Mental Illness is Because of Sin

That’s what many still think. I have been spared the hurt that many people who are suffering experience because of other Christians who are eerily similar to Job’s friends.

Some people are suffering guilt and depression because of sin. This can be repaired through the help of people pointing them to what Jesus did on the cross for them and help them to learn what behaviors and ways of thinking they need to change. And this is the case with everyone to a degree.

But there are also things that go on in our brains and body that we just can’t explain. People want to, because people like to be “right” and have answers.

Why does such suffering take place? We want an answer. We want to say, for instance, that human suffering is a result of sin—at least, those of us who aren’t in pain at the moment hope so. After all, we can control our pain that way. We can delude ourselves into thinking that as long as we are good, we won’t suffer.

Suffering and the Book of Job

Through seeing some ugly comments on Facebook–not my friends thankfully–I can see how misguided many people are. None of the ones who have the ‘answers’ are the ones who are suffering with severe chronic mental illness.

My heart is broken. I can’t imagine how awful it must be to be suffering and be surrounded by people like this. It’s a very complex issue. There are in fact doctors over-prescribing pills, people who don’t feel good and want a pill to feel better because they have a “right” to be happy and healthy, people who minimize sin, disorders that shouldn’t be labeled as disorders. I could go on and on. But concerning the misguided notions, I feel like I could write a book based on what I’ve read in the last few days. But I don’t have the skill, authority and especially the energy, because of course if I examined my sin my energy could be restored.

I don’t know why I get into it with these people. I’m extremely confident in my views on many of these things–including what I don’t know–based on years or decades (depending on the condition) of reading the Bible, stacks of books, hundreds of articles, listening to talks and sermons, hundreds of hours of counseling, trying enough medications that I feel like a pharmacist, diets and supplements, seeing many doctors, and thinking for thousands of hours trying to figure things out. But the happy people seem to have many of the answers based on what they want to think. I don’t get to fix my life according to what I think, no matter how hard I try.

I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but do you think that someone who isn’t very experienced in these things can give advice to someone who’s done what I’ve done and gone through what I’ve gone through? I’m not trying to sound special. There are many, many others just like what I’ve described and many who suffering from various conditions much worse than me. And the sad thing is that many of those people are suffering even more because of the happy people who know more than you do. Because, if you knew more, or tried harder, or listened to this sermon or read this book, or tried this supplement, or ‘gave it to God’, you wouldn’t be suffering so much, right?

After Job and the friends finish their sermons, God finally speaks up and preaches for himself. Out of the whirlwind, he answers Job: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand” (Job 38:2–4 NIV). After listing a litany of divine actions that illustrate his wisdom and power over the universe, God shuts the mouths of Job and his well-meaning friends. For they have all been arguing on the basis of their own experience and common sense. They have all operated under the assumption that they could read God’s mind on the surface of the events.

How easily we attempt this when suffering strikes us or our loved ones! We immediately strike out to rationalize the purpose behind it all. But God refuses to be figured out in these matters, and his counsel is hidden to mortals. God asks them all, “Can you make a pet of [me] like a bird or put [me] on a leash for your girls?… Any hope of subduing [me] is false; the mere sight of [me] is overpowering… Who then is able to stand against me? Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me” (Job 41:5, 9–11).

Job’s friends had all the answers: Job’s suffering was the effect of his sin, or of his failure to claim victory over his circumstances. Refusing to buy into their works-righteousness and hollow platitudes, Job became an existentialist, preferring no answers to wrong answers. God was sovereign and just, but in the abstract, he concluded.

For those who are tied to the high masts of suffering, there is often a fear greater than the fear of death. It is the fear of life. It is the fear of the next morning, and the morning after that [and having to listen to well-meaning ‘friends’]. In the face of deep despair, the temptation is great to turn away from God because the suffering is somehow credited to his wrath toward personal sins rather than to turn toward him because one knows that he or she is at peace with God. This is why Job has said he would be able to turn toward God in this situation if only he had a go-between, an advocate. Gradually, he came to a greater confidence in this mediator. The confession bears repeating: “Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend” (Job 16:19–21 NIV).

Michael Horton, A Place for Weakness: Preparing Yourself for Suffering

Praise God we have an Advocate and a Healer who has healed the believer’s relationship with Him and gives us the grace to not only endure suffering, but uses it to draw us to Himself so that it’s not for nothing. I hate the fact that there is suffering, but how much worse it would be if there was no benefit at all from it in this life. I pray for those who have suffering heaped upon suffering, and that it would eventually give them all the more confidence in our Lord.

5 Responses to “Mental Illness is Because of Sin”

  1. 1 Scripture Zealot

    I got this helpful Tweet from someone:
    How to differentiate Schizophrenia from Demonic Possession

  2. 2 Tom

    Hi Jeff!

    Great post!

    It is sad that many more Christians don’t try to just empathize and show compassion for those who may be suffering in a way that is unfamiliar.

    I am glad you wrote about this subject! And I believe you are spot on.

    Well done.

  3. 3 Scripture Zealot

    Wow, thank you very much for the encouraging comment.

  4. 4 Craig Benno

    Jeff. Well said mate. I have had Job’s friends. Btw, do you know why they called Job, Job? It’s because he wanted to job his friends on on the chin… 😉

  5. 5 Scripture Zealot

    Thank you. I wish everybody who gives advice would read Job and understand it.

    There’s a joke I haven’t heard. We don’t use the word job in that way but now I can tell it to Australian friends.

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