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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.
Image result for job and his friends
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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Avengers 2.0

Image result for the avengers infinity war

It’s been a long time coming, but it is finally here and I am so excited to share this piece with you. I love the MCU and this list isn’t exhaustive, but there enough to serve a purpose.

Captain America used to be the traditional legalistic one, but he realized that traditional thinking wouldn’t save his friend. Many of us have to go through the reality check of life, have our beliefs challenged, and have to do what Paul said and become all things to all people so that some may be saved. Our change in thinking, like Captain America, will cause people to look at us weird and ultimately we must separate ourselves, so that we may become all we were meant to be and reach those we couldn’t before. Nevertheless, when the time comes, we put our differences aside and rise to the task at hand.

Thor is the broken Christian who has endured so much rain in his life, loss after loss, struggle after struggle. Yet, the rain only strengthens him, and his anger builds persistence and perseverance, for he continues to avenge the Enemy from destroying anyone else without giving up on himself. Thor’s story speaks to those of us who can’t seem to get a break from life. We try so hard to stay face, but we struggle on the inside; we try so desperately to be strong but we are so broken, yet like Thor, every loss, every thunderstorm, reveals a higher level of the gifts God put inside of us. Our power then, delivers and liberates more people, just as Thor.

Iron Man is the believer whom the Lord humbled in order that he realize that it’s not all about him. Iron man Christians become so poor in spirit that they do whatever they can to reconcile, but become pious as Captain American Christians started off to be, but their heart is to keep others from making the same, if not bigger, mistakes than they did, when their ego creeps back up and they believe they know best. The safety net though, is the realization that we all have a different flavor in our worship and ministry, but the salt is the most important spice in our seasoning. The spiciness among the body may cause friction, but when the Chef blends us just right, we can take on alien armies.

Black Panther represents the Christian who is trying to find his own faith. It’s not that he doubts his faith, but life forced him to make it personal, make it real, which required him to break familial curses, finding his own strength. Those of us like this avenger, the Black Panther Christians, are just trying to make our mark in this world and fully understand the mantle the Lord has given us, which forces us to get out of the bubble we grew up in and allow God to do new things, greater still is that the Lord will place people around us to encourage us and hold us accountable to do better and be better.

Scarlett Witch represents one of those persons who have been blessed with heavy gifts, like seeing in the Spirit, but used it in darkness with out the apart from the Spirit. Because her gifts were so unique and so powerful, it caused others to fear her, misunderstand her, and shun her because of them, something that happens too often in the church. But, when this type of Christian gives her gifts over to the Lord, she not only finds her own freedom, demons tremble and the heaviest chains are broken. Most important, it is imperative that she surrounds herself with people who will encourage her and cover her with prayer, and angel armies will protect her.

The Hulk went from one extreme to the other. Originally he was ashamed and timid of the power and gift and did not embrace that which was within him. As we see his character develop, he was in a place where his gift was taken advantage of and his pride got the best of him and he actually lost who he was. He never lost his gifting, but he lost sight of what mattered and what his purpose was. Therefore, when an Enemy came that was bigger and stronger, he wasn’t prepared and he got scared. However, he is on the journey of rediscovering himself and we will wait and see what the Lord does.

Spiderman Christians are the newbies who have no idea about the Christian walk, but have the heart and desire to make a difference and be apart of God’s avenger team, making plenty of mistakes. What keeps this Christian from spiraling is a mentor, someone to come alongside him as Iron Man did, helping him grow and mature in Christ.

Gamora is the Christian who is just trying to escape her past, but around every corner is a reminder of her bondage. She has tried to reconcile, but her bitterness limited her ability to love, though she desired relationship, but we do see her growth and her strength. However, it’s her anger and inability to forgive that is her downfall, but thankfully, in Christ there is always restoration; He can reach down deep in the bottom of the pit through the thickest muck and darkness and lift us out.

Star-Lord is the guy who came to church because of a girl and found redemption. He experienced terrible loss and has yet to really deal with what happened in his past, so that when a similar situation occurs in his present, he loses focus, creating a heavier burden for those fighting with him. This Christian wants to be better, he just has to be more intentional and deliberate and not get in his own way, especially with his mouth.

Black Widow found her way. In my first avengers blog, she was the one working for her salvation. At this point, this lady avenger found her groove and though she still had some difficult decisions to make in her redemption journey, her heart was softened and she was able to love and receive love for the first time. She stopped working for salvation and accepted the gift, as one accepts God’s gift, and continued her work because she finally received and became confident in her salvation.

Dr. Strange is like the church usher who takes his job way too seriously. Granted, ushers are important and often times determine if a person returns to the church or not, but like Captain America, when these Christians recognize that people matter more than ministry, that love is more important than their gift, they are able to draw so many more people to the foot of the cross.

The White Wolf is the Christian that just needs some extra grace. He had a rough past that some church people won’t accept, but we must embrace him and remind him of God’s love. He wants to be please God and tries with all he’s got, but if we are deliberate enough to reach out and love him no matter what, this Christian will become a mighty force in the Kingdom, if we don’t we will lose him forever.

These individuals all have their unique strengths and unbecoming tendencies, however, we don’t have to be super rich or super smart to be a super hero, nor do we need some scientific enhancement, intentional or otherwise. We are superheroes when we allow God to use the little we are to do super things out of the regular things. We are of another world, like Gamora, and require training and discipline like Dr. Strange. and if we allow the Holy Spirit to transform us daily, our power and impact on the world around us will be far above what we could dream.

