Archive for the 'Suffering' Category

Not Everyone Recovers From Suffering

Sometimes there is no visible silver lining, no redeeming value in sight. Sometimes those who endure difficulty feel that nothing is left but an empty shell. Some people never recover physically, emotionally, or spiritually. It is not guaranteed that we will emerge on the other side of pain strengthened by the experience. It would be naive to suggest that suffering universally results in growth. S. Cairns suggests a more nuanced perspective as he elaborates on Simone Weil’s observation that “affliction compels us to recognize as real what we do not think possible.” He observes:

The occasions of our suffering are capable of revealing what our habitual illusions often obscure, keeping us from knowing. Our afflictions drag us — more or less kicking — into a fresh and vivid awareness that we are not in control of our circumstances, that we are not quite whole, that our days are salted with affliction.

I dare to suggest, however, that when we undergo trials, the biblical way to pray is for strength to carry on and acquit ourselves well. We should seek to honor God when life is at its lowest. We should strive to trust him even when hope is gone.

–John Walton, Job (The NIV Application Commentary)

These are things we need to pray for people who are suffering. I’ve said it before–if we only pray for healing, we are probably doing the sufferer a great disservice. Which is more important, temporal healing, which may or may not happen, or, if they are a believer, things that are Scripturally in God’s will and are a part of eternal things? (Both would be great.)

Many times in the Western world, we don’t see those suffering. Usually, the worse the suffering, the less likely we are to see them. So we go on thinking that as life goes on we make more money, really bad things shouldn’t happen to believers, otherwise they don’t have enough faith or somebody hasn’t laid hands on them yet, and it’s always darkest before the dawn. Not to sound morbid, but it can always get darker.

Some insist on going out in “faith”, testing God, and guessing His will, without praying for anything else. Praying is not gambling with God’s will. Certainly pray for the temporal situation and people’s physical needs. Pray for whatever bad is happening to stop. But pray for things that are definitely God’s will as what’s found in Scripture, and you will be participating as a slave of Christ in shaping that person’s or people’s lives. Use Paul’s prayers if you would like help in that regard.

Comfort for Suffering Saints by Jerome Zanchius

This is on the web in a few different places. You can read it and download it as a PDF file at box. This blog has the advantage of the roll-overable Scripture references, which were expanded, hopefully working on most computing devices. There is also a link to a short biography of the author. This is based on a Calvinist view of predestination–just as a warning for the more sensitive readers. I hope it benefits you as much as it does me.

COMFORT FOR SUFFERING SAINTS

How the sovereignty of God is a comfort to Christians, acting to remove rather than add to anxiety!

by Jerome Zanchius (1516-1590)

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Romans 8:28-29

Without a due sense of predestination, we shall want the surest and the most powerful inducement to patience, resignation, and dependence on God, under every spiritual and temporal affliction. How sweet must the following considerations be to a distressed believer!

  • There most certainly exists an almighty, all-wise and infinitely gracious God (Hebrews 11:6).
  • He has given me in times past, and is giving me at present (if I had but eyes to see it), many signal intimations of His love to me, both in a way of providence and grace (Ephesians 1:1-23).
  • This love of His is immutable; He never repents of it nor withdraws it (Philippians 1:6).
  • Whatever comes to pass in time is the result of His will from everlasting (1 Corinthians 8:6), consequently—
  • My afflictions were a part of His original plan, and are all ordered in number, weight, and measure (Psalm 22:24).
  • The very hairs of my head are (every one) counted by Him; nor can a single hair fall to the ground but in consequence of His determination (Luke 12:7). Hence—
  • My distresses are not the result of chance, accident, or a fortuitous combination of circumstances (Psalm 56:8), but—
  • The providential accomplishment of God’s purpose (Romans 8:28), and—
  • Designed to answer some wise and gracious ends (James 5:10-11), nor—
  • Shall my affliction continue a moment longer than God sees meet (2 Corinthians 7:6-7).
  • He who brought me to it has promised to support me under it and to carry me through it (Psalm 34:15-17).
  • All shall, most assuredly, work together for His glory and my good, therefore—
  • “The cup which my heavenly Father hath given me to drink, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11).

