Q: I don’t understand why, if this is our introductory life, why some people are born disposed to mental illness? How unfair. How can an individual “do the will of God” in this context?
A: You raise age-old questions—and the bottom line is—life is not fair. It has always been this way, and probably always will be this way. Why? Because we are trapped in a time-space situation where there is always the chance of sorrow, where our fortunes can change in the blink of an eye, where uncertainty is the only constant. Everything changes in this life except the presence of God. This does indeed seem unfair, especially if you feel you have gotten that “short stick…”
Just because a person is born into this life with hereditary tendencies to mental illness does not automatically mean they are less able to do God’s will in their life—or that they are destined to fulfill those tendencies. These kinds of problems can seem overwhelming, and they occur through no fault of the person—likewise those with physical disabilities may seem terribly disadvantaged when you view them through the eyes of the material. But Jesus said:
“In the matter of sickness and health, you should know that these bodily states are the result of material causes; health is not the smile of heaven, neither is affliction the frown of God.”
The Father’s human children have equal capacity for the reception of material blessings; therefore does he bestow things physical upon the children of men without discrimination. When it comes to the bestowal of spiritual gifts, the Father is limited by man’s capacity for receiving these divine endowments. Although the Father is no respecter of persons, in the bestowal of spiritual gifts he is limited by man’s faith and by his willingness always to abide by the Father’s will.” (166:4.10)
So, even if one has not received a goodly inheritance in a material sense, still each person receives “spiritual gifts,” and it is how those are used that determines spiritual growth and progress. When God advises us to “be ye perfect,” I think this only means that we do the best we can with what we have, and become the best person we can be within the confines of the life that we have.
No one—not even the most well-endowed person on Earth, can ever come close to actually being perfect as God is in this one, short life, but we CAN be the most perfect person possible given the limitations that have been placed upon us—whether physically or mentally—by using our spiritual gifts (the Thought Adjuster, the Spirit of Truth, etc) to become like God. This becoming like God is not a material striving, but a spiritual one.
Paraphrasing something that Jesus said once—if wealth is the smile of Heaven, why are not more wealthy people drawn to the Gospel? Why is it so often the meek, the afflicted, the humble, the downtrodden, who turn to God? Sometimes, the most beautiful, the richest, and the most gifted people are those who feel no need of God. They are satisfied—and why shouldn’t they be? Life seems easy.
But be careful when making these kinds of assumptions merely on surface appearances; no matter how things look, everyone is fighting some kind of battle in this life, be it physical, mental or spiritual. And it is those who struggle, those who have to tread the paths of rugged faith, who may be the luckiest in the long run. Remember this passage?
Mortals only learn wisdom by experiencing tribulation. (48:7.14)
Having to work through difficulties means lots of decisions, lots of opportunities to choose hope over despair—faith over fear. And by always choosing the good, one can improve one’s life immeasurably, even if outward circumstances may not change.
Look at famous people who have overcome great adversity—people like Steven Hawking, or Temple Grandin (who suffers from severe autism, and who has become a noted national voice in the humane treatment of animals). I have a relative who suffers from schizophrenia—although her life has been hard, she is very much a shining star in many respects because of her reliance on Jesus—she is still afflicted, but she helps herself through her difficulties with God’s help. I shudder to think how bad things could be for her if not for those choices she has made in the spiritual sense.
In fact, this page of the inevitabilities is a good one to read again—especially when we are feeling that our lives are harder than they need to be.
As for those who might opt out of life because of having to deal with unfortunate experiences here on Earth: no matter what we have to experience here, it is the EXPERIENCE of living that is important; we can get that no other way than by living this life through. Having an attitude of bitterness about life indicates a need for more faith and trust in the goodness of God. Bitter resignation may be an easy way out, but is it the best way? This is an illustration of our inability to make eternal decisions here. I don’t believe anyone who is beset with material problems can rightly make a decision not to go on to eternal life simply because they can’t see a better future. Sometimes, the best we can do is just hang on and keep our little light of faith burning …and that is enough to get us through. And there are rewards for just hanging on—maybe not material rewards, but rewards that are just as real and even more valuable in the long run.
This is such a short life—compared to the eternity of adventure and progress that awaits us…
The Urantia Book illuminates so much of this for us—I wish everyone could learn of God’s goodness through its teachings.”