Chronic pain is an affliction affecting roughly 25 million Americans each year, according to the National Institutes of Health. The tendrils of chronic pain touch every part of a person’s life and those around them. So how can we even begin to find positive moments or even windows of respite in the midst of chronic pain? Dr. Mark McGinniss of Clarks Summit University has some thoughts on this subject. He will be giving a talk on June 1st from 6:00-8:00 PM at the Abington Community Library about living with chronic pain and will also read a chapter from the book he contributed to, When Suffering is Redemptive. Dr. McGinniss was kind enough to answer a few questions and give a preview about what he will be discussing on June 1st. If you are interested in this event, please sign up at the Library or call to register (570.587.3440). See you then!
1. How did you become involved with the book, “When Suffering is Redemptive”?
I was approached by the editor, Dr. Larry Waters. He read an article I had written earlier on my journey with Trigeminal neuralgia. He asked if I would like to contribute a chapter on living with such a chronic disease that causes such indescribable pain.
2. Where does the idea of suffering as redemptive originate from?
While we do not like suffering or seek it out, life is full of it. Although suffering alters life dramatically, causes great pain and anguish; suffering need not have the last word. It can be “redeemed” i.e. viewed and experienced through a different lens.
3. The title of your chapter is, “Redeeming Chronic Pain: When Surgery Fails”. Can you tell me a bit about the chapter and about writing it?
In this chapter I attempt to be transparent about living life with the second worst pain known to medical science, Trigeminal neuralgia (TN). This chapter traces my first few years with TN. Although I had the world-renowned Dr. Ben Carson as my neurosurgeon, our hopes for a cure were dashed when various medical treatments and procedures (even three brain surgeries) failed to correct the issue.
4. In the book, do you have another chapter or author which really resonated with you?
While there are no prizes for the one who can boast he or she has the greatest pain, Larry Waters’ chapter 1 resonates with me. Larry suffers from cluster headaches, which is the worst pain known to the medical community. So Larry holds the #1 spot for pain and I take spot #2 with TN. His chapter also resonates since we are both professors who teach theology. Larry teaches at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas. I teach at Baptist Bible Seminary here in Clarks Summit.
5. What can people expect from your talk on June 1st?
On June 1st I will share my story of living life with TN. Although TN is very rare, hopefully my story will provide a resource for those dealing with their own suffering. My wife, Joy, will join me during the Q&A session so folks can ask questions of the caregiver and sufferer as well.
6. Are there any other books you can recommend on this subject?
Victor Venfield, Trigeminal Neuralgia. Living with Trigeminal Neuralgia. A Practical Guide. IMB Publishing 2014.
Philip Yancy, Where is God When it Hurts, (Zondervan, 2002).
Philip Yancy, Disappointment with God, (Zondervan, 1997).
Mark McGinniss, “The Courage to Live” Baptist Bulletin, Mar/Apr 2014.
. “Going Forward,” Summit, Spring 2013.
. “When Surgery Fails,” Kindred Spirit, Winter 2012.
My blog: https://outsidemydoor.wordpress.com/
“Trigeminal Neuralgia Association UK: Facing Pain Together,” http://www.tna.org.uk/
7. What are some of your favorite books or authors?
My teaching and research responsibilities put my reading in the areas of Old Testament Theology; Old Testament Poetry; Wisdom Literature; Song of Songs; & Theology of Sexuality.
My personal reading leans to non-fiction. I recently enjoyed Salt: A World History &
Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, both by Mark Kurlansky. This week I finished a very good book: The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe’s Libraries and the Race to Return a Literary Inheritance by Anders Rydell and Henning Koch.
When traveling, I turn to fiction. My top audiobooks choices are Israeli spymaster, Gabriel Allon series by Daniel Silva and Dr. Thomas Silkstone Mysteries by Tessa Harris.
8. Any last thoughts you have or anything you want our readers to know?
Although we do not often like to acknowledge it, suffering is a part of life. No one is given a free pass, which exempts him or her from suffering. Since suffering is a given, the important question is how will one deal with it when it strikes. Will suffering define a person or can it be “redeemed”?