Yes, I will, in the strength He imparts, even rejoice in tribulation; and using the means of possible redress, which He hath or may hereafter put into my hands, I will commit myself and the event to Him, whose purpose cannot be overthrown, whose plan cannot be disconcerted, and who, whether I am resigned or not, will still go on to work all things after the counsel of His own will (Romans 5:3-6; Psalm 33:11-12; Ephesians 1:11).

Above all, when the suffering Christian takes his election into the account, and knows that he was by an eternal and immutable act of God appointed to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ; that, of course, he hath a city prepared for him above, a building of God, a house not made with hands, but eternal in the heavens; and that the heaviest sufferings of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in the saints, what adversity can possibly befall us which the assured hope of blessings like these will not infinitely overbalance? (Proverbs 8:35; 2 Corinthians 5:1; Romans 8:18; Romans 8:33-37.)
“A comfort so divine, May trials well endure.”

However keenly afflictions might wound us on their first access, yet, under the impression of such animating views, we should quickly come to ourselves again, and the arrows of tribulation, would, in great measure lose their sharpness.

Christians want nothing but absolute resignation to render them perfectly happy in every possible circumstance; and absolute resignation can only flow from an absolute belief of, and an absolute acquiescence in, God’s absolute providence, founded on absolute predestination (1 Thessalonians 1:2-4).

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller

This new book by Timothy Keller looks like it may be very good. Find all kinds of resources on it at Westminster Bookstore.

Amazon has it in hardcover and Kindle formats.

book-Walking-With-God

By the way, Westminster Books has one of my favorite books on suffering, Be Still My Soul, for 50% off the cover price at $6.50 for a week. This is more than $2 less than Amazon.

book be still my soul

Affiliate links

Around the Web: Suffering

Suffering and the Sovereignty of God: A New Teaching Series from R.C. Sproul Jr. | Ligonier Ministries Blog – Watch the first lesson for free

Let’s Talk About Mental Illness by Stephen Altrogge – Not another post about mental illness! But this one is short and very good. It’s very descriptive. I especially like this, which I can relate to:

But, because our bodies do not function correctly, a guy could be feeling anxious for no reason at all. I have experienced this all too often. Adrenaline courses through my body. My heart races. I have shortness of breath. I can’t sit still. My body is in fight or flight mode. And I’m Not. Worried. About. A. Single. Thing. Changing my thinking won’t change my feelings.

Some will say, “You need to get counseling to get to ‘the root of the problem.'” After decades of trying, I’ve yet to get to the root of the problem, and this is just how life is sometimes. We can’t always know everything. One thing I’ve noticed is the advice givers give less and less advice the more they know either by living with someone who deals with these things for a long time, or eventually deal with it themselves, God forbid. They realize the sufferer has already been given all of the advice and tried everything they could. If they know them well, and see there’s something they might need to try, then they might want to bring it up. I will write a post on that.

I'm Healed by Becky Lynn Black

Spurgeon on Depression

I note that some whom I greatly love and esteem, who are, in my judgment, among the very choicest of God’s people, nevertheless, travel most of the way to heaven by night.

–C.H. Spurgeon

I don’t mean to murmur, but it doesn’t seem that this is the prevailing attitude nowadays.

I was going to leave it at that, but I remember what I also found earlier today on David Black’s blog. It’s a quote by Terry Waite, but I want to include Prof. Black’s commentary.

Whenever I discuss the Greek word apostolos with my students, I always ask them to translate the word, not just transliterate it as “apostle.” Students usually suggest “personal representative,” “messenger,” or “ambassador.” I tell them that my personal favorite is “envoy,” and I usually mention the name Terry Waite as an example. If you recall, Waite was the British hostage released in 1991 after five years of solitary confinement in Lebanon. Waite was not held captive simply because he was a British citizen, however. Terry Waite was serving as the Envoy of the Church of England at the time, a high and honorable position. As an apostolos, he represented in his person the power, prestige, and authority of the entire Anglican Church.

