Mental illness is a difficult topic for just about everyone. People who don’t have mental illnesses don’t understand what it is like to endure the kind of suffering that comes with mental illnesses. People who don’t have physical disabilities or disabilities of any kind don’t understand what it is like for people who have disabilities. People who don’t get physically ill very often don’t know what it’s like to have a weakened immune system.
It’s quite easy for them to say that God is punishing you or that you didn’t have enough faith or didn’t meet some requirement and that’s why you’re sick- physically or mentally. It’s much harder for someone to empathize with someone whose experiences in life are so drastically different from their own. Things are easier for them and they can’t fathom things that they do every day without thinking being difficult or nearly impossible for people who have a chronic physical or mental health condition.
God creates miracles every single day. The sun shining in the morning. The moon glowing at night. These miracles give us light, and sure, they can be explained by science, but that doesn’t have to take God out of the equation! God created science! God created the birds of the sky, the fish of the water, and light and energy and herbs and plants! All of these things are things that God created for you and me and everyone else on this planet to enjoy and care for as stewards of this place we call home.
Sometimes, God does perform miracles to cure diseases and save our lives when it isn’t His Will for us to die. Sometimes, He will answer our prayers by removing the thorns pricking our sides, but sometimes He won’t take them away.
It’s so very easy to throw your hands in the air and wail about how God doesn’t love you or you wouldn’t be suffering. It’s so very easy for people who don’t have a chronic condition or disability to declare with derision that you just need to try harder, work harder, pray harder, believe harder. It’s so easy to lose faith and to lose hope that God is even listening. Giving up is so easy.
But God never promised that our lives would be easy. In fact, there are many times in the Bible where Christ and the apostles tell us point-blank that our lives are going to be hard. It wasn’t sugar-coated in platitudes and promises that we would never be sick if we just pray hard enough. The truth of the matter is this: because we have chosen to follow Jesus Christ, we are going to suffer. We would have suffered if we didn’t choose to follow Jesus, but it would have been different.
We are guaranteed to suffer whether or not we believe in Christ, but those who believe have hope in Christ because He promised to return for us to take us out of this world and to give us an eternity in peace with Him.
So, if God loves us, why does He allow us to suffer like this? Why does He allow us to get sick or to stay sick for the rest of our lives?
God Uses Suffering to Teach Us.
Suffering- physical and mental or emotional- is a tool that God uses to teach us and shape us into the people He meant for us to become. He doesn’t want to hurt us. He allows things to happen to us that may be unpleasant so that we can learn valuable lessons from them which make us better people, better Christians, and better examples for others in our lives.
1Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. 6For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
God Uses Suffering to Strengthen Us and Our Relationship with Him.
God made me who I am today by allowing me to endure difficult situations from growing up with my mother who had schizophrenia to coping with anxiety and major depression. With each difficult experience, I have been made stronger. I have grown by the grace of God and now I can help others who have been through similar situations. I can show them that no matter how bad things get, eventually things will get better.
Our lives ultimately may be short and full of trouble, as stated in the book of Job, but God wants us to rely on Him and to trust Him. He provides for all of our needs according to His will. Paul describes in his second letter to the Corinthians “a thorn in the flesh,” which troubled him. He prayed over and over again for God to take this suffering from him, to give him a happier life, but God didn’t. Why?
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Like many others, I have wondered and asked myself (and a close confidant) “why are things still so hard? I have done everything I can to cope. I take my medicine as prescribed, I have chosen to try a different path in my life because the paths I had been walking just didn’t feel right, and I pray to and trust God to provide for me. Why aren’t things better? Why am I still suffering? Why do I still have my anxiety and depression?”
And at the time, I was on the verge of tears, because I wanted, more than anything, for God to take the proverbial thorn out of my side. I needed the verse I quoted above more than I realized at the time. “My grace is sufficient for thee” can be a hard pill to swallow because no one wants to suffer. I don’t want to suffer. Paul didn’t want to suffer. Even Job questioned God and asked why he was allowed to suffer everything he did.
God Uses Suffering to Help Us Empathize With Others.
Ultimately, in this life, we are going to suffer. We will get sick. Some of us will get sick with chronic conditions that will never go away. Some of us will have medical conditions from birth that we have to face every single day. We will get hurt physically and emotionally. Through these unpleasant events, experiences, and conditions in our lives, God teaches us to empathize with others. It is one way that God makes us equals to each other.
Have you ever talked with a friend or loved one about something unpleasant you experienced and then got comfort from them saying “me, too?” Admitting our sufferings, trials, and experiences to one another opens the door to healing, comfort, and empathy for one another.
We will suffer. There will never be a time before Christ returns for His children in which there is no suffering in this life. But we can help one another through suffering and God will comfort us through our suffering.
To be quite honest, I feel quite inadequate in writing this post. I honestly feel like nothing I’ve really said here is enough. It’s tempting to just not share this at all, but I know that these are things that need to be said and I know that this is the kind of thing that I needed to hear many times in my life. Even though I feel uncertain about it, I am sharing this anyway, because God will use this in His way, even if I haven’t covered this topic completely enough or am otherwise insufficient in expressing what He has placed on my heart. This post went through like three different titles as the Holy Spirit moved me in a direction that was completely different than the direction I was going in when I started writing this post weeks ago. Yes, this post has been in my drafts for almost a month.
All of that being said, I have collected a few blog posts and articles that I will be linking below that will further illustrate the points I have tried to make here. Hopefully, these links will help.