Dealing With Vocal Cord Paralysis

I love being able to go to church and sing praises to the Lord. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a trained musician and my singing is little more than making “a joyful noise” to the Lord, but singing has always been a real joy in my life. Until this past Sunday.

Easter Sunday, I was grateful to finally be able to attend one of the worship services at our church. This was my first time actually being in a worship service since having extensive neck surgery last July. My husband and I have been going to our Sunday School class, but he was concerned that going to both that and the worship service would be too tiring for me. Then on Easter, Sunday School classes were cancelled and we decided to go to one of the worship services. I was doing fine until I tried to sing.

During my neck surgery, the nerve in my right vocal cord was damaged, and as a result my right vocal cord is now paralyzed. This has caused numerous problems with coughing, projecting my voice and even swallowing, but it seems to be gradually getting better so I was surprised at what happened when I tried to join in the singing. I could get out a few words and then my voice would crack and I couldn’t continue. It quickly became obvious that I would not be doing much singing. So my worship became silent, in my heart.

WHAT IS VOCAL CORD PARALYSIS AND WHAT CAUSES IT? 

Vocal cords are flexible bands of muscle tissue that sit at the entrance to your trachea. You have two vocal cords, which come together and vibrate to make sound when you speak (or sing!). According to Mayo Clinic, vocal cord paralysis occurs when something happens to disrupt the nerve impulses from reaching your voice box (larynx).

One of the main risks factors for vocal cord paralysis is undergoing throat or chest surgery, either from the surgery itself or from prolonged use of a breathing tube during the surgery. I knew of this risk prior to my neck surgery, but my neck was in such bad condition that the pain was debilitating and not doing the surgery came with an even bigger risk, complete paralysis from the neck down. So after much prayer, we made the decision to go ahead with the surgery. In spite of the complications I’ve experienced, I don’t regret this decision. 

Other causes of vocal cord paralysis include certain neurological diseases including Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, viral infections involving the larynx, tumors of the neck, chest or skull, and blunt neck or chest trauma.

SYMPTOMS OF VOCAL CORD PARALYSIS

Shortly after my surgery, I suspected one of my vocal cords had been damaged, because of a chronic cough and hoarseness when I tried to talk. Since then, I’ve learned that several other symptoms I had – and a few I didn’t have – are characteristic of vocal cord paralysis. They fall into three main groups:

  1. Voice changes, including a breathy quality to the voice, prolonged hoarseness, loss of vocal pitch (especially difficulty with high notes when singing), and loss of volume.
  2. Airway problems, such as shortness of breath with exertion, noisy breathing, and ineffective cough.
  3. Swallowing problems, causing choking or coughing when swallowing food, drink, or even saliva, and food sticking in throat.

DIAGNOSIS OF VOCAL CORD PARALYSIS 

My paralyzed vocal cord was diagnosed by my otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor), using a test called a videostrobolaryngoscopy. This uses a special scope that contains a tiny camera at its end, which the doctor inserted through one of my nostrils. By observing the lack of movement on the connected monitor, he was able to determine that my right vocal cord was totally paralyzed. Another test frequently used to diagnose this problem is a laryngoscopy, which uses a mirror or a thin, flexible tube (known as a laryngoscope or endoscope) to observe the vocal cords. Other tests include electromyography of the larynx, and if the cause is not known, sometimes blood work,  X-rays, MRI or CT scans.

TREATMENT AND PROGNOSIS FOR VOCAL CORD PARALYSIS

According to the doctor who diagnosed my vocal cord paralysis, this is a condition that sometimes corrects itself. Nerve damage, the underlying cause, often is reversed with time. Therefore, most doctors wait for a year or more before considering any treatment. My ENT said even if the damaged vocal cord doesn’t heal, sometimes the healthy one will move over and result in a reduction of symptoms. If this doesn’t happen, voice therapy is often prescribed. If your vocal cord paralysis symptoms don’t fully or at least partially recover on their own, there are also several surgical options available.

It has now been nine months since my neck surgery and four and a half months since my diagnosis with a paralyzed right vocal cord. Overall, the symptoms are mangeable and seem to be gradually improving. So I’m coping fairly well with this problem. I’m still hopeful that the damaged nerve will eventually heal and my voice, airway, and swallowing problems will be past. But right now they require using caution and being sure I’m sitting upright when eating or drinking and being careful to not strain my voice. And, as I learned last Sunday, singing may be on my DO NOT ATTEMPT list for a while still. But something positive came out of this Easter Sunday exeperience. 