But there’s another side to this story. In addition to being an envoy, Waite was a remarkable Christian theologian. When asked how he had survived all those years of solitary confinement, he said:

I have been determined in captivity, and still am determined, to convert this experience into something that will be useful and good for other people. I think that’s the way to approach suffering. It seems to me that Christianity doesn’t in any way lessen suffering. What it does is enable you to take it, to face it, to work through it, and eventually to convert it.

Wow. Christianity doesn’t in any way lessen suffering. I wonder how many Christians, besides me, need to learn this lesson? Today Becky has had excruciating pain. Christianity doesn’t in any way lessen suffering. Her body is gradually weakening. Christianity doesn’t in any way lessen suffering. I want you to pause right now and ask yourself whether your Christianity is anything like Terry Waite’s. Fortitude is integral to Christian living. I say this as perhaps the softest man who has ever walked this earth, a pampered American free of poverty and, for the most part, pain. My task is to avoid suffering at all costs. Convert suffering into good? How impossible that sounds! But for the Christian, only scars produce lasting sanctity. I know this intellectually, but I want to run and scream whenever I face problems. Leveraging suffering for good — this is actually something I know very little of, but I want to learn how to do it.

Quote of the Day: Pamper the Body and Starve the Soul

Generally speaking, the soul and body fare inversely. When the body is pampered with every luxury, the soul starves. The soul thrives best when the body cries out. Probably we all have to choose, not once or twice, in life, whether we will have the full satisfaction of our appetites, and lean souls; or be lean as to our circumstances, while the spirit is keen, alert, and full of vigorous life.

–F.B. Meyer

I think the US, and probably the West, has suffered spiritually because we have been so “blessed” materially.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

But the rich should take pride in their humiliation–since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. 12 Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
James 1:10-12

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I realize that many think that more formal (or literal) translations are better. Of course, books have been written on that, but this just deals with form and grammar. To me copying the grammar of the original languages and trying to squeeze it into English, except for when they don’t, makes for some awkward reading for some of us. I prefer English as opposed to Greek or Hebrew or Aramaic English. Half of you who are into translations will disagree with this. I felt ‘literal is better’ when I read the NRSV for three years–a great translation–so I understand (in a non-expert way) where everyone is coming from.
Top Translation Traps: Slavery to Form « God Didn’t Say That

“For this month’s column, I thought I would offer a few reflections on Andy Stanley’s recent book, Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend. Here’s a classic passage which represents in miniature an entire universe of erroneous thinking.”
–Carl Trueman
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie – Reformation21

As long as we’re getting critical, if you are an author or a pastor, don’t do this.
An Unhealthy Focus in Much Christian Literature | Borrowed Light
I’ve read how I’m supposed to have a problem with prayer and a few other things, when I don’t. It’s very condescending.

Everytime I read the Old Testament, I appreciate it more, even if I’m more disturbed by it. Some good stuff on this page if you’re interested. A quote if you don’t have time.
Old Testament | Miscellanies.

[Jesus] regarded the whole Old Testament movement as a divinely directed and inspired movement, as having arrived at its goal in himself, so that he himself in his historic appearance and work being taken away, the Old Testament would lose its purpose and significance. This none other could say. He was the confirmation and consummation of the Old Testament in his own person, and this yielded the one substratum of his interpretation of himself in the world of religion.

–Geerhardus Vos—Biblical Theology

I know you’ve been bombarded with articles on mental health. Here are just a few more with the last one being an infographic on schizophrenia, one of the most misunderstood disorders and misused terms.

Lessons Learned from the Dark Valley of Depression | Biblical Counseling Coalition Blogs

A Biblical Counseling Perspective on Mental Illness | Biblical Counseling Coalition Blogs

HT: David Murray | HeadHeartHand Blog

Click for a larger one:
Schizophrenia: The Broken Mind

You better be joyful, or else…

Based on the biblical teaching, I would go so far as to say that it is the Christian’s duty, his moral obligation, to be joyful. That means that the failure of a Christian to be joyful is a sin, that unhappiness and a lack of joy are, in a certain way, manifestations of the flesh.

