For six years author and speaker Joyce Landarf has endured an overwhelming and paralyzing kind of pain. It begins in her jaw and spreads across her face and head, its severity ultimately bringing on nausea and diarrhea. The medical diagnosis is TMJ, for temporomandibular joint dysfunction, and the affliction has caused her to curtail public appearances drastically.

The ailment persists despite the efforts of many specialists using all known methods of treatment. In talking about her situation, Landorf describes the physical pain and the feelings of failure and alienation that came as she must cancel engagements and withdraw from social settings. She also wrestles with God over the reasons behind a physical problem that disrupts her ministry. And yet as Joyce Landorf reflects on all aspects of her suffering, she mentions one source of pain more troubling than any other: judgment from fellow Christians.

A large and vocal branch of the church, it seems, holds that it is never "God's will" for a person to suffer. Following that dictum, these Christians presume all suffering to derive from one of two flaws in the afflicted person. Either the sufferer is being punished for some sin, or remains unhealed because of a lack of faith. "Confess your sin!" they tell Landorf, and also "You simply must exercise more faith." In truth, says Landorf, their haughty condemnation, coming at a time of such vulnerability, hurts worse than the physical pain itself.

In May of this year, the Chicago Tribune ran a story on a young father from North Manchester, Indiana. He had just agreed to talk to a Tribune reporter about an incident that happened in 1978. An accompanying photo of him shows a slim man in his early twenties, with neatly trimmed hair ...

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