Apologetics: ə-pŏl'ə-jĕt'ĭks from the Greek απоλоγία Def: The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines.

In Other Words, "It's Good to be Afflicted. . ." (Ps. 119:71)

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 18 November 2008

“And I don’t regret the rain,
And the nights I felt the pain,
And the tears I had to cry

some of those times along the way.
Every road I had to take,
Every time my heart would break
-It was just something that I had to get through
To get me to you…”
As sung by Lila McCann,
“To Get Me To You” [Hope Floats Soundtrack]

What a tragedy that the trials in our lives as women often become the occasion for complaining, mourning, depression, despair . . . a time of writing emotional poetry, posting our melancholy on our blog for all the world to see --- a time of basically seeking the attention and validation of others through it.

A bold, audacious, presumptuous statement?

Yes. Probably. . . . But it holds much more truth than most of us care to admit.

The world in which we live has become so obsessed with getting out from under the pressure of unhappiness and despair when we come to a season of melancholy that we fully overlook God’s Word rather than go through what His Word tells us should be a source of joy!

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
~ James 1:2-4

The main reason that Biblical Christianity is so drastically distorted today in order to “sell” it is because people want to escape suffering and weakness.

While TRUE Christianity offers power to ENDURE weakness. And – in fact --encourages it!

"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your Word. . . . It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees
~ Psalm 119:67, 71

Here’s the thinking of the Twenty First Century:

Nobody should have to endure suffering. It's not good to be afflicted; and if we're talking about deep psychological issues -- the deep pains of life, the deep profound disappointments and the multifaceted anxieties that come with it -- we certainly can’t give shallow answers. We need proven results to quickly address the issues.

Uhh. . . Maybe. . .

So. . . if we’re talking about deep psychological things, we’ve got to turn away from the Scripture because the Bible is only good for a sort-of historical and cursory look at things. If you really want to deal specifically with the deep hurts of life, you've got to turn to psychology, and psychiatry and therapy and counseling and even medication. Spiritual matters take time. We need to "fill-in" the lack of knowledge the Bible has on the issues of pain and suffering with human insight and wisdom because pain needs to be dealt with and eliminated. Quickly!

WRONG! I totally disagree. And so does God's Word.

As bizarre as this sounds, a great number of Christians have bought into it! And most evangelical churches do put across the idea that the majority of serious problems facing Christians today are beyond the realm of the spiritual and therefore the realm of God's Grace. AND that suffering is not part of God's will for our lives.

For whatever reason, we are told today that our problems are simply beyond the touch of the Great Physician/Wonderful Counsellor and require human technique. We're told that psychology is the source of a greater power and that is what we need for solving the deep problems. God's Grace is sufficient, yes . . . for the shallower "religious" problems -- you know, like praying for the sick and the dying and the missionaries. . . . Pain and suffering must be dealt with immediately and outside of God's Wisdom and Grace. It's never good to be afflicted. It's not God's Will.

In other words, God's did not take into account the suffering we would face in 2008 and therefore, we need human wisdom for these things that cause us pain. Pain is UNACCEPTABLE and we must avoid it at all cost. Ya' Think!??!

"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your Word. . . . It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees
~ Psalm 119:67, 71

"That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
~ II Corinthians 12:10

*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*

. . . I don’t regret the rain,

And the nights I felt the pain,
And the tears I had to cry some of those times along the way.
Every road I had to take,
Every time my heart would break
-It was just something that I had to get through
To get me to . . ."

Why is it that music and lyrics seem to get it right when it comes to suffering?

We should never regret the rain -- or the pain -- or the tears -- or the broken heart. Never lament the melancholy seasons. Our weakness only brings us closer to HIM and HIS strength. Affliction is good.

Another song writer put it this way:

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater.

He sendeth more strength when the labors increased.

. . . To add affliction He addeth His mercy, to multiply trials is multiplied peace. When we have exhausted our store of endurance, when our strength has failed as the day is half done, when we reach the end of our hoarded resources, our Father's full giving has only begun. His love has no limit, His grace has no measure. His power, no boundary known unto men for out of His infinite riches in Jesus He giveth and giveth and giveth again."

