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Mental Health: A Case Study on Job

I have fallen in love with the book of Job and all the layers of what seems to be two or three weeks of conversations involving God, Satan, Job, Job’s three friends, and my main man Elihu. Most people are familiar with the story of Job, but going through this tremendous book, the Lord has shown me so many things, specifically as it applies to mental health. Before we look at Job, let’s look at Job’s three friends, then Elihu.
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The ministry of presence is a real thing, and we see it in Job 2. One of the best things that they did for him was just be around and mourn with him, not rush to say anything to Job, and just be with him. This is so critical for us to understand as we coming alongside friends and family who are going through, because more times than we realize, they rather than a response, they need presence. Just be there. Furthermore, they let Job speak first. They did not bust out the gate with questions or even “comforting” words. His friends allowed him to open up when he was ready. We must do the same. However…things took a turn.
His friends started off strong, but then bombed. They waited for Job to speak first, but didn’t listen, hurting him more on top of the pain he was already feeling. Job unapologetically poured his sorrow and anguish out to them and they responded to him saying it was his fault. Not a good idea. Job defended himself multiple times, but his friends were not sensitive, nor did they listen to what Job was trying to communicate to them. Granted, I believe that his friends genuinely wanted to help, but were relying on their own wisdom and understanding rather than God’s. Therefore, whenever we try to help, we must ask the Lord for discernment and direction so that we don’t make things worse and or come off arrogant and pious like Job’s friends. Although, any friendship or close relationship will have challenges, for even if we follow God and say and do what He tells us, it’s not unlikely that the other person won’t get upset with you. God’s truth is like a double-edged sword, so by nature, someone’s feelings will be hurt.
Furthermore, what I think was most hurtful is that not only were they not listening to Job, but they really thought the worst of him. It wasn’t even that they were speaking bad theology, but that it was executed so wrong. Furthermore, they were so closed-minded that they couldn’t even process the fact that all of what Job experienced had nothing to do with his sin; they had a very small and shallow view of God, which is why they considered him foolish. As a result, when your mental space is in a vulnerable place, be very careful of the people you allow to speak into your life, even if they do present Scripture, God may not actually be speaking to you through them.
Let’s look at Job’s mental status in all this.
Job was severely distressed, depressed, and though he wasn’t suicidal, he made it known that he wished he wasn’t and dreaded the day he was born. Job was not afraid to acknowledge his emotions and had a support system where he believed he could release. To engage in such a long conversation with his friends, it was obvious that they were close and that Job knew he needed help dealing with his pain. Whenever we go through, we have to acknowledge our pain and find a place to express it. If we ignore, deny, or suppress it, it makes it worse. Get help, even if you think you can handle it on your own, talk to someone you trust.
However, one of the mistakes Job made was allowing his friends to hear his personal prayer to God amidst their negative position. There is a reason we should have a “prayer closet”; it’s personal. God knows our hearts and His goal is not to condemn us nor to make us feel guilty, so it’s makes sense that Job was sure enough of his relationship with the Lord that he was not afraid to tell God how he felt toward Him, ask questions, and express his woes. He took his mask off before God; he was honest to God about all that was going on in his heart and mind. None of his wise friends understood exactly what was taking place.
Moreover, though Job was greatly depressed, overwhelmed, and felt completely alone, including his strained relationship with his wife, which he mentioned after the epic “curse God and die” scene, he never lost sight of who he was and who God is. Even though he was in the most unfavorable place, he knew it was not his fault and that God allowed these things to happen to him, but he couldn’t figure out why, yet he still worshiped.
To keep us from going over the edge, me must first recognize that whatever happens to us has been permitted by God, even if we don’t have any reasoning, and then worship and praise our way all the way through. Job remembered the sovereignty and power of God. Furthermore, he reminded his friends several times who God was and became frustrated with them, if not angry, and let them know more than once that he was not inferior to him and that their stance on his situation was wrong. He was secure in who he was, refusing to agree with what they were saying to him, so at one point he told them to shut up and leave him be with God, because by then they were useless (Nia’s version); he shamed them for being crappy friends several times. Needless to say, his friends did not like when he challenged their approach, which created most of the friction.
As we battle in our minds, our foundation in the Lord must remain firm, because our peace will flow when we are able to distinguish God’s voice from all others. If there is any disagreement in the voices we hear around us, choose God’s voice always, whether He is telling us to simply trust Him or He is humbling us, as He did with Job.
Job’s mistake was that his questioning of God became self-righteousness, which I believe was a deviation of his frustration and self-pity. He allowed his friends to focus so much on himself that he took his focus off God trying to prove his righteousness to them. In trying to defend his name, he made God out to be the bad guy as the dialogue continued. Nevertheless, his saving grace was his boldness to go before God and get the clarity he needed.
One of the biggest lessons we can take from Job to keep us from losing control mentally is to have such a relationship with God that we are not afraid to ask God big questions and be completely honest with the holy and righteous Creator of the universe. He boldly went to the throne repeatedly and expected God to respond at some point, which He did. God wants to know what’s on your heart and wants to converse with you. Share with Him all your cares, frustrations and uncertainties. Disclaimer – there are better ways to approach God than the way Job did, which made this last character in the story we will talk about so important.
My main man Elihu.
I wrote a blog on him previously, but his role in this narrative is vital. Elihu was the friend we all need. He listened, not for the sake of replying, like Job’s other three friends, but to truly understand their perspectives, proven by how he repeated what was said as he stated his points. He sat quietly for a while, but when God burdened his spirit he boldly opened his mouth, and he spoke the truth in love. He showed no partiality and refocused everyone’s on God. Elihu respected and honored who they were, and was not judgmental, condemning, or belittling, instead he was confident in the truth communicated to him by God. Furthermore, he shared his intentions with them before sharing his thoughts. Elihu is the hero of the story, because he indeed prepared the way for God to speak, since He made it clear God pays no mind to foolish talking like that which came from Job’s friends and then Job himself. God gracefully used Elihu to soften the heart of Job in order that he may properly receive what God wanted to directly say to him.
As we are in relationship with others who are battling in one way or another, we shouldn’t be afraid of the truth, rather speak it boldly in love, otherwise, we are doing a great disservice. If the truth that we communicate does not point back to Christ, then what we say is not truth as much as it is flattery or ignorance.
This is an incredible story that brings to life so many of the things we deal with daily. Job, Elihu, and his other three friends are personas that have manifested in our lives on I am sure multiple occasions. So much to glean and so much to learn that will influence out mental behavior if we allow it.
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When It Counts the Most