I’ve loved Ephesians 5: 18-19 for many years, but suddenly these verses took on new meaning. I was reminded that true worship is more than singing. It takes place in the heart, and I had a delightful time of worshiping the Lord on Easter Sunday, even if I couldn’t sing.
       

#Five Minute Friday: Sing

I love being able to go to church and sing praises to the Lord. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a trained musician and my singing is little more than making “a joyful noise” to the Lord, but singing has always been a real joy in my life. Until Easter Sunday.

Easter Sunday, I was grateful to finally be able to attend one of the worship services at our church. This was my first time actually being in a service since having extensive neck surgery last July. My husband and I have been going to our Sunday School class, but he felt going to both that and the worship service would be too tiring for me. But on Easter, Sunday School classes were cancelled and we decided to go to one of the worship services. I was doing fine until I tried to sing.

During my neck surgery, the nerve in my right vocal cord was damaged, and as a result it is now paralyzed. This has caused numerous problems with coughing, projecting my voice and even swallowing, but it seems to be getting better so I was surprised at what happened when I tried to join in the worship time. I could get out a few words and then my voice would crack and I couldn’t continue. It quickly became obvious that I would not be doing much singing. So my worship became silent, in my heart.

I’ve loved Ephesians 5: 18-19 for many years, but suddenly these verses took on new meaning. Because of my paralyzed vocal cord, I can not currently sing. But true worship is more than singing. It takes place in the heart, and I had a delightful time of worshiping the Lord on Easter Sunday, even if I couldn’t sing.

Easter Hope: A God Who Understands Suffering

Living with chronic illness is difficult. Having someone you can talk with who understands what it’s like to live with longterm pain, a friend who can say “me too” when you share some of the struggles you are currently dealing with, makes it a little easier.

I’m grateful to be a part of a group of ladies who love Jesus and also know what it is to suffer with chronic pain, exhaustion, and other common symptoms of chronic illness. As we share with and pray for one another, I am encouraged and strengthened. I consider that a blessing from the Lord.

But as I’ve spent this week preparing my heart for the celebration of Easter, one thought has come to mind repeatedly that I consider an even bigger blessing. We have a Lord and Savior who knows what it is to experience pain. A God Who can say, “Me too!”

Isaiah 53:3 (NIV) tells us that Jesus was well acquainted with pain and grief, “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” Therefore, when we suffer pain and grief, we are not alone. We have an ever-present God and Savior who understands.

As I was doing some research online, looking for a meaningful quote for this article, I came across some quotes from a book by Jon Weece,  entitled Me Too: Experiencing the God Who Understands. Weece speaks of the cross as “God’s ‘me too’ statement to a world saturated with suffering.”

Weece adds, “Pain is the common language of the human experience. Most people I know are fluent in suffering. They speak it, but they don’t understand it. One of the ways people begin to heal is to sit across the table from someone who can say, ‘Me too.'”

Jesus didn’t like suffering any more than we do. He strugged in the Garden of Gethsemane with what laid ahead of Him. There He cried out to His Father, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death… “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark‬ ‭14:34‬a, 36 NIV‬‬)

Jesus’ suffering was more intense than anything I’ve ever experienced. In his description of the Garden, Luke adds, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke‬ ‭22:44‬ ‭NIV‬‬) Have you experienced more emotional pain than this?

So why did Jesus go through this suffering in the Garden, just thinking about what was ahead of Him, and then the actual physical suffering leading up to and on the Cross?  He did it because of love. He did it to make a way for us to be restored to the relationship with God that we were created for.

Through Jesus’ suffering, His death on the cross, and His resurrection,  1 Peter 2:24 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” Because of Easter, we can have peace with God and hope for the future. And we can also have the comfort of knowing we will never be alone in our suffering. We have a Savior who understands and walks with us through whatever we face.

Have you taken advantage of Jesus’ immeasureable sacrifice? If not, don’t let this Easter go by without accepting the forgiveness of sin His suffering purchased for us. Ask Him to be your personal Savior and Lord. Make the decision to die to sin and live to righteousness. The price has been paid, and the gift is yours if you are willing to accept it for yourself.  

        

‭‭

The Importance of Rest and Refreshing

I read a quote this morning that I brought a laugh. “Some people wake up feeling like a million bucks. Others wake up feeling like insufficient funds.”  The author of these poignanat words is unknown, but as a woman who suffers from chronic pain the idea they communicate is very familiar. I usually wake up feeling like I have insufficient funds to face a new day.

