God sends us illnesses, emotional problems and issues for a reason: to get our attention, and to encourage us to take a look at the things in our life that we need to fix, re-examine and change. Sure, we can ignore those messages – and most people do. Encouraged by the Western Medicine approach that ‘the body is all there is’, most people just keep on taking pills for their ills, or try to ‘cut out’ all the bad things that are going wrong in their body physically, without ever asking themselves the question:
- Why is this happening?
- Why am I getting sick or miserable or stressed?
- What do I need to change, so that this doesn’t keep happening, or getting worse?
When people don’t ask themselves those questions, their emotional and physical illnesses very rarely resolve, because even when they’re temporarily quelled or ‘cured’, they just pop-up again down the road, in some other format that’s often more serious.
That’s why if you’re not prepared to get involved in your own healing process, and to take responsibility for your own health and well-being, and to fight for yourself – there’s very little that anyone else can really do to help you.
I was reminded of this again recently when I had some correspondence with someone who was asking me for advice. They were in a pretty bad way, in all senses of the word, and they were writing for help. Yet at the same time, it became obvious to me that the person they most needed some ‘help’ from – namely, themselves – had gone AWOL and had washed their hands of the whole problem.
The Jewish Sage Hillel the Elder, who lived around 2,000 years ago, summed the problem up very succinctly when he wrote the following:
If I’m not for myself, that who will be for me?
But if I’m only for myself, then what am I?
And if not now, when?
This could be the credo for achieving good mental, emotional and physical health.
If you can’t be bothered to fight for yourself – if you gave up on yourself, and you’re really just hoping to check-out of this life as quietly and quickly as possible – then how can anyone else help you?
At the same time, if all you think about is your own comfort and considerations, and what suits you, and what you need – then how can you ever have any space for meaningful, fulfilling and mutually-caring relationships?
And if you’re not prepared to grab the bull by the horns, and start the process of renewal and change and transformation TODAY, then what on earth is ever going to change before you’ll make that jump?
The people who really get better – in every sense of the word – live by Hillel’s words.
Even though they’ve been knocked down again and again, they still try to stand up again (and they usually realize pretty early on that if they don’t have God in the picture, pulling them up again, that’s an almost impossible feat).
Even though they’ve been through so much, they still try to reach out and help others, and they aren’t full of excuses, selfishness and bitterness about what the world owes them.
And lastly, they don’t keep pushing off their epiphanies, or turning on the telly to drown them out, or playing over the message they’re getting with their music, podcasts or radio shows turned to the highest volume.
God’s using our illnesses and our problems to get our attention.
He wants us to stop and think about what we’re really doing with ourselves, and where we’re really going in life. And if we don’t do that when we’ve been hit with a serious mental, emotional or physical health issue – then when are we ever?