On Thursday afternoon I attended a Bible Study. During the course of our discussion I said that helping others suffering from mental illnesses gave meaning to my suffering. Then tonight I read an oped about being called to pick up and carry our crosses as Christians, and that fed my reflection.
Many people, even Christians ask, “Why me?” when life brings them hardship, as though they expected to get a bed of roses for the entire duration of their lives. (They probably forget that roses have thorns, but anyway.)
For a long time I struggled with the notion that as followers of Christ we should be glad to suffer, even if the troubles we get are not necessarily persecutions per se.
Given what we know of the Prosperity Gospel and those who worship in the churches where it is preached, we know that not all Christians would easily accept a burden of mental illness for two reasons. First, they are still stigmatized (even in Reformed churches), and how much more so in churches where believers are told that if they fall ill they should pray and expect that God will cure whatever ails them. If they are not cured, fellow church members assume that their illness is their fault because either their faith is too weak or they have unconfessed sin in their lives.
Second, if one ends up with such a guilt trip when they need comfort, are they going to continue attending such a church? I’m not saying that God spares all Christians attending churches where the Prosperity Gospel is preached because, frankly, I don’t know, but if I had been worshipping at such a church and had been told my illness was my fault, I would have left and not necessarily for another church. How many believers have been driven to despair by such a foolish teaching anyway? I’m quite convinced that this pseudo-gospel is an invention of the devil anyway.
The point I want to get to is that when God chooses to allow someone to go through suffering, in general it’s an honor, and that’s why we should rejoice. He knows how you will respond to the trial, and how you can turn it into something positive—not alone, of course. When I stood on the riverbank on an evening in June 1987 contemplating suicide, He convinced me not to kill myself, because it would get better.
While I didn’t know what “better” meant back then or how long it would take for me to get better, I agreed to give it a try.