Doing a lot of character studies, it occurred to me recently that I have never did one on Jesus. I have read through the Gospels, but never actually focused on the character of Christ. So, I took on the challenge only to realize that it was four books to go through, each presenting our Lord in a different way. Needless to say, I am only about halfway through Matthew and there is already an overwhelming amount of the character of Jesus that I can pick out and desire to imitate like no other person in Scripture that I have studied. There are plenty of books and literature on the person of Jesus Christ, and this post is in no way meant to summarize who Jesus was, rather what I gleaned from one chapter.

One of the things I love most is the genuine emotion of Christ, lead by his focused mission. He was intentional with everything he said and did; he was intentional in where he went, when he went, and when he left, yet, he was far from one-dimensional, which is what we see in Matthew 14. In this chapter is the famed story of the feeding of the five thousand, but it is before the fish and loaves that brings an extra dynamic. Jesus had been ministering for some time to the people and interacting with the Pharisees and scribes, healing, teaching, confronting, and all that jazz when there is a shift of attention. At this point, John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin was locked up, which we learn in chapter 11, and because John confronted Herod about his relationship with his sister-in-law, Herod wanted him dead, but it was his sister-in-law who actually saw his death come to pass. Jesus found out.

Considering who John was to Jesus by family and in ministry, we can only imagine how devastated Jesus was when he was told what happened to his cousin. To grieve, Jesus got on a boat privately and went to be by himself. Nevertheless, he had compassion on the people who followed him to wherever he was going. Let’s pause here and think about this. If you had just lost a close family member within a day’s time, it’s not weird for you to want to get by yourself to process the situation and cry, and the last thing you want is for a whole bunch of people to come around you who only want something from you or want you to do something for them, especially if they knew what had happened, you would consider them inconsiderate jerks. Now we don’t know for sure if the people knew Jesus’ cousin had just died, but it is very possible at least some of them did, but perhaps they saw Jesus as a superhero who doesn’t have vulnerable moments, so they didn’t really think anything of taking advantage of Jesus being alone. Perhaps, that is why Jesus showed compassion.