~ Esthermay Bentley-Goossen
© 2008 The Heart of a Pastor's Wife

In Other Words is hosted today by Michelle at Because I Love You.

25 comments:

Willow said...

Esthermay, I have so much respect for you as a Christian, a woman and a writer but could you please clarify the Biblical position on using psychiatric (or really any other) medications? Is there a difference between my husband using insulin for his diabetes and me using meds for my bipolar disorder from the Bible point of view?

This is something with which I have REALLY struggled and, when the chaos in my brain got to the point that I couldn't even form a thought coherent enough to PRAY, let alone take care of my family, I followed all of the counsel I had, both from Christian and non-Christian friends, that God provided these types of medications for a reason and that the use of them to achieve enough equilibrium to function is not a bad thing.

I REALLY and sincerely wanted to stay on God's path for me through this journey so if I have erred from a Biblical point of view, would you please point it out and set me straight?

I BELIEVE with all of my heart that God can "fix what ails us," and I have FAITH that if that is His will, that He will do just that, without any medical, psychiatric, pharmacological intervention whatsoever. But can we be sure that His way of helping us ISN'T that He provided these other tools?

I'm not being argumentative here, truly, I am just wanting to understand fully, from the Bible perspective, these issues.

I do disagree to some degree with your "what a tragedy...seeking attention and validation..." paragraph. To some extent that is true; I have been (and probably will be) guilty of it myself. But SOMETIMES it is a method of sharing and reaching out so that other people in the same situation know that they are not alone and that God can and will bring them through anything.

I hope you take these comments with the sincerity with which they are intended though, if you choose to not approve them for the blog, I certainly understand. And I hope that, in terms of my spiritual education, you can help to at least point me in the right direction with regard to my questions. If you'd prefer to email, I'm willow @ ajourneyinfaith dot com

Socal said...

Thank you so much for your encouraging post. I agree whole-heartedly with your comment about women seeking attention and validation when sharing their suffering. Once through the suffering and God has showed us what His plan was...I think then it is very important to share what God did in our lives.

Again, thank you! What a blessing you are.

Barbara said...

Oh, Esthermay, friend: You are so bold and wise and obedient to share the Truth of God's Word on this topic. I stuggled for years with understanding God's grace in my life in the area of depression an anxiety. It is not an easy thing to address and explain to others questioning the "harshness" of our position. I do hope you address dear willow above. I know you are a wise counselor and God uses your wisdom and discernment to bless your readers.
Wonderful post.

kalopoieo said...

AMEN! You do speak and write truth and are a bold woman to do it. so much of what you write becomes topic in my wife's Bible Study and this is no exception.

My mind goes to the issue of addictions. The bottom line is that we can be set absolutely free from any sinful compulsion, addiction or affliction by God's power alone! Modern therapy only fixes the symptoms. I think statistics prove that those individuals overcoming these afflictions through Christ are far more likely to succeed. We look forward to you addressing this issue further also.

Not too many bloggers are so bold.
God Bless you and your husband.

Esthermay said...

Dear Willow:

My day is very full today - Tuesday -- and I just want to quickly respond. Please don't think I take your comment lightly.
It will NOT be ignored.
This issue of modern psychology vs. God's Word is an entire chapter (maybe an entire Section ) :-) in my book and I will definitely address it on my blog in the very near future.

As both a Christian and a trained counselor, I am fully aware that this is a touchy and delicate subject and needs much care and compassion when being addressed. But I also am steadfast in my beleif that every change and every need in our life is possible thru CHRIST alone and God's purpose in allowing them is to help us become more like HIM.

AND....please know this upfront -- Christian Counselors who hold to this are not always 100% anti-psychopharmachology! We are, however, aware of the GREAT (great!!!) abuse of them in society today. God's Word warns us of it so many times in New and Old Testament Scripture. It is very a fine line which our post-modern world has definitely smudged.

~esthermay

Michelle Bentham said...

Deep wells, my friend. You and Laurie Ann took me to the well today. WHEW! I have so much on my mind today.

