Like any other Christian living with mental health disorder, it’s annoying to hear especially from loved ones to “pray more”. Or hearing them say things like, “The reason why you have mental illness is because your spirit isn’t strong enough” which is absolute bull, because I know my spirit is. It’s annoying how fellow Christians will try to explain my mental illness and how it came about and my inability to be strong in faith… I need support, not a lecture! Oi! But you know something…I remember someone in the Bible who went through the same persecution on why he lost everything including his health: Job.
The Book of Job is a well-known riches to rags to riches story on how Job, a faithful believer God, was unknowingly (which is hard to believe how this story was known) used by God to prove to the devil how faithful Job was even without his riches, health and his family. Quite sad how he was used for such a thing, but nonetheless it happened to him. And just when he thought his life was worse already, his friends come about trying to explain why his life well…sucks. These friends included Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, Zphar the Naamathite, and Elihu the Buzite..
At first, these four friends sat with Job in silence for seven days (Job 2:11-13). These guys did the right thing here at first. You don’t always have to have an answer right away when a loved one is dealing with an ailment or financial hardship. I get it…it’s in our nature as human beings to want to have the answer for everything. But you know what… silence is golden and well, just being there for your loved one as you will find out will mean more to your friend or family member more than anything. They will understand that you don’t understand why they are struggling, because they don’t know why either. But nooooo….Job’s friends had to ruin that moment with him by opening their big mouths. This is just a paraphrase on what these guys said:
He said that Job is suffering because he has sinned and that the best way to overcome it is by going to God and lay his cause before him. (Job 4, 5,15, 22).
This guy said that Job is suffering because he hasn’t admitted he has sinned and asked him how long was he going to go on like that? (Job 8, 18, 25)
He had the nerve to say that Job’s sin deserves even more suffering than he has experienced and the only way he could get better is by getting rid of his sins. (Job 8, 11:13, 14 ,18)
He said that God is using suffering to mold and train Job. Perfect! But then he had to ruin it by saying to Job for him to be silent because he, Elihu, will teach him wisdom. (Job 32-37)
Ugh! The nerve of some people. How shallow people can be when judging why some people go through struggles and why some people don’t.
Another thing is that the five friends had their own view of God:
“I have personally observed how God works and have figured him out.” (Job 4:7-8, 5:3, 27)
“Those who have Gone before us figured out and all we have to do is use that knowledge.” (Job 8:8, 9, 18:5-21)
“The wise know what God is like, but there aren’t many of us around.” (Job 11:6, 20:1-29)
“God reveals his wisdom to those who humbly trust him.” (Job 28:20-28)
Sometimes peoples own views on God can get in the way of showing love, understanding and patience toward one another and even non-believers. And at times hinder good relationships between others and themselves. Job, like any other Christian judged by other fellow Christians, he kinda does doubt his faith in God, but then remembers his faith and tells them take back their false accusations (Job 6:29).
To Eliphaz, Job says these three points:
- You are giving me all this advice without sympathizing with my situation
- Your criticisms are not based on fact but only on your own experience
- You still have not answered by basic question: Why am I suffering like this?
To Zophar, Job says to him in the most sarcastic way:
“Wisdom will die with you!” (Job 12:1)
Yeah…I don’t think Job was joking though.
But to all his friends, he basically told them this:
- Don’t talk for the sake of talking
- Don’t sermonize by giving pat answers
- Don’t accuse or criticize
- Put yourself in the other person’s place
- Offer help and encouragement
So, like in number 5, a person who is sick and/or sad says to you, “I just need a hug.” You find it like, “What? That’s it?” Just offer it to them. Yes, some solutions can be that simple. I get it you want a quick fix for your loved one’s problems. You don’t want them to suffer. Well, they don’t either. But as for now, just respect their wishes. If you care about the person as much as you say you do be in their shoes, not in your head.
As read in the Book of Job, Job does question his faith. But then remembers, wait… I don’t hide my sins (Job 23:10… I don’t worship my material items (Job 3:23-26) nor relied on them for security more than God (Job 8:14, 15) I haven’t committed adultery (Job 31:9) I don’t claim myself to be perfect , but I am a good and faithful person (Job 9:4) He then goes on say something on the line to his friends, “you are like physicians who did not know what they were doing.”(Job 13:4)
Like Job, especially when living with mental illness, you won’t be respected for even suffering bravely. I mean, people don’t have any idea what it’s like living with mental illness day to day and you still have to work, drive to work, go to school, to still have to put food on the table…socialize… It’s tough. Yet you have people who have never been through your situation give you advice. And even worse, claim how weak you are. Huh…how odd how people who have never been such problems all of a sudden have the answers. What we have to remember as human beings, that no matter how old you are, how young you are, how affluent you are, the color of your skin, our physical abilities, even mental abilities and attributes are short lived and regardless, God continues to love you still. God
The book of Job reminds us that having a set of the “right” doctrines is not enough when worshiping God and we must not misquote God on his love for us and others and why we undergo the sufferings we face on Earth. It’s not our place to say, because although, you may not be happy to hear this, but there are some things that are beyond your understanding. Just because God loves you, doesn’t mean you won’t go through trials, even if the trial is your own health. I believe that having (also acknowledging) my chronic anxiety and depression has helped me be more patient with myself and others and helped me more reliant on God. Heck maybe my story can be used to encourage others. Like Job, I have gone through self-pity, bitterness, and anguish…I have also been guilty of blaming God. I have come accept that perhaps my illness is bigger than myself. It’s a way of trusting God during the difficult times, while testing my limits and exercising my faith. As I conclude this post keep in mind these parts of the scripture:
“My breathen, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces patience have its perfect work, that you may perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
“You are My servant, I have chose you and not cast you away: Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Behold, all those who were incensed against you, shall be ashamed and disgraced; they shall be as nothing.”
And for those judging those or loved ones who live with mental health disorders and possibly on why they have it, keep this scripture in mind:
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not proved, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:4
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:7-8