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I have heard it in a similar fashion before, but ministering counts most when you don’t want to; it matters most when you have to go out of your way. If I was in a similar situation, I would have cussed them out in my mind and turned right back around in my boat and went somewhere no one could find me, or I would have told them straight up to get away from me and come back later when I felt like being bothered. But by God’s grace, Jesus is not me or you and that is not what he did. He put himself on the back burner and showed love at its finest. We see the precious humility and grace of our Lord so much in so that he stayed with them for hours that same day and his compassion and selflessness led to one Jesus’ greatest miracle, the feeding of the 15,000.

As an encouragement to us, the more we take ourselves out of it, the more miracles we can witness, and we can trust that God will allow us the time we need to breathe and regroup with Him, for it was after the miracle that Jesus took the opportunity to get away and spend time in the presence of God in prayer. How awesome is it that Jesus knew he needed supernatural strength to continue his journey. He was fully human and wise enough to know he needed fellowship with his Father. Likewise, God knows what we need and when we need it, even if we need time and space to be alone, as did Jesus, and sometimes He knows it before we do and creates a situation that forces us to get by ourselves. Thus, we must trust that He doesn’t play with our heart and with our emotions, and when we are obedient, He makes sure we get Heaven’s best, refreshed and renewed to continue being ourselves for His purpose.

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At the closing of the chapter, we see another famed account as the day continued. After Jesus received what he needed at the mountainside, he went to be with the disciples, but they were too far off in rocky waters, so he decided to go out and meet them by walking on the water. Something special happens when you meet with God, things start happening that you have to step back and people will be wondering what is going on, as did the disciples, and all you will be able to say is, “to God be the glory.” It is then we see the power of the God in us, because in verse 32 we read that as soon as Jesus got in the boat, the winds stopped. He didn’t say a word, they just stopped. The disciples neither mentioned it nor asked Jesus to calm them like he did in chapter 8. Still, when Jesus got in, the winds stopped. How incredible is that?

If you are like me, there are times that you really don’t want to be bothered, whether you have a good reason or not, but it’s in chapter 14 we see the heart of our Lord as an example of choosing to love people and put their needs above our own with God’s wisdom and discernment. The more we show God’s love, the more miracles we can be a part of and experience.

A Dark Fresh Start

I have read Ruth a few times and I know the majority are familiar with it, for you often hear women talk about meeting their Boaz and how like him, Christ is our kinsman-redeemer. My focus here though is in the beginning where we learn about the matriarch of the story, Naomi, who lost her husband first, then her two sons and back in those times, that meant that she pretty much lost her livelihood. What is your livelihood? Family? Career? Business? A talent? A dream? Times are different now, but there are things that make us who we are and like Naomi we get comfortable and believe nothing could go wrong. However, everything that could go wrong went wrong.

First, it is interesting that Naomi and her family went to Moab, because Israel and Moab did not have a friendly Image result for naomi and ruthrelationship and God had plenty to say about them throughout their history as well. Both Naomi and her husband were Israelites, but they left the people of God because of a famine and went and settled in unfamiliar territory for help where they probably should never have gone. Nevertheless, one can assume they didn’t trust God to keep His people in hard times, granted their story falls in the middle of when there was no king in Israel and people did whatever they wanted. Although, in the midst of all that happened, she was left with her two daughter-in-laws and was forced to go back home, learning that God was helping His people.

Naomi was a survivor and took whichever chance she had to keep her life in good standing, but it seems that she needed God to prove Himself to her that He could take care of her, and even after she returned home, she still wasn’t convinced. Not only had she changed her name from “pleasant” to “bitter,” but she made it known that God had let her down, and initially she wasn’t that fond of Ruth going back with her as if she wanted to sulk alone. Furthermore, she claimed that when she left home she was full, but it was the Lord who emptied her (and other lovely verbs), suggesting that she had no other expectations of God’s work in her situation than mere existence. But in fact, God had other plans.

By definition, you can’t blame Naomi or her family for the decisions they made and many of us have done the same thing. We make decisions in life, without ever really consulting or trusting God, even the “good” ones; we go with the flow without looking at things with spiritual eyes and we fill ourselves up and we lose focus on God’s plans, if we ever really knew what they were in the first place. This very thing happened to me. I never actually considered what God wanted for me vocationally, including my college studies, and it took a pouring out for me to get aligned; I had to be emptied. The Lord had to break me and take away my dream, my livelihood, of what I thought I was going to do with my life in order to open my eyes for His greater purpose, and by God’s grace, what I studied and experienced in school and other pieces of my life that seemed irrelevant fell in line with what He called me to do. Though, it was only His Spirit that could have revealed it to me, and I haven’t looked back.