You know you are so right about the bottle it and sell it version of Christianity that says life that is hard is not valuable.

Our church wants people to value their experiences, heal through their afflicitons and minister out of that well to others.

You are doing it. Jesus said, when you suffer not if. We must keep our perspective grounded in the WORD. If Job suffered in his righteous state, why shouldn't I... unrighteous as I am.

Blessings. (P. S. The link is up!)

Solace said...

God bless you for addressing what is nearly unapproachable in Christian circles. As a fellow Christian counselor, I understand the attacks and misguided attempts to correct us on a nouthetic model for counseling.

New Christians, misguided Christians, and immature Christians almost need to be totally insulated from the world’s influence in order to be shown God’s grace and full power when it comes to the influence of modern psych and meds. It’s a sad turn the church has taken. I applaud your willingness to stand on truth. Amen!
~ m

Patricia said...

Again, your wisdom is right on target. I've always felt a bit guilty for my perception of suffering in my life.

I feel like I've gotten off easy, although there have been some really tough things. I prefer to look at my life with joy. I know that God is with me through the tough stuff and I guess that's why it's easy for me to be happy in my circumstances.

I've wondered before if I'm just shallow...but I think it's because God has been the One Person in my life who's been there through it all and never let me down (even if I don't like the situations and wish He would take them away).

That's why one of my favorite Bible passages is Philippians 3:13-15.

"Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you."

Thanks for a great IOW, dear friend.

Laurie Ann said...

I was thinking about this the other day. I was so glad Paul had Luke the doctor with him in many of his travels. No doubt he was able to help him physically recover from many illnesses and I'm sure he partnered with him in prayer when he hit the emotional lows. While I agree that we should endure suffering, I believe that God has gifted some excellent psychiatrists in being able to prescribe medicines that the sin of this fallen world has caused to wreak havoc on our bodies. Without them I'd be institutionalized, I'm sure. I love it when women share how Christ has helped them through their weakness and suffering and given them restoration. Sometimes the stories wax melancholy, but we do have to get them out there so other women can see the hope, faith and redemption Christ offers. I think we do need to closely evaluate our goal in sharing - are we being martyrs or do we genuinely want Christ to shine brightly to others. It's a fine line that gets blurred. Sometimes, in our humanness, we just need to be allowed to whine. Kind like my read with The Shack, I take the meat and leave the bones.

Laurie Ann said...

P. S. Thanks for a powerful post! You can tell it got me to thinking! Love to you, Laurie Ann

john burreson said...

I'll take a risk here and agree with you that modern psych has gone terribly wrong and the vast majority of folks taking use of its therapies are worse off because of it and have become dependent on a system that does little more than drain it's patients' wallets and make them dependent for life. However, you've got debate on your own comment window here as to it's fitness for specific situations.
Knowing you only from your great discernment and wisdom via your blog, I will assume, as Solace comments, that you are a nouthetic counselor. As such, you know that it takes immense surrender on the part of "patient" to benefit. It is a rare Christian who can remove him/herself from the world and the evangelical church and make nouthetic counseling a reality and a success. I'm afraid the dependence on modern psych is just part of the post-modern world and a true biblical understanding of suffering will have to wait till the other side of Heaven. It's just not in God's timing in the life of the current Church to have people be this wise.
In the meantime -- I will go take my boatload of Vitamins and mineral supplements rely upon modern medicine to keep me going strong in my old age.
Your friend,
John

Rachel said...

Christians have bought into it because it is the message of the prosperity gospel that is sweeping our country. It's what's "popular."

I love your blog so much. You challenge me with every post. I'm thankful for your boldness because I have so little. The world needs women like you. :)

Nikki said...

Thank you for putting so much of it back into perspective. I had fallen away from the fact that suffering is not a plague to be avoided.

Denise said...

You are always such an encouragement to my heart, bless you.

Betsy Markman said...

Esthermay, I love your boldness and your passion for the Lord! I just subscribed to your feed so I won't miss any more of your good stuff.

