Faith and Chronic Pain

I occasionally get questions from readers asking about matters of religion and faith. Although Seven Portions was not created to be a forum for religious discussion, that doesn’t mean that we don’t embrace faith and spirituality. Our name is based on scripture and reflects our family values. We were both raised in Christian homes and attended evangelical churches from a very young age.  We met at a para-church summer camp as teenagers and graduated from a Christian liberal arts university. All these details are just expressions of religion. They don’t really mean anything except to inform you of our religious background.

What matters is our relationship with Jesus. At a young age we each made professions of faith in Christ. Over the years we have grown in our understanding of what it means to follow Jesus. As a family, we have experienced God’s grace and provision time and time again. Rather than focus on the outward religious trappings, we choose to live as we believe Jesus would.  Our focus is on loving people where they are.

People in pain don’t need a preacher. Even I don’t want to hear someone quote scripture about God’s healing power in the middle of a migraine attack. Sorry to disappoint you, but I am very human. Thank God for his grace! People in pain need empathy and understanding. They need unconditional love, acceptance, and effective treatment. Jesus understood that and so do we. God is not for “when all else fails”. God is for every day, sick or well, happy or sad, rich or poor. God is with us in the middle of our pain. Jesus healed people, but he did not eradicate sickness. Even Paul struggled with chronic illness and he did not heal him.

So why don’t we use this platform to talk more about faith? We avoid it precisely because people in pain are not looking for faith.  If we were to overtly promote faith, we could risk alienating the very people we are trying to help. We don’t hide our faith. We just happen to believe that living it is more important than talking about it.

There are some religious issues that actually contribute to the stigma of chronic pain. We do not want this website to become an opportunity to spread stigma. Our goal is to fight stigma wherever it is found, even within the walls of a church or the tenants of faith. We do not believe that Jesus would tolerate religious dogma that actually hurt people.

We moderate all comments and discussion primarily to block spam and unsolicited commercial posts. However, we will also delete any comments that open the door for a discussion of religious issues that might promote stigma. We will also send a message that politely and privately explains our reason for deleting the comment. Promoting stigma through religion is spiritual abuse. We will not tolerate any form of abuse or permit discussions that have the potential to open the way for stigma.  Here are some examples of topics we will not tolerate:

Faith healing – Failure to be healed is used as proof that a person lacks faith or has unconfessed sin in their life. It’s just another form of patient-blaming.

Health, wealth, & prosperity – A broader topic that includes faith healing and generally blames people for their lot in life due to sin or lack of faith.

Fasting – Going for hours or days without food and/or water is physically dangerous for many people with chronic illnesses. Fasting is a personal choice between God and an individual. Telling very ill people to “take a leap of faith” by risking their health is an abusive use of God to push your own agenda, no matter how much you “say it in love”.

Religious dietary rules – I understand and respect the dietary rules of various religions. However, this is not a forum to promote a particular way of eating as a solution to all health problems. A patient’s diet is between that patient and his or her doctor.

Religious belief as a solution to pain – Faith is precious. Promoting it as a solution for sickness cheapens God’s grace. It’s bargaining with God and an insult to the patient.

Any attempt to coerce, threaten, or belittle someone using religion will not be tolerated. This behavior is abusive and has no place at Seven Portions.

These examples send the message that there is something inherently wrong with being sick and make the assumption that God does not work through illness. These ideas are incredibly hurtful to those with chronic, incurable illnesses.  “Getting right with God” is not a guaranteed path to physical healing. To suggest it is insulting to patients, people of faith, and to God.

I still haven’t told you many details of my faith. There’s a purpose in that. My relationship with God is fluid and alive. God is constantly teaching me new things, helping me to see the world through his eyes. There is no room for religious dogma in that kind of faith. I am also working on a manuscript that will provide more details about my faith journey. It tells the story of my spiritual journey through pain. To address my faith in any more detail would reveal too much of the book’s contents. You will just have to wait for publication to learn more.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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