For Naomi, she was bitter and had low-expectations, but little did she know that with all that had happened, the pieces of her past would bring her the greatest victory. Not only was Naomi apprehensive about Ruth, but it was the Lord who called Ruth, the Moabitess, into the lineage of the Lord Jesus. I can’t imagine that either of them knew God’s full plan, but Naomi was the first to notice things happening on their behalf when Ruth went to work, and hence, met Boaz. They were just trying to survive, but God chose them to change history.

Sometimes we have to start fresh when we get in dark places and go back to where we know God is, like when we have our “mountain top experiences” and we connect with God and lay our hearts out before Him, and ironically, Bethlehem, Naomi’s home, is in the mountains. So often we have to be broken and emptied in order for the Lord to build and fill us up again, which means whenever we get to the place where God is in our lives, we should live in high expectation that God will give us victory and conform our life to His best, which is always far greater than our own. In the same manner, we must ask for discernment and spiritual eyes so that we can recognize when God is moving in our lives in even the smallest ways, and if you are like me, I get so excited when I begin to see God working in the unnoticeable small ways, because I know that He is setting me up for something that is above I can hope for or imagine. So, as you be yourself for a purpose, if the Lord takes or is taking you through a breaking and pouring out season, let Him. By continually surrendering and letting the process happen, you are allowing God to pour back into you and fill you up with Heaven’s best.

 

John Mark

It’s definitely safe to say that Acts is now one of my favorite books in Scripture. There are so many characters at play and it is really so exciting, yet it makes me mad at the same time, because I desire to see the work of the Spirit more frequently in the [Western] church and believers to be used by God in the magnificent ways that He used the apostles. But that is another post altogether. Subsequently, there is one character that I want to point out that appears a couple times in Acts, then resurfaces a few more times in Paul’s epistles. His name is John Mark.

When we first meet John Mark, we learn of his mother, a Christian woman who lodged Peter after he escaped prison. Afterward, he goes off with Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey, which is when the story gets interesting. We learn about two chapters later that John Mark decided to go back home, for reasons unknown. I have heard many say that it was because he found the work too hard and or it was more involved than he realized, but there is also the possibility that he went back home to care for his mother, whichever reason it was, we don’t know for sure. Nevertheless, his departure caused a split between Paul and Barnabas (his cousin) later on; Barnabas wanted to welcome him back and bring him along on the missionary journey, but Paul wasn’t having it, thus Barnabas and his cousin went in one direction and Paul another.

So, what’s the point.

After considering the reactions of Paul and Barnabas, I can understand why each felt the way they did and can’t say either of them was wrong for their choice. As we deal with people in living out our purpose, we must not only recognize that people don’t always think like us or agree with us,  and like Barnabas our perspectives can be influenced as well by family. Again, this doesn’t mean that we are right or wrong, however, this story does compel us to develop not only wisdom and discernment, but compassion and patience as well when dealing with people, because even though John Mark’s reason for leaving them was deemed inexcusable, it teaches us that sometimes people just aren’t ready for what we hope or don’t see themselves as we see them. For, John didn’t leave the faith, as some assume, he left his assignment. Unfortunately, people will walk away for one reason or another, and we have the choice to trust them should they return or leave them, which is when discerning the voice of God comes into play.

Ultimately, we see that both Paul and Barnabas did what they thought was right, and God honored them both, even though they were separated for a time; whatever work Barnabas did with John paid off because not only did he end up in prison alongside Paul some years later, but Paul had also requested his presence in ministry, validating his value in the work of the Lord.

It’s not clear in Scripture when exactly Paul and Barnabas and John Mark all reunited, but the Spirit was obviously present in the development of their relationship. The point I desire to make in all of this is that God is one of reconciliation and restoration, in His timing and His way, and he does allow the people we work with to come in and out of our lives for seasons, but that doesn’t mean we stop praying for them or condemn their choices because of  a difference of opinion. Furthermore, some individuals do require extra grace and extra encouragement as they are figuring their way out and trying to honor the Lord and do what He has purposed for them to do, and if God has called us to extend that grace, then we must, because we never know what blessings we may forfeit if we turn someone away who disappointed us. How many times have we failed or disappointed God and He still keeps His arms open? But again, our journey may require us to not allow someone in our close space to protect us and protect them, like Paul, but if the Lord brings you back together, we must trust Him.