Last night was a typical one for me. I was feeling exhausted around 9pm, so I decided to lay down with my current novel and read and relax until my normal bedtime of 10:30pm. I read a few chapters, then my husband came down, rubbed my shoulders to help relieve the tension of a full day, and we prayed together. It was time to go to sleep.

I understand the importance of getting seven to eight hours of sleep at night, especially when dealing with the challenges of chronic illness, and I’ve worked this into my daily routine. But unfortunately, my body doesn’t always cooperate with this plan. Numbness and a pins and needles sensation in my feet from peripheral neuropathy, pain from arthritis in my shoulders and lower back, and chronic pain and sensitivity to touch in my left knee from a regional pain nerve disorder make it difficult to get to sleep and even more so to stay asleep. So when morning comes, even though I’ve usually spent eight-plus hours in bed, I don’t feel rested. 

Through trial and error, I have found several keys to living the best life I can with chronic illness and pain. When I wake up in the morning, I usually feel tired from a restless night. But I’ve learned that staying in bed at this time only increases the pain, so I choose to get up and start my day. If you live with chronic illness, you will need to figure out what works best for you personally. 

I set aside the first part of my day for refreshing myself, in body, soul, and spirit. 

  • I try to eat a simple but healthy breakfast, one that I can fix on my own and that provides the nutrients needed to nourish my body. 
  • While eating, I may listen to some encouraging worship music or use an audio Bible on Bible Gateway or the YouVersion Bible app to listen to the chapter for today’s Bible reading. 
  • Next, I spend an unrushed time in God’s presence, renewing my spirit through prayer, Bible reading and study. I follow a daily reading plan – many great ones are available online. I currently use the First5 devotional and Bible reading plan from Proverbs 31 ministries and a monthly topical reading program on a subject I feel is timely, such as Rachel WoJo’s April plan on Confident Trust. Some days, I do more in-depth Bible study, digging into one or more verses that stand out in my reading. The amount of time I set aside for this varies according to the schedule and responsibilities for the day, but whether it’s twenty minutes or two hours I make this my highest and first priority for the day. My relationship with God reinvigorated, I’m ready to face another day.
  • Finally, this time of refreshing comes to an end as I turn to our God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness Facebook page to interact with some friends who face the same daily battles I fight. I’ve learned the importance of community in this daily life with chronic illness, and this has become a time of both being encoraged and of encouraging others. I leave this morning time of being refreshed a little better prepared to face the rest of my day.

After my time of refreshing, it’s time to get busy with the other tasks for the day. I have two keys I apply to this: (1) I determine my top priorities for the day (which often means asking God to show me His top priorites for my day), and (2) I take breaks between tasks and whenever they are needed. And before I actually get to work, I ask God to supply the strength I need to fulfill His purposes for my day. As Christians, God has promised His strength in our weakness.

As the mother of a special needs child, the bookkeeper for our home-based business, a weekly blogger, and a regular contributor to God-Living Girls, I could easily feel pressured to do much more each day than I am now. But since my energy and stamina are limited, attempting too many tasks per day leads to exhaustion and even flares in my medical conditions that have the potential of landing me in bed for several days. 

Therefore, I usually plan no more than three tasks per day, two of which can be done in my recliner. For example, at least one day each week, I work on family paperwork. I may spend an hour working on the bank registers and paying bills, then take a break from the work that requires mental focus. Next, I may do a brief housework task, such as folding clean towels or emptying trash cans around the house. Later in the day, usually after lunch, I tackle the final task that I ‘ve planned for the day. 

At the end of the day, I almost always have undone tasks remaining, but those are for another day. I’ve set reasonable goals for my day, and usually I feel good in having accomplished what I planned. 
Finally, I’m learning to pay more attention to my body and to not do more than I can handle on any particular day. On some days when pain levels are especially high or I feel unusually fatigued, that means taking a full afternoon to rest. Even on relatively good days, I often run out of energy by mid or late afternoon. I’m learning that it’s okay to lay down and rest for an hour or two when this happens. If I’m extremely tired, I may take a short nap. I’m learning to listen to my body and adjust my schedule according to my strength and stamina for today.

Many of you who read my blog share my goal of living a Christ-honoring life with chronic illness. These are a few of the keys that have helped me live my best life with the limitations I currently face. God has made each of us differently, so what works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. For those whose rest and strength is not hindered by pain and chronic conditions, understanding the need for rest and refreshing is still important. God made each of us with a need for rest, of body, soul, and spirit, and ignoring this part of our lives results in serious consequences. Ask God to show you how to meet this important need in the way perfectly fitting to where you are in life. And feel free to share some keys that have helped you reach a wise and healthy balance between work and rest in the comments section below.