We are in fact avengers for those who have gone before us, avenging the world that was once perfect, but tainted by sin, ruled by Satan, and it’s the Holy Spirit presence that keeps the Enemy at bay, but there is still so much work to do; in one way or another we fight every single day. Just keep being you for a purpose, the superhero you already are.

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.

 

No Bones Broken

Wow! It’s been far too long since I have written or posted anything, so I am so glad to be here with you in this moment as you are read this. Thus, my prayer is that you are encouraged and likewise challenged by this blog.

Side note: A great portion of what I write comes from something I read in devotional, recreational, or educational books or texts, where I have taken a point and added my own twist or expounded on it. So, I just want to encourage you to read as much as you can, because there is so much out there to be consumed that you will inevitably grow, be stretched, mature, develop, and become a better person.

Nevertheless, this particular writing is based on a short conversation I had with a co-worker of mine. In a nutshell, she has been having issues with others on the job, almost to the point where she is ready to reach back and awaken the woman she was before she met Christ. As she was dropping me at the train station she told me that she was at her breaking point. And like clock work as I was getting out the car, I said to her, “if Jesus didn’t break any bones, you don’t have to break your temper.” I know for a fact that was nothing but God, because God tends to speak to me when I am speaking and or ministering or encouraging someone else; kind of like the after effects of devotions and readings I guess.

Extra side note: I have mentioned it before, but again, recognize and learn how the Lord tends to speak to you, whether to comfort, challenge, confirm, compel, or convict, that way it becomes easier to know and discern when He is speaking or otherwise. But of course, God speaks to us in various ways in different times and situations, so the worst thing you can do is put Him in a box, so just be sensitive to His voice.

Back to the point of this post. As I considered what I had said, it was so very humbling. Thinking of all that Jesus went through on our behalf, the ripping, tearing of skin, profuse bleeding, bruising, swelling, mocking, and spitting, yet he never broke. Old Testament prophesy told us none of his bones would be broken (Numbers 9:12; Psalm 34:20), but I believe that it goes deeper than the physical. I mean think about it. Jesus had every right and reason to be angry, yet he never responded to the insults hurled against him, let alone did he try to get himself out of being crucified. He didn’t break emotionally, mentally, or spiritually in that the purpose, promises, or love of God through his only son would be compromised. He saw his work completed all the way through and never said a word of rebuttal.

Wow.

As we live to be ourselves for a purpose, what an awesome reminder that despite the trials, storms, and persecutions we will experience, we don’t have to crack or break under pressure assuming the power and strength of the same active Holy Spirit that carried Jesus all the way to the cross. Yes, we will be scratched, bent, bruised, mocked, lied on, persecuted, made fun of, bet against, pained, pierced, and cut – mainly metaphorical but possibly literal – but because Jesus experienced it like us, if not exceedingly more, it doesn’t have to break us. None of those things should have the ability to break the formation of what God is calling us to be, but rather empower and compel us to fully carry out the plan that God has for our lives with the work of His Spirit in us.

No bones broken. Because Jesus didn’t break, and the same resurrection power that raised him up is inside of us, though we might bend, may we never break, less the full, rich, favored, and abundant life God wants to give us be forfeited or disrupted.

Goats and Sheep

Like any great piece of literature, as you read, it raises questions and makes you want to learn about the information that is not written to understand why it was written, that’s why we take classes, have book clubs, and participate in Bible studies. We are drawn to what is not there, not so much of secret or subliminal messages, but understanding what was said and why in its respective contexts, adding to the beauty and color, as well as deeper significance and meaning. On the other hand it opens up mysteries that the author wanted to hide,  demanding the reader or listener to seek out, which is often what we see in the parables Jesus told. Now there are many, but there is one in Matthew that has always baffled me.

Apart from the parable itself, I’ve heard it referenced in other settings and wondered what the difference is between goats and sheep. So I got the bright idea to look it up after reading it fairly recently in my devotion. If you aren’t familiar, long story short sheep go to Heaven and goats burn in Hell, but why? From the outside looking in, they are very similar in how they look and operate, maksheep-and-goatse similar sounds, and even move well together, but as you move past the surface you begin to see that they are quite opposite animals indeed. As I learned, it comes down to this one thing, sheep are dependent and goats are independent.

If you notice Christians are likened to sheep, just as much as Jesus to a lamb. Why? Because we follow. Every move a sheep makes is based on that of the shepherd, on whom it depends for everything. For example, the sheep rely on the shepherd fully for food and protection, and even if the destination is the slaughterhouse, the sheep will still follow to the end, just as Christ did for us. Thus, because sheep, Christ-followers, have made the choice to puSheep_and_goatt their dependence in God, placing their very life in the Shepherd’s hand, they receive Heaven’s reward. Okay, so what about the goat?

Generally speaking, goats can move with the sheep herd, but they aren’t followers. Instead, they tend to be stubborn at times and do whatever they want when they want, and we see people like this every day who have not surrendered their life [totally] to Christ for whatever reason, and desire to live how they choose and do what they want, good or bad. In the parable, the goats are the ones that burn. Whoa!

In our culture, the focus is often independence and doing what we feel, but the life of Christian is about dying to self daily. Still, even as a Christian we lose sight of that and fall into goat-like behaviors, depending on our own abilities, resources, talents, money, education, etc., when truthfully we should be living as if our very next breathe depends solely on God, because it does. Being you for a purpose means that every word, thought, and deed is guided and directed by the great Shepherd, the only one who is really worth following into a place of infinite possibilities, and the only way to Heaven.