I am continuing my Mental Health Series by focusing in on things which the Bible has to say to all of us that are perhaps of particular relevance to those with mental health. I urge us to let the church be the church and offer everyone the help the Bible offers, whilst simultaneously encouraging seeking medical help.
Today I want to address a question most of us have asked from time to time when facing suffering, the “Why me?” question. Certainly many who have experienced the devastation a mental illness can bring in its wake will have asked this question. Today I simply want to focus on one answer that the Apostle Paul gives to that question. Alone this does not provide all the answers, but it IS a hope-instilling truth.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. (2 Corinthians 1:3-9)
There are a number of points we can draw out of this passage
1. The source of Comfort When suffering, there is a promise in this passage that God desires to comfort us. In the middle of the greatest pain and turmoil, God can and will break in and strengthen and console us in the middle of our difficulties. He does this not as a detached observer, but as someone who both feels our pain and has himself suffered. Because Christ suffered, he understands and will comfort us.2. The purpose of comfort God brings us through trials, and comforts us in them, so that we will be equipped to comfort others when they are in any kinds of trials. It is no wonder Rick Warren recently tweeted, “Advice on suffering from one who’s never suffered deeply is always shallow, stale, and unconvincing.
This is gloriously liberating. When our gaze is directed only at ourselves and we wonder why we are suffering, God would have us lift our gaze first to him, and then to realize that he has surrounded us with people who can help us receive the comfort he wants to give us, and others who we ourselves will be able to help as a direct result of the painful situation we are going through.
3. The results of comfort
- Comfort does not always take away the affliction, and can even be accompanied by great despair
- Comfort produces patient endurance
- Comfort is accompanied by an unshaken hope
- Comfort removes our reliance on ourselves, and replaces it with a reliance on “the God who raises the dead”
Prayer is one of the direct causes of this divine comfort. But this passage is a charter for us to share the comfort we have received with others. This is one of the reasons for the way this series will progress from now on. I have scoured the internet for lists of Bible verses that have helped others with mental illness, as well as verses that I think helpful I will be sharing some of these comforting verses with you over the coming weeks.
But verses alone are not enough. What is needed is the personal comfort that can only be provided by someone who has been through the test of suffering and come out with their faith strengthened. The tools that the Bible gives us in glorious strengthening verses can be mishandled by the insensitive. The very verses that are meant as a refuge in the wrong hands become a bludgeon that makes the guilt of the suffering greater. This is why we must all pray to God that we will become wise in the way we share comfort with others. Actually, often, such comfort doesn’t at least initially require words. But, words are necessary down the line.
So I pray that you will be strengthened by God and granted wisdom so that you can help others. I also pray that you will have your eyes opened to those around you that can help you too.