We both love how Matthew has taken the concept of sin and given a breath of fresh air to the topic. You must read this book because in its pages you will finally gain a biblical perspective on sin and what it takes to free yourself from the bonds that so easily entangle!

Gary and Michael Smalley
Smalley Relationship Center
When mental illness afflicts a loved one, how can we understand what is happening and respond appropriately? This biblically-literate and scientifically-informed book offers helpful insight, encouragement, and practical advice. For pastors and for those who hurt for those who hurt, Matthew Stanford offers sensitive and welcome guidance.

David G. Myers, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology, Hope College and author of Psychology Through the Eyes of Faith.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Speaking the Truth

If you are like me, there have been times in your life in which you have allowed your circumstances to define the character of God for you. When times are good, He is a great and loving God. During difficult times, He is distant and uncaring. Stress, guilt, fear, grief, anger and suffering can all cause us to lose sight of the true nature and character of God. The Bible gives us several examples of this: overcome by shame and guilt as a result of their sin, Adam and Eve try to physically hide from God (Genesis 3:8); in his overwhelming pain and suffering, Job begins to believe that God is punishing him unjustly (Job 9:2); driven by anger, Jonah believes he can alter God’s plan by physically running away (Jonah 1:3); fearing for his own life, Peter denies Christ three times (Matthew 26:69-75). These are all examples of misunderstanding the true nature of God.

In my own life, this circumstance-altered view of God became most apparent after my wife had a miscarriage during our second pregnancy. Julie was overcome by grief, and she was angry at God. How could He allow such a thing to happen? For my part, the person who I looked to most as an example of living a life submitted to God was now questioning God’s sovereignty. Where did that leave me? I wanted to understand what had happened. Was the fetus truly a child? Was he or she now with God? What about my wife, was she losing her faith? I was drawn into the Word, and God dramatically changed me. More than ever, I began to recognize His providence in all things and see His faithfulness and love for those He has called His children. God was also faithful to Julie. He ministered to her through cards and notes from friends, through meals brought out of compassion and through a simple red rose. She saw His faithfulness daily and over time she began to see Him again for who He truly is, the sovereign God of the universe who loves her.

Even under normal conditions, we far too often fall into this trap. But imagine for a moment that your mind has been altered by a mental disorder. You question your own thoughts and feelings as to whether they are true. You behave in ways that seem contrary to who you are. Why would God allow this? Does He hear me? Does He care? Does He even exist? Those suffering with a mental illness, like all of us, need to be reminded of the truth. We must be there to lift up Christ, and He will draw them to Himself (John 12:32). While every person struggling with a mental illness is different, I have found that generally, people who are suffering have one main spiritual issues for which they are seeking an answer, Where is God in my suffering?

The Bible records a powerful example of how not to minister to a person who is suffering. We find it in the book of Job, and our bad examples are Job’s friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. These three men traveled a great distance to comfort their suffering friend (Job 2:11). When they first see him, they are overcome with grief (Job 2:12) and are silently present with him in his suffering for seven days. These men were truly Job’s friends, and they wanted the best for him. They wanted to see their friend healed and restored. Unfortunately, their own misguided views of God lead them to verbally assault Job. Their words did not help Job’s situation, but only brought him pain and confusion. Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar wanted to fix Job. In one sense they wanted their friend to be healed, in another, his prolonged suffering made them question the very nature of God. Even though Job suffered greatly he had prepared himself for the trail long before it ever happened by building an intimate relationship with the Father (Job 29:4). The scriptures tell us he was blameless and upright (Job 1:1), a man who feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1). His friends were not as well prepared, their view of God was limited and their relationship with Him was superficial. In the end, God was angered at the three for not speaking the truth about Him to Job (Job 42:7). I believe that we have the same call in situations in which we minister to those who are suffering with mental illness, speak the truth about Him.

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