–R.C. Sproul, Can I Have Joy in My Life?

First off, I like R.C. Sproul and think he’s a great teacher.

But I think this can lead to being judged in a bad way. For those who deal with chronic depression, it may be near impossible, while still being a genuine Christian who is working out their salvation. I deal with that, and am able to feel joy, but you may not see it. Will people judge me because of this? There are also periods in one’s life when they don’t feel joy. Hopefully they will have the hope that they will have joy, as the Psalmists did, but even hope can be hard to come by at times.

I don’t have the book, so I don’t know if there’s context that would change what it sounds like as it is. But the quote is out there.

I would balance this with some quotes from Good News for Anxious Christians by Philip Cary, which I do have. Forgive me for any typos, and let me know.

The terrible vulnerability of our feelings is particularly evident in the psychological affliction we call depression, who’s victims are unable to feel joy or any strong emotion. [I wouldn’t call myself a victim.]

The idea that Christians are supposed to have a deep inner joy all the time is a terribly cruel notion. The idea itself is what’s cruel: it turns the people who wish to comfort the afflicted [better term] into tormentors. They want to help their suffering friends get the joy back, but in the process, they insist that their friends accept the underlying idea that it’s not normal for Christian life to experience deep suffering of the heart. So in addition to their suffering, their friends are wounded by the suggestion that their affliction is due to some failure in their Christian life–as if there’s something wrong with Christians who have a cross to bear.

[T]he promises of Christ can be turned into slogans, so that instead of promising that suffering shall come to an end–as the Cross of Christ leads to resurrection–the message is that suffering is unacceptable. [That’s what the afflicted may perceive.] What also happens is that Biblical exhortations such as the apostle’s words, “Rejoice in the Lord always!” (Phil 4:4) are turned into a kind of a command, even a kind of condemnation. Instead of inviting us to joy, they demand that we be joyful, or else.

Coincidentally, I came up with the subject line for this post before I typed out the quote.

In the book I wrote this: “For people who say this [you must always be joyful]: are they also never anxious (Philippians 4:6) or praying continually (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) as Paul also ‘invites’ us to do? Take out the plank.” And while you’re at it, don’t ever be anxious. It’s a command.

I realize this is a tough issue, and I think both of these authors aren’t as dogmatic as they sound.

I believe that we can always be joyful in what Jesus has done for us on the Cross, as I’ve written about in the past. (That post is important for how I feel about experiencing joy.) When there is deep suffering though, especially if it’s chronic, even this can be very difficult. Also, as I alluded to above, some of us have what’s call a “low affect” where we don’t show much emotion, even though we may feel it (and can sometimes lead to it spilling out, which can be embarrassing). I’ve had people try to get me to smile–“Oh come on, you can smile [dumb joke here]”, and I just don’t feel like it. I’m not a puppet who is going to make someone feel better because they don’t like the idea that someone can be afflicted in that way. It scares them. Or they just want me to feel better because they care, but don’t understand. I suppose the former what is a little cynical.

D. Martin Lloyd Jones, in his book Spiritual Depression (which I read as a library book, so I’m paraphrasing), wrote that part of the reason non-Christians aren’t as attracted to Christianity as they could be is because they don’t see joy in them. I think he wrote something about there being an epidemic of glum Christians. But he also acknowledged that there are those who experience chronic depression for a variety of reasons. He was only addressing the truly spiritual aspect of it, if that can even be divided from other factors. He was way ahead of his time (and the Puritans even more so, by hundreds of years), and I think he had the right balance.

This post is at about most people’s attention span, including mine, so I better end it here. I just wanted to hopefully give some perspective and balance to this very difficult subject. Let’s be careful out there, whatever your spiritual, emotional and physical health may be.

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We have been inundated with articles on mental illness lately. I post a lot of these because I would be under that category and because I post a fair amount about suffering on this blog. There is a Category on the right for suffering and also a link to the old Suffering Christians blog.

