**WARNING** Moderately graphic mental health issues discussed.
I still remember the day I awoke with a feeding tube inserted through my nose, a breathing tube down my throat and a catheter inserted, for I had been unconscious for two whole days after a massive, and, very deliberate overdose. Restrained to the bed, naked under a gown and exposed to the entire world, I had never felt more vulnerable in my life.
You see, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Affective Disorder when I was 18, and when I was 25 I was diagnosed with co-occurring Borderline Personality Disorder. Why do I tell you this? Well, to be frank, because for three years, three, solid, years, I truly believed I was suffering with it having no benefit for the gospel, whatsoever. I was hospitalized more than 10 times and sectioned to psychiatric care more times than fingers I have to count. Pretty heavy, huh?
But was it not Jesus himself who spoke of suffering as being a guarantee for those who followed his teaching and lived for his namesake (John chapter 15, verses 18, 19, 25)? Some could say that I suffer the way I do because of my devotion to Christ. However…
I was battling undiagnosed (and therefore unmedicated and untreated) Bipolar and BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) for many years before I met Christ, so the case for me suffering for his namesake up until then cannot be made. For, I wasn’t living for him, I did not know him, I did not bear his name. However, having since met Christ and still finding myself suffering, I began to ask God one simple question, over and over again…
“Why do I suffer so when my suffering has no bearing on the spread of the gospel, nor is it attracted to me by your name? It is needless. I fight with my own mind, without help, for no reason other than because I am ill. Why Father, why?”
The answer to this question came one day when I was particularly depressed, and although I felt momentary joy (for Jesus broke His silence), I plummeted back down into the depths of existential despair.
“As the broken part of a bone comes to be the strongest part once healed, so too does your heart and your spirit when I allow them to break… for when they heal, they will be able to withstand the calling I have placed on your life. Until then you will never be ready. No suffering is needless…your suffering is conditioning you for a battle that will be spiritually bloody, and if you are to do battle, you must let me press you beyond your fleshly limits.”
I finally knew why God allowed such suffering in my life; seemingly needless suffering. My spirit was being (and still is being) conditioned that it may not buckle under the weight of the mantle He has for me; the calling on my life. (I wish to take this moment to reassure those reading who might be in a domestic abuse situation that remaining in such a situation is not what God wants for you, but your suffering can still be used for His glory….if you allow it to be exposed.)
Changed my outlook
This changed my entire outlook when it came to suffering (I reckon I’ve said the word ‘suffering’ now so many times that its lost all meaning!) All suffering can be used for the sake of the gospel and for the good of those who represent and propagate it.
For a long time, this understanding of suffering, through a biblical lens, didn’t make sense when I considered the context of my own suffering… and then in one swift moment, my perspective shifted, and I was in the position to either fight it, or accept the calling God had placed on my life; to accept that my suffering could lead to the salvation of others – not just from their own suffering but also to lead them to the One who truly has the power to save…. Jesus.
So again, why tell you all of this? What need is there in revealing this to all who read these words?
Because suffering is needed.
Suffering helps us grow.
Suffering gives us a chance to wrestle through the tough things with He who truly sets us free, He who saves.
I think we take suffering for granted. We blame God for His divine way of preparing us for what’s to come. We say that He is cruel and uncaring, unforgiving, but we know from His word:
““For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah chapter 55, verses 8-9).
We almost always thank God for the trials we go through once things have changed and become better. Then, with the gift of hindsight, we become thankful.
But as a psychologist would counsel us, we are told not to resist our emotions but allow the healing to come after discharging the pain in a healthy way. In the same fashion, when we are wrestling with God in the desert, in the deepest, darkest valley of the shadow of death, our resistance only prolongs our suffering.
My suffering began years before Christ encountered me. But it was still His preparation for my calling, should I have chosen to accept it along with its terms and conditions.
We must learn to embrace suffering, and the endless teaching potentials it holds for us.
Without it we are defenceless.
“My grace is sufficient, for My power is made perfect in weakness” 2 Corinthians, chapter 12, verse 9).
Benji is a passionate millennial based in Melbourne. Not only a writer but also a graphite and charcoal artist, he spends his time looking for different creative outlets to express himself, and thoroughly enjoys seeking God for the truth – not always hearing the response correctly, he has faith that God’s will is still going to unfold in any and every situation that His Spirit is invited into.