I used to take pretty heavy doses of anti-depressants, and I believe that I did need them at the time. At that point I just didn't have the walk with the Lord that I needed to have, and I wasn't able to function at all without the anti-depressants. My kids would have had no mother. So the medications served their purpose. Needing them wasn't the ideal, but at that point in my life, it was the best I could do. God was an inexhaustible well of living water, but I had nothing to draw with. I believe I did have a chemical imbalance...but it's a "chicken and egg" question, isn't it? If there's a chemical imbalance, does it necessarily mean that the bad chemistry came first and caused everything else? Can't many things influence brain chemistry? In my case, deep-seated spiritual problems doubtless contributed to that chemical imbalance.

I also believe that some people have chemical imbalances that are not caused by spiritual issues. I'm not an expert, by any means, but I am the mother of one child with Asperger's Syndrome and ADD, and another child who is autistic and bipolar. Their problems were obvious so early in life that I have no doubt there are significant issues with brain chemistry underlying everything. I give them medications every day. They need them. Barring a miracle, they always will. For them, I believe, it really is no different from me taking all of my cardiac medications.

Praise God, He knows His sheep. He found me in the mess that I was in, and he didn't refuse to help me because I was on medications. In my case, His plans led to freedom from that, but it may not in all cases.

As I said, this is all my non-expert opinion, and my experiences, for whatever they're worth. Thanks again, Esthermay, for this wonderful, thought provoking post, and for a place where people can discuss this often "taboo" subject.

Kate said...

Oh oh oh! Can I write a chapter for your book now too? Praise God you've opened this door for us to share. "Me too!" she cried.
Yes, I'm a former anti-depressand/counseling/group therapy junkie with a bookshelf of self-help books to prove it.

It started with an unsaved family that "played" church every Sunday like good Lutherans do. They said I had ADD. (Nowadays, who doesn't?!) At age 12 I attempted suicide. I've been on everything the pharmacist's got. You name it: prozac, wellbutrin, imitrex, ativan. . .

I was told at age 20 that I would be on anti-depressants for the rest of my life for my "chemical imbalance."

Then I found Jesus. No. The real JESUS CHRIST who died on a cross for ME. Whose blood can make the vilest sinner clean.

Guess what? Dr. who said I'd be on meds my whole life told my mother I'd kill myself in a year when he found out I had found "religion."

That was 9 years ago! I went through what one might call detox, withdraw, whatever. It wasn't in a rubber room at a mental ward. It happened in the silence of my own heart. Took about two years. Now my mom and dad are both saved.

And now I just can't find enough grounded Christians to surround myself with -- Your blog comes so close to what I need in Christian friendship. There really isn't anyone in my own church (except pastor and his wife) who are grounded enough to help anyone experience true fellowship.

I feel so sorry for people who are caught up in the meds and therapy. They just can't see past themselves and to listen to someone who talks like you write just makes them angry. They embarrass themselves to us while they just pat themselves on the back thinking they are right and we are wrong. It takes every ounce of grace in me to keep quite around people like this. My church is full of small groups that meet just to talk about their other support groups and meds. It's maddening.

Ok, my vent is over. But everyone else today got to vent on your blog today too. I took my turn. Thank you for standing firm on truth that most churches won't even touch.

You are the greatest blessing in my day lately. I just can't wait to read your blog.

blah blah blah. I'm done.
kate

Ava Semerau said...

Like so many other commenters, the first thing that came to mind reading this post was your boldness, which I applaud, btw.

The second was a joke - how many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? One, but the light bulb has to really want to change!

You're right, of course, God is the great agent of change in our lives and with HIm and through Him we can change in an instant. But, like the light bulb, we have to really want to change. We need to put our faith in HIs hands and surrender with abandon, believing 1) God is up to the task and 2) He will make us up to the task and 3) how we change is up to Him not us.

I'm not willing to put God in a box when it comes to how He can change us, or even what methods He might use. Sometimes it's affliction and suffering, sometimes it's joy, sometimes it's empathizing with a stranger on the street or listening to music and maybe, just maybe sometimes it's providing us with a pill and a willing listener.

This has been an interesting IOW with much food for thought. Thanks for giving me even more!