I’ve read things from Oswald Chambers and D. Martin Lloyd-Jones about what I call “real psychology” and thought they were ahead of their time–earlier and middle of the last century. As it turns out, the Puritans were way ahead of their time. They even recognized that there can be physiological components to depression, which many people today still don’t believe. I’ve read that the contemporary book Helpful Truth in Past Places: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Counselling by Mark A. Deckard is a good place to start.

The Puritans and Mental Illness | HeadHeartHand Blog

The following is a good article about how certain terms can be hurtful and unhelpful. I don’t think there is a need to go all politically correct on this, but there should be some guidelines, especially for journalists who write about these things. I don’t really mind the terms like mentalheadcase, wacko or whatever, unless they’re meant in a truly hateful manner. (Sometimes we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously either.) I think it’s the proper medical terms used incorrectly that can be especially unhelpful. The writer of the article mentions calling yourself “a little bit OCD”. I’m extremely particular, almost to the point of being ‘certifiable’, but I’ve stopped using the term ‘a little OCD’ once I learned how awful being truly OCD really is. It’s not funny. And people always get schizophrenia wrong. They’re usually meaning ‘multiple personality disorder’, as in a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Or people who say one thing and then another, which could just be hypocrisy. Schizophrenia is awful (I’m not), and not funny or something that should be used when a more accurate term could be.

Another area is when someone is chronically depressed and they’ve tried everything, and have lived with it for decades, and then when mustering up the courage to mention it, have someone else say, “Yeah, I get depressed too.” That’s a tough one because there are so many degrees of depression. Same goes for anxiety and a number of other things, including chronic [physical] pain.

The article also mentions that those who are mentally ill are not likely to be more violent than the general population. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say, “Yeah, she’s Biopolar, so she’s kind of dangerous” or something to that effect. I deal with Bipolar Disorder (Bipolar II on the depressed end of the spectrum, or the unofficial term Bipolar Depression, if you’re familiar) and I know there’s no truth to that. Being Bipolar doesn’t make someone violent or mean.

By the way, incorrect spellings would be Bi-polar or BiPolar, if you happen to be writing about it. Bipolar Disorder is the general term, but there are two basic types, being I and II (1 and 2) and it’s a spectrum disorder in many ways. So two people who both suffer from ‘Bipolar Disorder’ could have varying symptoms that vary in severity.

‘Crazy Talk’: How We Characterize Mental Illness | Her.meneutics | Christianitytoday.com

The 9 words you missed. – This is a post about hope. I identify with the majority of what he says. I’m basically in a permanent “season of hurt”, so I get a lot of practice. I really like his “edge verses”. I call them “verses off the beaten path”, which I like to post on Twitter or Facebook when I come across them if they don’t require explanation–especially the OT, but his term sounds less like some are more important than others.

A couple of Reformed resources:

Westminster Theological Seminary – The Westminster Theological Journal – this has somehow failed to acquire my attention until now

The Beatitudes by Thomas Watson – free ebook in various formats and even as an MP3 audio book too

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

Depression and Suicide from a Christian Perspective

To me, suicide is almost an unmentionable word because it’s such a horrible thing. It’s in the news now because of pastor Rick Warren’s son. We can’t ignore it because it does happen and because if we do ignore it, we could miss the signs of someone wanting to kill themselves and not intervene when we might have been able to help. They’re not thinking rationally–which I’ve experienced myself, as have many of you–and we may be able to help them to think more objectively.

At the same time, there are many people who live with a tremendous amount of guilt because they felt that they should have intervened and didn’t. The responsibility goes to the person who ended their life–and who probably hid the signs well–and not the person who felt they could have done something. People who are intent on going through with it aren’t going to let others know about it.

These two links contain a plethora of information. I know that I just posted a page with links on Dealing With Depression (and the last link is very good if you haven’t seen it), but I think it’s important enough to post more that I’ve recently found.