Does Chronic Illness Have You Feeling Stuck?

I truly enjoy going to church when my health allows me to do so. But there is one thing other than poor health that frequently keeps me at home. Our front yard becomes like a mud pit when we have a heavy rain. For several days afterwards, I’m forced to stay in the house because going outside would result in my walker or wheelchair sinking down in the mud. I am physically stuck in the house until the sun comes out and dries the yard!

Since finishing my series on Job a couple weeks ago, I have been praying for God’s direction for this blog. Honestly, I’ve felt stuck. My desire is to write articles that will encourage those with chronic illness, but my prayers for direction were going nowhere. Then this morning, I sensed God speaking to my heart that I wasn’t the only one feeling stuck. This is something many Christians experience when facing circumstances we wish we could change but can’t. Whether the issues have to do with chronic illness or some other problem we are facing, feeling stuck is a common emotion.

Since this blog focuses on living a Christ-honoring life with chronic illness, I want to look at some of the positive steps we can take to become unstuck, that is to take hold of the hope that enables us to keep moving forward.


  1. Start with being honest with God about where you are. Admit to Him you feel stuck. Ask Him to show you the way out of the “miry clay” that is keeping you from moving forward.
  2. Overcome discouragement with prayer and praise. Oswald Chambers said, “We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties.”  And praise is one of the most effective ways to turn our focus onto the Lord. Praising God for who He is, reflecting on His attributes and names, enables us to see our circumstances in a clearer way. One of my favorite tools for this is a page I keep handy during my prayer time, 30 Days of Praying the Names and Attributes of God, put out by The Navigators. Use the following link to download this helpful tool. http://www.navigators.org/www_navigators_org/media/navigators/tools/Resources/Praying-the-Names-of-God-The-Navigators.pdf
  3. Ask God to speak to you through His Word. On days when you feel up to it, use one of the many online tools now available to do indepth Bible study. Two of my favorites are Bible Gateway and Blue Letter Bible, both available as an app and a website. But even on your not-so-good days, find a way to expose your mind and heart to God’s Word. On days that I find it difficult to focus on reading my Bible, I often listen to it being read, using a Bible app such as the YouVersion Bible app or one of the audio Bibles available on http://www.biblegateway.com. As I was doing some research on the chapter in 1 Samuel that was on today’s reading plan, I also discovered an informative series of videos on the YouVersion Bible app, put out by The Bible Project. There are brief annimated videos about every book of the Bible,  giving an overview of the book and of how it fits in God’s bigger picture, and others on specific topics. These videos are also available on YouTube (just search for The Bible Project and the name of the book or topic you are studying) and on https://thebibleproject.com/resources/
  4. Be a doer of the Word, not just one who hears or reads and then goes away unchanged. Ask God to show you specific ways He wants you to apply what you are learning. Remember these importsnt words from the apostle James, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James‬ ‭1:22-25‬ ‭NIV‬)
  5. Let go of the past. This includes both the bad and the good that used to be a part of our lives. Of course we need to let go of past failures and sin, and ask God to heal the hurts they caused. But on the other hand, chronic illness changes our lives dramatically. If we insist on holding onto our lives as they were pre-illness we will be disappointed. Our dreams and goals may need to change, or at least the way we seek to fulfil them. 
  6. Accept your current limitations. Common symptoms of chronic illness include reduced energy levels, increased pain, amd difficulty focusing on things. If we insist on continuing our activities at the same level we did them before becoming ill, we will fail to meet our goals and end up extremely frustrated. 
  7. Look for new ways to meet your goals. This applies to simple tasks such as taking care of our homes, but it also applies to larger life goals. For example, before my chronic illnesses became disabling, I enjoyed leading ladies Bible study groups in our church.  I found teaching God’s Word and encouraging other ladies very fulfilling. Today, since I am not able to drive or even leave the home without my husband’s help, I am no longer able to do this to add meaning to my life. So I began asking God to show me another way to experience fulfilment. It didn’t happen overnight, but I am now finding the same degree of fulfilment in my role with God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness, as a part of the teaching team for that ministry. Though illness closed some doors, continuing to pray and seek God led to some new open doors beyond anything I had expected or previously experienced. Now, instead of touching the lives of a dozen women in my church Bible study group once a week, I have the privilege of sharing almost daily with a group of 375 ladies needing encouragement in their walk with the Lord.

