Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at .roger@preachitteachit.org.

Dear Roger,

I am wondering what your perspective is on illness. I have chronic migraines and like many people, live in daily pain. When I attended Casas, some people in the ABF (Adult Bible Fellowship) I joined blamed my illness on Satan and Generational Curses. Are all physical and mental illnesses caused by Satan or some kind of Curse? I grew up Mormon and this seemed to make them more sure that I was cursed in some way. Thanks.

Sincerely, Sarah

Dear Sarah,

I grieve deeply for you. Few things are more debilitating than migraine headaches. Too many suffer merciless onslaughts. I’m sorry that you’re one of them.

Sarah, I imagine that most people have little understanding of your throbbing pain, nausea/vomiting, sensitivity to light and to sound. I’m sorry for the disruption of even the simplest of tasks. I’m sorry for the mental struggle that you experience as you wait for the next onslaught. As I think of the misery you endure, my heart just breaks.

By the way, I’m sitting in a pain doctor’s office as I write. My son, Ricky, is a fireman seeking relief from the painful neck injury that he incurred on the fire engine. The door opens and in walks a young woman. She sits in the chair beside me and immediately takes the Tim Tebow position. She is Tebowing. Her head is bowed, her eyes are squished shut and her hands are both folded into her forehead. Only, she is not praying like Tim Tebow. She’s in agony.

“You’re having a migraine, aren’t you?” I ask.

Her lips move imperceptibly: “Yes,” she breathes out slowly in two syllables.

I’ve learned what to do when I see hurt: I comfort it. So, I sympathize. “You look like you’re in agony. I’m in pain just looking at you. I am so sorry. By the way,” I said to her after a moment’s hesitation, “I’m writing an article on migraines right now.”


“Was there something that triggered your headache?”

“Yesterday,” she said, “my doctor told me that the C5 and C6 vertebrates in my neck needed fusing. I started spiraling down soon after. At least I’ll feel better when they give me the ‘juice.’”

Right then, Ricky is in the back getting his “juice.” I hope he feels better when he comes out.

Obviously, Sarah, you are trying to avoid the obvious things that people say can trigger migraines: irregular meal patterns; too much caffeine; variable sleep patterns; excitement; fear; anxiety; stress; weather changes; bright lights; and loud noises. Strong odors also can trigger an attack. So can food additives like MSG and the nitrites in foods like pepperoni pizza, luncheon meats and hot dogs. Many discover that hormone cycles like menstruation, or synthesized products like oral contraceptives and estrogen replacement can increase your risk.

Yet, with all of your care, the migraines still strike.

I think that many migraines are precipitated by malfunctioning brain chemistry without help from any trigger mentioned above. In one sense, all migraines are chemical in nature. Serotonin neurotransmitter imbalances to a spreading depression of the cortex are suspected. Whatever the ultimate cause or causes, nerve cells in the brain release inflammation causing substances that produce constriction and swelling of the blood vessels. Pain and throbbing commence.