To be honest, I don’t know if this made sense. A lot was going through my mind when the Lord first illuminated John Mark’s story to me, and I wanted to get it all out before I forgot. I may come back and add to this blog so come back here in a week to check lol. Nonetheless, I think this disciple’s story reflects so many of us and those we know who aren’t ready to walk in their calling, especially if it connected with our own, but God’s grace is sufficient, so we must be mindful and not discourage those who decide to take time to do work through their things, because when God burden’s their heart enough and that fire is finally lit inside of them, the demons in Hell will tremble.

People are interesting and relationships are complex when you mix personalities and personal experiences together, and that’s what makes this race we run so beautiful, because each variation of our colors and beauty creates a breathtaking reflection of the glory of God. So, with wisdom and discernment, compassion and patience, be yourself for a purpose.

The Israelites: A Special Kind of Love

Over the last two years, the love of God has perplexed and overwhelmed me. I mean, like really. How can anyone love me that much and invest so much in me, and continually welcome me back when I fail and miss the mark time after time? How can someone love me past my pain and my insecurities, past my faults and disloyalty, past my wicked heart and my selfish ways? For real. A love so deep that vows to restore and heal. It’s interesting that the Spanish word for ‘deep’ is profundo, which looks a lot like the English word ‘profound.’ The idea of profound is something that goes beyond one’s normal thinking and understanding. Therefore, God’s love is so profound that it goes beyond our finite comprehension. His love is so unique and so pure that nothing can separate us from His love; it is unconditional, specifically to those of us who surrender our lives to Him. In the Bible we see words like everlasting, eternal, true, perfect, and never failing used to describe His love for His children. How insane is it that I can always count on God to love me and hold His arms out no matter what. Granted that does not give me the right to take that love for granted or assume the Lord won’t show tough love when necessary, hence the Israelites.

Throughout the various studies and readings, especially in the Old Testament, the depth of God’s love is demonstrated by His commitment to the Israelites, His chosen people. Reading through the prophets, the lives of their kings, and even when they first came out of Egypt, the Israelites were trippin. Just in a book like Hosea, one of the tribes were accused of having a spirit of prostitution. What?! Furthermore, good kings were few and far between, for most of the kings of Judah and Israel were terrible and got progressively worse from one to the next, and the people tended to follow the leadership. God on so many occasions threatened them in many ways and claimed that He would turn away from them, and He often made good on His word, and as I read His words in Scripture, I imagine His fed up, rolling His eyes and smh face, so much that I wouldn’t be surprised if He cussed them out on multiple occasions (no He didn’t, let me be clear), because the Israelites put their God through so much crap for centuries. My brother wrote a poem some years ago called, “Thank God I’m not God,” or something similar and that poem is ridiculously accurate just looking at the relationship between Yahweh and the Israelites, because I know for a fact that if I was God, I would have walked away and never looked back.

But that’s why I can’t be God.

Even though the Lord disciplined them, sometimes severely – they were wilin’ – they never had to wonder if God loved them, because He was slow to anger and His anger did not last long, and He always reminded them of who they were and of the covenant He made with their fathers. He was quick to restore and to redeem and desired to bestow His awesome favor upon them when they got their lives together. (There were many good years in between the not so good.)

The more I read, the more I study, the less I understand the love of God. It’s so…indescribable. How can a God that big, love little ole’ me that much? I have nothing to offer Him that He needs or could make His living better or more meaningful; He needs to depend on me for absolutely nothing, but I need Him just to write this blog. He has every reason and right to be distant, short-tempered, and arrogant, but in His flawless character, He chooses to be jealous for my love and chose to give His life in order to prove to me how much He desired me and wanted to have a relationship with me. I am on the verge of tears writing this, because I am just considering how great His love really is and how undeserving of it I am, but His love is mercy and grace, just as it was with the Israelites, for as He chose them to be His people, He chose me before time began to be His daughter, just like He chose you to be His child. He loves you and He loves me because He said He would. Be you for a purpose and bask in the big, strong, special kind of love that will carry you through the fires and deep drowning waters of your life, even if you set the fire or jumped in the pool yourself.