This Sunday, if the current weather forecast is correct, may be another day of being stuck in the house when I really want to be at church. But even if this happens, I don’t need to give into feelings of being stuck. I can instead choose to take hold of the hope that lies before me and keep moving forward in my walk with the Lord. No matter what has you feeling stuck, my desire is for you to join me in this commitment to not allow feelings of being stuck to detour me from walking forward into God’s good plan.

    Lessons From Job: God Speaks

    For much of the book of Job, the main character in the story has been asking for an audience with God. In these final chapters of the book, when Job has come to the end of his own strength and understanding, the Lord begins speaking to Job out of a whirlwind. But I don’t think the words were what Job was expecting!

    “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge. Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” (Job 38:2-3 NIV)

    What follows is a rebuke from the Lord. Through a series of questions, God basically puts Job in his place. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? … Have you ever given orders to the morning? … Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? … Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?” These are just a few of the questions God addresses to Job, demanding an answer. And Job, who has had plenty to say in the past thirty-plus chapters, is reduced to silence.

    The Lord’s questioning of Job is broad and detailed. It includes questions about the Creation, the weather, light and darkness, stars and constellations, and a wide variety of animals. So what was God’s purpose in asking all these questions? I bleieve He was wanting Job to be reminded of Who he was condemning with his words. He wanted Job to be reminded of His power and authority. And He wanted Job to come to the place of humbling himself in repentance. 

    Where the words of Job’s friends may have been with the same desire, to bring Job to repentance, their method of reaching that goal was wrong. Instead of pointing out to Job all he had done wrong, God reminded Job of Who He is. Jehovah God is Creator, and He is the One who was and is and will always be in control.  Job’s eyes had become so focused on his trials that he had lost sight of this essential truth. And his faith in God and trust in His love and faithfulness had been weakened by his focus on his troubles. 

    By the time God finished questioning Job, he was more than ready to admit that God can do whatever He desires, and no purpose of His can be thwarted (Job 42:1-2). He confessed, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”  (Job 42:3)  Jobs response is one of sorrow over his sin and repentance.

    With Job now repentant, the Lord begins addressing Eliphaz as the representative of Job’s three friends.  We learn that they had angered the Lord by saying things that were not right about Him. What had they spoken in error against the Lord? The book of Job does not specifically answer this question, so I won’t speculate about this. But we do see them doing what the Lord commanded. “So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering?” (Job 42:8)

    Further evidence of Job’s repentance is seen as he also accepts God’s solution and prays for his friends. After the unkind and accusatory words they had spoken to Job, this could not have been easy. But in praying for his friends, Job was healed and his fortunes restored, even receiving twice as much as he had before. And verse 12a says, “The Lord blessed the later part of Job’s life more than the former part.”

    So to conclude this week’s lesson from Job, what truths are we to take away and apply to our lives?

    1.  First, when we walk through seasons of pain and suffering, we need to keep our focus on what we know to be true about God. Job entered this time of trial with an understanding of the authority and sovereignty of God, as shown through his own words. For example, in chapter 2 when his wife tells him to curse God and die, he responds, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (verse 10). Job understood that God was still in control. Yet, as the trials dragged on and on, Job lost sight of this truth. 
    2. Next, when we face times of suffering, we need to be especially diligent about guarding our words. The temptation to wrongly accuse God will be there, and we need to guard against this sin and repent if we catch ourselves falling. Being honest with the Lord about how we’re feeling is okay, but accusing Him of being unfair or cruel is not. One of the main things God desires from us when we are hurting is the choice to continue trusting Him.
    3. Forgiving those who hurt us with their unkind words is an importsnt step toward healing. Just as the Lord healed and restored Job when he forgave his friends who had so deeply hurt him, He will bring healing and restoration into our lives when we forgive those who have hurt us by their words and actions. I wish that always meant total physical healing. Often it may, but even if God is currently more concerned with making us whole in other areas this process of forgiveness brings healing.
    4. Finally, Job makes a very important statement near the end of the book. In Job 42:5, Job concludes his response to God with these words: “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.”  


    This is my own persoanl testimony of the benefit of suffering in my life. Through the variety of trials I’ve faced, I have come to really know God. My knowledge of Him is now more than just what I’ve read or heard from others. 

