spiritual life

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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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.