Depression & Suicide Articles, Devotionals & Current Events News
at crosswalk.com

Suicide, Mental Illness, Depression, and the Church – Justin Taylor
– covers it from all angles with all kinds of resources

Depression is something that affects me on a daily basis, and suffering is something written about here fairly often. For those who want to read more on that topic or if you know someone who does, and would like quotes, Scripture, reading material etc., you can see the old Suffering Christians blog, which has very organized Categories, and also go to the Suffering category here in the right column.

Also see:

 

Quote of the Day: Afflictions for Good

There are no sins God’s people are more subject to than unbelief and impatience. They are ready either to faint through unbelief, or to fret through impatience. When men fly out against God by discontent and impatience it is a sign they do not believe this text. Discontent is an ungrateful sin, because we have more mercies than afflictions; and it is an irrational sin, because afflictions work for good. Discontent is a sin which puts us upon sin. ‘Fret not thyself to do evil’ (Psalm 37:8). He that frets will be ready to do evil: fretting Jonah was sinning Jonah (Jonah 4:9). The devil blows the coals of passion and discontent, and then warms himself at the fire. Oh, let us not nourish this angry viper in our breast. Let this text produce patience, ‘All things work for good to them that love God’ (Rom. 8:28). Shall we be discontented at that which works for our good? If one friend should throw a bag of money at another, and in throwing it, should graze his head, he would not be troubled much, seeing by this means he had got a bag of money. So the Lord may bruise us by afflictions, but it is to enrich us. These afflictions work for us a weight of glory, and shall we be discontented?

–Thomas Watson, All Things for Good (Puritan Paperbacks)

~Jeff

Figuring Out Why God Does Things

The last thing at least some believers need in their trials is the added burden of trying to figure out why it is all happening. And the good news here is that nowhere in Scripture are we expected to do that. God’s secrets remain just that. We must try to avoid two extremes: one, suggesting that God’s secret purposes in our lives and in providence generally are available to us; and the other, usually in reaction, concluding that God does not actually have a purpose for all of the details of our lives, from the smallest to the greatest.

Like Job’s counselors, well-meaning brothers and sisters sometimes encourage us to try to discern what God is up to in a given tragedy or what he is trying to teach us. They assume God is directly causing our suffering in order to do something to or for us that will bring him glory and us an ultimate good. Since this sounds so close to the truth, it is vital to use an entire chapter to try to sort this out from the Scriptures. While God is ultimately sovereign over all events, large and small, and will not allow us to endure a trial that he cannot turn to our profit, a lot of the adversities we face in this life are simply part of the web of ordinary causes and effects in the world. Upon learning that one has cancer, the first reaction should not be to think as if God had pointed his finger in the victim’s direction and shouted, “Cancer!” Nor should we think God is uninvolved—perhaps caught off guard himself with the bad news. God has arranged a world in which he neither controls everything directly (that is, apart from means) nor is just another member of creation who could himself be overwhelmed by the course of events.

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

In my circles, especially when I was younger, it was assumed that when we went through trials, we were to try to figure out what God was trying to teach us. We would say, You might not know right away, but in time God will show you. Then most of the time forget about it, unless we thought of something. God is always sanctifying and perfecting believers, but we don’t have to know exactly what the sovereign Lord of our life is up to in order for that to happen.

The Lessons of Job and Depression

I know I’ve been writing a lot about mental illness lately, but this is so good I have to pass this on. It also goes against the Voddie Baucham type preaching where he feels he knows what mental illness is not, and preaches outside of Scripture on it. For those who need more Biblical encouragement from someone who’s not a coddler, here is a quote and a link to the article, which I highly recommend reading, at the end. It’s also a good mini-lesson on one facet of the book of Job. This would go along with Two [Three?] Views of Mental Illness | Scripture Zealot