    • As I endured the suffering of losing a child, I better understood how much it cost the Father to offer His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our sin. “For God so loved the world” took on new meaning.
    • By loving a son who is completely dependent upon others to meet all of his needs, I’ve learned much about God’s unconditional love. Our son David can’t do anything to earn our love, and we can’t do anything to earn God’s love. It is His gift!
    • And through the suffering from a long list of chronic illnesses, I’ve learned that God is just waiting for me to come to Him with my needs. I’m learning that He is my strength in weakness, my peace in turmoil, and my joy in sorrow. He is all I need, no matter what I face!

    This concludes our study of Job. I hope you’ve learned as much through it as I have. I hope you too can sum up this study with Job’s closing words: “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.”


      Lessons From Job: Why? The Question God Didn’t Answer for Job

      WHY? A little word, but a big cry from the hearts and minds of those who suffer. I know it’s a question I’ve asked many times in the suffering that has touched my life.

      Why did God allow the accident that took the life of our firstborn Teresa and left me with life-altering disabilities?  Why was our son David born with major birth defects resulting in profound mental retardation? Why did God stop David’s Massive Infantile Spasms when the elders from our church prayed for him but not heal the damage already done? None of my why questions have been answered. 

      Why was also the primary question asked by Job and his friends. Job’s friends had their own answers to the why question, but their conclusions were wrong. This man of faith, integrity, and endurance wanted to know WHY, but that’s one question God does not answer in the book of Job.

      While in many of Job’s comments the word why is implied rather than actually spoken, these are some specific whys Job asks:

      • Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb? Why were there knees to receive me and breasts that I might be nursed?” ( Job‬ ‭3:11-12‬ ‭NIV‬‬)
      • Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul,” (Job‬ ‭3:20‬ ‭NIV‬‬)
      • Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?” (‭‭Job‬ ‭3:23‬ ‭NIV‬)
      • Why have you made me your target? … Why do you not pardon my offenses and forgive my sins?”  (‭‭Job‬ 7:20b, 21a)
      • Why do you hide your face and consider me your enemy?” (‭‭Job‬ ‭13:24‬ ‭NIV‬‬)
      • Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power?” (Job‬ ‭21:7‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

      And I could go on. But the key understanding I want to emphasize is that none of these questions are answered in the book of Job. Other passages in the Bible do address some of these issues, but God did not answer any of them in relation to Job’s suffering. 

      So what can we learn from Job’s words in the book written about his life?

      1. God does not condemn us when we cry out to Him in honesty when we face suffering. We are currently doing a study in God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness on the book Discovering Hope: Beginning the Journey Toward Hope in Chronic Illness, by Cindee Snider Re. This week’s study included a section called “Exploring Lament.” In it, Cindee defines lament as “a necessary strand in our story, a vital thread in the fabric of our faith, and an honest Biblical expression of pain.” She adds, “True lament isn’t an expression of weakness, whining or self-pity. It’s an authentic expression of faith.”
      2. While Job did sometimes pass the invisible line between biblical lament as self-pity, his words in these chapters also include “authentic expression(s) of faith.” 
      • Job held onto his belief in God’s mercy. “How then can I dispute with him? How can I find words to argue with him? Though I were innocent, I could not answer him; I could only plead with my Judge for mercy.” (‭‭Job‬ ‭9:14-15‬ ‭NIV‬‬)
      • He did not completely let go of hope. “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face.” (Job‬ ‭13:15‬ ‭NIV‬‬)
      • Job continued to believe in God as his redeemer. “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God;” (‭‭Job‬ ‭19:25-26‬ ‭NIV‬‬)
      • And finally, Job trusted that his trials would not last forever; they would accomplish their purpose, and then they would end. “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” (‭‭Job‬ ‭23:10‬ ‭NIV)‬‬

      As we study the book of Job together, I hope you are learning some new truths from these chapters. Job definitely did not handle his overwhelming suffering perfectly – and none of us who face intense trials will either. But from these chapters on Job’s responses to his accusers and conversation with his Maker, I hope you’ll take away three things: 

      1. God doesn’t condemn us for our whys, but He also may not answer these questions.  
      2. When God doesn’t answer our whys, we need to make the choice to trust Him without understanding.  
      3. Honest lament expressed with faith is a biblical way to deal with the emotional turmoil caused by a life filled with trials. 

      Whether you personally live with chronic illness, are currently experiencing other forms of suffering or have in the past, or simply know others who are facing extremely painful circumstances in their lives and want to be able to effectively minister to them, my prayer is that these principles I’ve shared will help you in your individual situation.