AVA

Betsy Markman said...

I feel for Kate's experience. Misdiagnosis of conditions and misuse of medications can have tragic consequences.

I also agree that much of what passes for "sharing and caring" in group sessions is really each person pulling out our treasured grievances, passing them around for admiration, reveling in the "oohs" and "ahs" we hear, and confirming our own impression that our problems are deserving of our devotion. It's self-centeredness in group form. "I'll pamper your self-pity if you'll pamper mine." I don't join groups like that.

That's why I'm determined to keep my blog God-centered, not self-centered, and why I so appreciate Esthermay doing the same on her blog.

For some of us, medications are a necessary part of our lives. When you raise an autistic, bipolar child who just lies curled up in a ball and screams for 18 hours a day every day from the age of two, and then you see him transformed into a functioning, mainstreamed, happy student, you know you've made the right choice. BUT none of that will do him or us any good if we are not God-centered. He could be functioning well on his way to Hell. Medicated or unmedicated, we all need to be focused on God...the true God of the Bible...and glorifying Him in our lives. There will be plenty of never-medicated people in Hell, and plenty of formerly-medicated people in Heaven.

God will shepherd His sheep, some with medication and some without. Praise His name!

Anonymous said...

Got a can worms here with the meds vs. no-meds discussion. I’ll be anony-mouse here to save on any e-mails. What do some of your commenters think the world did B.P. *Before Prozak*? I’m not a million years kind of guy, but I do know that the world existed by God’s creation for a few thousand years. Psychotropic drugs are fairly new to the world’s Table of Contents – only in the last 100 years. More popular “2nd" & "3rd" generation miracle drugs – less than 25 years.

I am a medical doctor and can tell you that since the advent of the beloved mood-drugs, the diagnosis of “mental disorders” including depression, bi-polar, etc. have risen by thousands of percentage points. It’s a far deeper issue than some of your proponents here like to think. The entire world is dependent on human thought and invent and relies less and less on God’s entire sovereignty. Which IS a sign of end-times. It’s no one person’s fault – just a sign of the times. It takes discernment to recognize it. Blog Author: bold to state discernable facts with which many well-meaning and sincere Christians disagree.

In my own practice, I dispense just as many psychotropic drugs as the non-Christian M.D.s in my clinic. I do so knowing full-well that my patients could do just as well without them and in many cases far better. Yet they are convinced – even with surrendered Christian hearts and minds – that they are required for their betterment.

In perhaps not my greatest judgment as a Christian, I agree with them and dispense the magic meds. Fact that there is debate on this topic at all is proof of that love of pharmakeia φάρμακεία (the use of drugs); and it is simply a sign of the times.

Found your site by way of search and one of your visitors’ comments came by way of Google. Small world.

Don, M.D.

LauraLee Shaw said...

A great deal of wisdom in this post, and I look forward to reading the next one, as well as your follow-up thoughts on the questions in your comments. Love the way everyone approaches the question with love and respect. Truly admirable.

Thanks, also, for your comments at the internet cafe. You really encouraged me.

Andrea said...

With all love to the commenters who rely on medication and feel it necessary, I agree with Dr. Don, Rachel, and Solace. We have been fed a lie over the last decades. If the need for drugs today were representative of the need prior to their creation, the terms bi-polar, ADD, etc would have appeared in history books centuries ago. Romans chapter one is one for this discussion as we have exchanged the truth of God for a lie. I want Dr. Don’s e-mail just to tell him how much I appreciate him as a doctor for stating the truth. On the flip side, we live in a world of sin. Diseases that require medication are part of that sinful world and these same illnesses may have well left people dead centuries ago. So it is by the medication that some people do exist today. It is not weakness that brings people to use medications. It is the benefit of living in a time where they are available whether for good or bad.

Kate said...

I do not know Betsy, I love her as a sister in Christ. But I have to respectfully disagree with her and correct her. I was NOT misdiagnosed. I was PROPERLY diagnosed by a medical and pharmaceutical system that preys on anyone with even the slightest hint of “mental illness” along with those who do need short term psychiatric intervention. There are millions of people just like me and I doubt they’d be called “misdiagnosed.” I was mentally ill and I escaped by the grace of Jesus Christ! If someone escapes the homosexual lifestyle, we don’t say that they were “misdiagnosed” as gay. Probably not the best example and do not want to cite an argument.

