redemptive activity has “caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3). But this new birth does not take place in a vacuum. Rather it unfolds amidst earthly life, which is manifestly to some extent a vale of tears.

We sometimes wish to talk about “new birth” and redemption as if our suffering does not continue in this life.

The rest of the book addresses OT and NT interactions with suffering, the problem of evil and oppression and two chapters written by theologians about their own personal suffering. A good read if you realize you cannot ignore suffering or go back to some prior period of naiveté.


Filed under christian counseling, christian psychology, Doctrine/Theology, Evangelicals, Psychology, suffering