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Re: Williams: Tested by God

Posted by psycjw on April 13, 2005, at 14:13:07

In reply to Williams: Tested by God, posted by Miss Honeychurch on April 11, 2005, at 12:59:21

its a really interesting question and i guess all of us from tiome to time have thought it:

there are several different aspects to your post:
1). CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) is an effective form of psychotherapy - its very skills based and helps people both understand how they are but also make specific changes (by challenging extreme and unhelpful thoughts and overcoming/changing behaviours that are part of the problems (as per prev post, reduced activity, avoidance or unhel[pful behaviours - which it tries to replace with helpful behaviours
In the UK there is a really ggood government led review of what treatments are effective for various treatments - and CBT comes out as the therapy of choice for mild to mdoerate depression - and as effective as antidepressants - (which interestingly are now not recommended in the UK for mild depression - details of nice depression review at:

2). CBT can focus on any issues that are relevent to the person. you noticed that really it didnt address faith issues at all - and that fine if it helped you get better. but for many people faith issues become affected during depression. there have been a series of US papers showing that in the US for example that a majority of people experiencing depression ascribe a cause to sin. so its quite plausible that aprt of the work of cbt could be based on faith topics if this was an area you wanted to work on. having said that many practitioners fiund it difficult working with faith related issues as it is seen as very "personal". there are lots of promises though in the bible which can be very helpful in challenging negative views of self, beliefs about failure/unlovability etc which bible verses of love, forgiveness etc can really help BUT these symtpoms can also be helped by focsuing on other (if you like secular) concerns. so in the same way that antidepressants will help roughly 65% of people with depression whether they are Christians or not, CBT can be very helpful whether it addersses faith issues or not. the way cbt works is by working on problems the person themselves sees as important and the practitioner tries to help them on these issues

3). The key aprt of your question though is about Job, and whether God tests us directly. i should declare here that i am a psychiatrist who is also a Christian - not a theologian! You could argue that asking us to live different lives as Christians is bound to bring testing and this fits with the idea of God refining people

Nut at the same time there are promises in the New Testament that no one will be asked to cope with more than they can do. and that God never tests us Himself to sin. Linking this to Job the temptation actually came from the devil rather than God - he allowed job to be tested, but this is different from directly causing it.

i have inserted a section below from the book I'm not supposed to feel like this which we (me/colleagues a psychiatrsist christian ingrid whitton and paul richards a baptist minister) wrote which addresses this issue - hope it helps a bit - but just before i do so...

4). maybe what you are describing during your difficult patch is better seen as an experiment. experiments are a key tool in cbt for reinforcing belief change. e.g. if someone is fearful about going to a party because they predict "I won't enjoy it" then a good experiement is to go along and check it out. This often elads to real surprises - e.g. that it was enjoyable. Good ways of undermining extreme and unhelpful negative or anxious thoughts is to act AGAINST them. Likewise acting ON helpful beliefs helsp reinforce them. Perhaps something like this happened. ie the challenge you faced caused you to use your new skills and choose to act on your new balanced/helpful ways of responding - and this bore fruit?

FInally - heres that quote from the book. this is from part 4 of the book and is aimed at helping church professionals help people with depression more effectively. i hope the sisues are more widely relevent however

Things you can do to encourage discussion of emotional issues.
Our purpose here is to offer some practical as well as theoretical guidelines that may help you in the work of supporting someone who is experiencing depression or anxiety and be part of the solution, not part of the problem. We want to begin with a short Bible study of the first few chapters of the book of Job, and it may be useful at this point if you have a Bible with you.

Many people think of the book of Job as a contribution to the debate about innocent suffering, and indeed it is that, but it has much else to offer too. The early chapters are a good example of how to help, and how not to help, someone experiencing distress.

Job had every reason to feel depressed – and anxious. A man of immense wealth and influence, with a strong faith in God and the head of a large and apparently happy family, he rapidly lost almost everything that was important to him – his property, his livelihood and his children, and all for reasons that were unknown to him at the time. He was understandably depressed when three of his friends came to visit him (Ch. 2 v. 11-13). These friends started off really well because of their motive and their actions; ‘They met together to go and console and comfort him’ (v. 11). Their motive was not to sort his problems out but to offer comfort and support in his suffering. The first thing they did was also a good idea ‘… no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great” (v. 13)

Up to this point they did the right thing. They came with no quick-fix solutions but with a real desire to share with Job and offer support and comfort. When they could think of nothing to say in the presence of such suffering they said nothing, which was also the right thing to do. From this point, however, things went rapidly downhill. In Chapter 3 Job “cursed the day of his birth” (verse 2) and went on to lament his circumstances at some length, expressing what was probably a genuine desire that his life would end. So far his friends had simply listened and offered support, but at the start of Chapter 4 Eliphaz the Temanite asks “If one ventures a word with you, will you be offended? But who can keep from speaking?” This is the start of a long speech in which Eliphaz argues that Job must have done something for this disaster to come upon him, for instance verse 7 “Think now, who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off?”

Most of the rest of the book is the story of the three friends telling Job that there must be a reason for his suffering, and there must be something in his life that merits this treatment by God, while Job keeps denying that this is the case. What is important for our purposes here, however, is simply to observe that it was when Eliphaz decided to speak and claim that there was something that Job had done to create this misfortune that the friends ceased to be a comfort and support and became accusers, actually adding to the woes Job was already experiencing. Significantly at the end of the book it is the three friends who are identified as being at fault. “…the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: ‘My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.’” (Ch. 42, v. 7).

In general terms the friends people need when they are feeling distressed are those who will accept them for who they are, and be content simply to be with them and listen when they want to speak rather than offering easy solutions. To do this, we must:
• Offer sensible advice when it is asked for.
• Allow the distressed person space to make their own decisions.
• Support them even if we do not agree with everything they are doing.

This does not mean that we passively ignore problems in relationships, attitudes or deliberate disobedience to God’s laws. However the support we do offer should be to encourage the person to do those things that will help their restoration to health, and this needs prayer, gentleness and sensitivity.

best wishes
chris w




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