The lessons of Job are manifold but it seems that a few rather stand out: this is acomplicated, fallen, evil world; Christians can expect to suffer – hey, we all die in the end, no matter how jolly we might feel at points in the interim, so we had better get used to the idea; Christians are no more exempt from depression than they are from cancer or strokes; and the idea that these things are necessarily linked to our lack of faith, to our personal sin, to our outlook on life, or, indeed, to anything intrinsic to us, is nonsense and unbiblical. A pastoral theology which has not grappled with the whirlwind and the speeches of the last part of Job is sub-biblical; and preaching which does not take these things into account is not biblical preaching. One might add that perhaps one of the key lessons of Job (and the Psalms, for that matter) is: it is OK to be depressed. It is horrible and grim and dark. But it may not be your fault, any more than cancer or a stroke are your fault. Above all, it does not mean that you are forgotten by God, even if God only ever seems to come to you in the whirlwind; and, finally, it does not mean that you will not participate in the glorious resurrection when all the travails of this world will be definitively left behind.

Carl Trueman, Any Place for the God of Job?

I’m glad God was watching out for me!

If you base your faith on lack of affliction, your faith lives on the brink of extinction and will fall apart because of a frightening diagnosis or a shattering phone call. Token faith will not survive suffering, nor should it.

–Randy Alcorn, If God  is Good, pg. 12

I’ve heard people say things like, “Boy I’m glad God was watching out for us, otherwise something really bad may have happened.” So if something bad happened then how do you see God? What about the young Christian listening to you who was in a similar situation and it turned out differently?

This one may require a second read, as it did for me:

God is both our greatest problem and solution. His presence is the worst news or the best news, the most fearful threat or the most cheerful comfort. From Genesis to Revelation, there is this struggle, this awkwardness, ranging from indescribable joy to utter terror, when we talk about God’s presence or face.

This is far indeed from the modern triviality with which we treat this subject. We assume that God is near, and that this is necessarily good news, without needing to hear anything more said. Or when we are tormented by life’s circumstances, we assume that God is far away, when in fact, as the cross itself demonstrates and Paul attests in his own suffering, it is precisely there and then when God is closest. That’s the paradox. Our experience is simply wrong. Things are not as they seem. God is most intimately involved in our lives often when we least experience him. Such contradictions of our ordinary experience are abundant even in the natural sciences. It was perfectly understandable that people once upon a time thought that the earth was flat, the sun and the moon were roughly the same size, and the earth was the center of the universe: after all, this matches the most universal experience of ordinary people. However, we know better now, because more thorough and sophisticated analysis has challenged such commonly held notions. How much more likely it is, then, that our ordinary experience of God and his ways can be challenged by his own revelation!

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

Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s permission.
Matthew 10:29 GW

Two Views of Mental Illness

Unfortunately, the first one is a succinct article and the second is a ‘sermon’ which takes a lot of time to listen to. I skimmed much of the sermon to know what it’s about. The first 30 seconds are a gross mis-characterization to give you a taste of what’s to come, although there is a lot of good truth mixed in. I respect Voddie Baucham but don’t know why he’d give a sermon that goes so far outside of Scripture. But I just want to post them both for you. Many people who are at least relatively healthy may agree with the sermon and everyone who suffers from more severe mental illness, along with its physical symptoms will identify with the article.

Many things in the sermon will overlap the article, but in general I believe there is a different perspective. The article is what I’d say if I could write and research well.

What I like about the article is how it says that it’s a complex thing. There are many variables. Baucham says that mental illness is absolutely not a medical issue (and many times I’m sure it isn’t). How he knows this, I have no idea. He also says that there is no such thing as a chemical imbalance in the brain. I don’t know if there is or not. He says it’s because there’s no test for it. I wish the article wouldn’t have mentioned something similar, because we don’t know, and that will put up a red flag for some people, but I think on the whole it’s an extremely reasonable article.

Going Outside the Camp by James Coffield | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

Nebuchadnezzar Loses His Mind – Voddie Baucham | Truth Endures (sermon)

The sermon and comments on Facebook upset me enough that I may not comment here, or may turn off the comments, which I’ve never done. I purposely put up two Reformed sources by people I respect so that you wouldn’t think I’m being biased. These attitudes are still going on in good churches. In fact this is part of what brought on my diatribe in the last post.
Mental Illness is Because of Sin | Scripture Zealot