Friday, January 26, 2024

When God Allows Physical Or Mental Illness

Years ago I ran across a book by psychiatrist Gaius Davies called Genius and Grace. It's a fascinating read. The author has two basic convictions:

1. Grace does not change our personality. It does, of course, change our ambitions, motives, outlook on life, character, etc. But it doesn't change our inherited disposition or temperament.

2. Grace does not render believers immune to physical or mental illness. I want to emphasize this point. It seems that among evangelical Christians there's a tendency to say it is no business of the believer to be sick or depressed. The truth is, although God can and often does heal, he sometimes leaves us to struggle with our disabilities and to bear our pain. What incredibly important theology. If you are hurting, own it. If you are sick, say it. In his book Dr. Davies shows how some of the greatest heroes of the Christian faith have been eccentric, neurotic, and have even suffered repeated nervous breakdowns. His point is that while God may not always remove our weaknesses, his grace is always sufficient for us in them

Do you or someone you know suffer from mental illness or depression even while clinging to the promises of God? It's perfectly understandable that believers should pray to be delivered from such things. But sometimes God says no. The belief that Christians living in gospel hope should not experience depression or mental illness is not helpful. Discipleship is a lifetime calling that requires endurance, perseverance, and patience in the midst of our infirmities. I wrote about this in my books Paul, Apostle of Weakness and Running My Race: Reflections on Life, Loss, Aging, and Forty Years of Teaching

Let's make our faith communities beautiful again, using the unsexy, ordinary tools that have always worked: truth, humility, prayer, and complete dependence upon God.