People are always placing blame in the wrong direction. Members of Christ's body aren't immune from this folly; we often fall over ourselves obscuring the truth by shifting responsibility, either for ourselves or on behalf of others. We do this most often with sin: that woman beats her children because she was beaten as a child; that man is alcoholic because he lost his wife and job; I slander so-and-so because they did such-and-such to me.
Sometimes, however, we try to assign sin where there is no sin. This isn't a new problem: in John chapter 9, Jesus heals a blind man who was blind from birth. Jesus' disciples wanted to know if it was the man or his parents who had sinned, that he should be born blind, and Jesus said that it was neither. This didn't mean the man or his parents were without sin, but simply that God had made the man blind that Jesus might heal him, and thus glorify the Father.
Despite our confidence that modern man is more enlightened than past generations, we still play this game, albeit with slightly different terminology. We say that a kid with ADHD hasn't had enough discipline, that adults with fibromyalgia are self-centered and delusional, that those who harm themselves are looking for attention. While there may be some truth in at least two of these examples, there are also real problems in our fallen world for which individuals aren't always directly responsible.
It's important to remember that, without Adam's fall and the entrance of sin into the world, there would be no psychiatric problems, no medical conditions, no mental illness. All evil is the result of sin, and is an abrogation of the intended order of things, of the natural state of innocence. So, in a real sense, all these issues are the result of sin, but not necessarily the result of an individual's sin or lifestyle.
Learning to deal with diagnosable problems can be a long and painful process, both for the victim and for the victim's loved ones, friends, and church family. But it isn't without hope: Jesus never tells us that He'll heal all our sickness or eradicate all our difficulties, but He does promise to keep us in Him to the end, if we put our faith in Him.
"I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:4-9).
In this passage Paul isn't telling us we'll get whatever we want from Jesus, but that He will give us what is necessary to remain in faith until we are finally taken from this life into His presence. The gift of eternal life is a spiritual one, and since it is our spirit, not our body, that is immortal, the gifts Jesus Christ gives us to sustain us are spiritual.
This doesn't mean He cares nothing about our physical existence. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus tells us that God will fill our earthly needs if our first concern is for His kingdom and His righteousness. God doesn't call us to be His children and then abandon us, but He also doesn't promise us a life of ease or comfort. He promises to give us what we need. If we need physical and mental health, He'll give it to us, but they aren't guaranteed.
What is guaranteed is His faithfulness, and His ability to support us spiritually even when our earthly existence seems torn apart and entirely uncertain. This isn't to say we shouldn't seek medical or professional help when we're experiencing disease, mental illness, or emotional problems. But it does mean our chief refuge is in Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith, and the only one able to save our sin-darkened and spiritually diseased souls from death, and to everlasting peace and life.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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