Have you ever lived a life so filled with pain and despair you begin to wonder why God would allow you to survive a lifetime of suffering? What did you do to deserve this pain? As Job cried out, “If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of men? Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you?” (Job 7:20) For me the irony dug deep as a man with bipolar disorder, over the years I began to feel the pull into ministry. It seemed ridiculous at first; that I, a man with so many issues, should become a shepherd of Christ. The words of James in particular become a stinging conviction; “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” (James 1:6-8)
I have often felt so blown around by the winds of my own mental instability that I’m simply incapable of connecting with God. So many times have I said, “”I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul.” (Job 10:1) How can one ever find meaning in all this mess?
Peter wrote to the church, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” (1 Peter 4:1-2) To those that serve he said, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4:10-11)
Whatever strength I have within me always feels insufficient for God’s service, but Peter here reveals the secret; “he should do it with the strength God provides.” God provides the strength to accomplish all things. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 is not merely a nice saying, it’s a spiritual truth.
One of those things God provided me was June Hunt’s Biblical Counseling Keys through WORDsearch. It’s a large index of articles that lead you through various hardships people go through in life, from Abortion to Worry. It can be a quick read that not only provides an accurate background into these conditions, but an excellent point for point analysis with scriptural support. It has been especially encouraging to me, as I find quite a few of these issues covered are ones that I struggle with.
It has helped form my identity as God’s fruit basket; afflictions can often become blessings. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 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.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) In the end this counsel has helped me come to terms with these afflictions and how they will complete my ministry. As James said, “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)
Michael Wright is a recent Magna Cum Laude graduate of Liberty University and longtime WORDsearch user. He currently serves in the Celebrate Recovery ministry in Spokane, WA. His blog can be found at www.thedubshack.net.