“Who is the one who overcomes the world, but He who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” – 1 John 5:5
As a pastor, I have noticed more than at any other time in my life the degree of emotional suffering that people are going through. Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, porn addiction, alcohol abuse, anger issues, gambling addiction, and the list goes on.
I spend a great deal of time talking to and listening to Christians who deal with these issues every day. In the course of conversation, it inevitably comes up that Christians are supposed to live in victory over the world—a euphemism for everything from sinful behaviour to emotional hardship, depending on who you ask. The question is plain: why do Christians suffer with such ailments if they are overcomers of all that is wrong in this world?
The answer, of course, is complicated. Some Christians continue to make poor decisions with their lives. This opens them up to consequences that often have long-lasting effects. A few drinks today can lead to a lifetime of habitual drinking. The same can be said for viewing pornography or gambling.
But this isn’t the end of the explanation. Other ailments come to people for unclear reasons. While many people who suffer from chronic depression and anxiety can point to one or a small few events in their lives that triggered their condition, not everyone who wrestles with emotional unwellness can say the same. Sometimes, depression starts with a poor life decision. Sometimes, it starts with being victimized by someone else. Other times still, there is no one catalyst to be identified. There are people who literally wake up one day suffering from severe depression for no reason that anybody can see.
And all of this leads us back to the question already asked. Why do Christians continue to suffer with such difficulty if they have power and victory in Christ?
I am reminded that Jesus told his disciples on more than one occasion that following Him did not mean a release from all suffering and struggle, but in fact would lead to more of it. The point He was trying to make was that following Him did not remove you from difficulty but gave you the ability to manage the difficulty with greater peace and contentment.
The Psalmist tells us that “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me, your rod and your staff comfort me.” God’s way is not always about delivery from struggle, but about walking with the struggler in the difficulty.
Having said that, I am also convinced that many who need to lay claim to delivery from their hardship have not done so for sundry reasons. Living in victory has a lot to do with living in obedience to Jesus. You can’t escape it; 1 John 5:2-3 tell us that loving God is all about following His commandments. Then in verses 4 and 5, it says that we have overcome the world in victory. God wants you to know that obeying Him opens doors to freedom, deliverance, and success in life. It’s not a guaranteed formula, but it is a way to lighten the load that many Christians carry around with them every day.
So, consider the immense value of obedience to God. It means you have to know something about what He has commanded you to do or not do (reading your Bible helps with that), and it means praying for strength in following His commandments.
Finally, constant prayer (sought by the one suffering) matters. James 5:14-16 commissions the one who is sick to go to the elders for prayer. That does not necessarily mean the appointed/elected elders of a church board. Any who are committed, mature believers would welcome the chance to pray for your ailment and believe for emotional healing.
This does not begin to explore the complexity of living with mental illness or deep-rooted addictions, and this devo is not meant to provide blanket solutions to pervasive problems. Counselling and medical assistance often is needed. A loving group of supporters is crucial. The only spot I wanted to address was why so many Christians suffer when they are promised victory over such things. My prayer is that you will find the peace and release that you have been searching for.