I will respect the forum and not go on. This topic is much too big for a comment page on this precious woman’s blog. There are millions of people out there just like me who have been “diagnosed” for no other reason than Christians having become too lazy to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. And churches don’t teach it. Plus, if you tremble, there is probably a pill for it. I thank God I am free.

Betsy Markman said...

I promise this will be the last comment from me on this subject. It's just that there are two important points that have to be made in response to previous comments.

1. These conditions are not new. Sometimes the terminology used to describe them is new, but the conditions themselves have been around for a long time. The anecdotal and scientific evidence is powerful for that.

2. Where would my precious autistic and bipolar son be if he had been born a century or two earlier? He would have been locked in a "Sanitorium," or in an attic or a cellar. I've seen the footage from the sanitoriums of the early twentieth century, and it breaks my heart. These people "didn't exist." They were hidden away, their existence denied by embarrassed families. I see my precious son in those haunted eyes. He, like them, would have been consigned to a life without love, without learning, without hope, in constant torment from what was going on in his mind, doing nothing but screaming and flapping his hands in front of his eyes until the day he died. How do I know? Because that's who he is and what he does without his medications. And it's been that way since he was two years old. Have you ever seen a two year old scream and flap his hands in front of his eyes, or just plain scream until his body is stiff 18 hours a day for months on end? No demands. Nothing he wanted. No sense or reason behind it except the torment in his mind. One day he spent hours staring at his hands and screaming "What happened to my lights? What happened to my lights?" I almost lost my own sanity before we found help.

An insane asylum would have locked him away a hundred years ago, and he would have had no life.

Now he is a successful 5th grader, keeping up with his peers academically, well-liked despite (and partly because of) the charms of his autistic differences. The vagaries of Bipolar Disorder still cause some problems, some days (or weeks) when he can't tune into our world at all, can do nothing but curl up in a ball and stick his fingers in his ears and scream; or on the opposite extreme, days or weeks when he can only laugh hysterically and bounce up and down, trilling his tongue and flapping his hands. But thanks to his medications it's nowhere near as severe or frequent as it used to be.

If anyone still wants to tell me that I've made the wrong choice, well, you're entitled to your opinions. My son is entitled to a life.

As I promised, this is my last comment on the subject :)

Ava Semerau said...

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m sensing a lot of judgment in this space.

If we are healthy, it’s because we have enough faith. If we lack health, it’s because we lack faith, and if we used to be unhealthy but are healthy now, It’s because somehow we have achieved uber faith, perhaps even peerless faith!

The message seems to be that being healthy is a sign of righteousness, while illness is a sign of sin; and that faith is something we as mere humans can weigh and measure – and somehow trade away for valuable stuff like – gee health, lack of affliction or a free pass across adversity.

Frankly, I don't get it. I’m more than happy to have God judge the size and quality of my faith, but not others. He’s God. We’re not.

Instead of adding to the already heavy burden of mental illness by suggesting it's a result of too little faith, let's follow Paul's advice and help carry it with love, empathy and compassion instead.

Kathy S. said...

Beautiful post, beautiful blog.

I have overcome anxiety and depression by grace, but I don't doubt that God uses meds as well. Sheila Walsh is a testimony of being set free by the use (and continues to take them) of anti-depressants. She has spoken of it at Women of Faith. I cannot discount her testimony even though I was set free through hours of sitting before the Lord in tears day after day for over a year...and ongoing dependance on grace with emotional challenges. Progressing.

He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it. We all fail in many areas, but God works in us despite our weakness and ignorance. He remembers that we are dust.

I agree...too often medications are dispensed, and I love what you have to say about afflictions. Truly the verse from Ps 119 was part of my endurance in waiting for my deliverance. I knew God would work it for good. Comforting others with the comfort I myself recieved from Him.

God bless you!

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