Guests: Dave Thomas and Phil Muthersbaugh
Relevant Verses: Mark 2:1-12; 1 Kings 18-19
Leading Question: How should we differ in addressing the needs of those who are physically paralyzed and those who a mentally paralyzed?
This week’s lesson focuses on two radically different kinds of “sick” people. On the one hand are those who are obviously damaged physically. Here our lesson focuses on the paralytic who was let down through the roof by his friends into the very presence of Jesus (Mark 2:1-12). But on the other hand are those who appear undamaged physically, but who are suffering from something like depression. Here our lesson focuses on the story of Elijah at Mt. Caramel and his subsequent flight from Jezebel to Mt. Horeb (1 Kings 18:19).
Question: Why is it important to distinguish between those who are obviously disabled (like the paralytic) and those who are mentally troubled or depressed (like Elijah)?
Question: Should it make any difference in our attitudes whether a person has “chosen” his malady by bad decisions, or has simply been overwhelmed by circumstances seemingly beyond his or her control?
Laws of Health and the Law of God
In connection with Jesus’ handling of the paralytic, Adventists should be aware of a fascinating, potentially helpful, and potentially troubling quotation on laws of health from the pen of Ellen White:
It is a sin to be sick, for all sickness is the result of transgression. Many are suffering in consequence of the transgression of their parents. They cannot be censured for their parents’ sin; but it is nevertheless their duty to ascertain wherein their parents violated the laws of their being, which has entailed upon their offspring so miserable an inheritance; and wherein their parents’ habits were wrong, they should change their course, and place themselves by correct habits in a better relation to health. – The Health Reformer, August 1866; = Counsels on Health, 37 (1923)
Note that Ellen White seems to be merging all God’s laws under one heading. In short, the “laws of our being” and the law of God are the same. But note that she states the those who are “sick” cannot be censured for the parents’ sin. But they do have an obligation to find out what their parents did wrong so that they can put things right. The original quotation is dated to1866 and only appears in one other place in her published writings, Counsels on Health, published in 1923. But for those who take an “absolutist” approach to the writings of Ellen White, the consequences can be deadly.
The Paralytic (Mark 2:1-12)
The healed paralytic presents a number of issues that could be discussed:
1. Jesus commended the faith of the friends, not the man’s faith (Mark 2:5). Question: Can those with strong faith be instrumental in “healing” those with weak faith or none at all?
2. Jesus identified that man’s disability as being caused by sin.
Question: Jesus could distinguish issues of volition in ways that ordinary humans cannot. But as far as we are concerned, does it make any difference in how we treat people?
Question: Even if non-volitional elements are involved with the volitional, shouldn’t that be a non-issue, except in those cases where continuing bad habits are preventing healing?
A Depressed Elijah
A quick Google check yielded some interesting observations. In terms of vocabulary, the labels Manic-Depressive and Bi-Polar are apparently interchangeable. And Google brought up two side-by-side pictures, one of a highly energized person (manic) the other of a bed-ridden depressed person The captions were identical: “Manic phase may last weeks or months.” And, “Depressive phase may last weeks or months.”
Question: Is it likely that Elijah was bipolar, a manic-depressive?
Comment: Three quotes from Ellen White’s chapter on Elijah in Prophets and Kings are worth noting, two are more likely to be encouraging, one more likely to be problematic:
Encouraging. Into the experience of all there come times of keen disappointment and utter discouragement – days when sorrow is the portion, and it is hard to believe that God is still the kind benefactor of His earthborn children; days when troubles harass the soul, till death seems preferable to life. It is then that many lose their hold on God and are brought into the slavery of doubt, the bondage of unbelief. Could we at such times discern with spiritual insight the meaning of God’s providences we should see angels seeking to save us from ourselves, striving to plant our feet upon a foundation more firm than the everlasting hills, and new faith, new life, would spring into being. – Prophets and Kings, 162; RH Oct. 16, 1913
Encouraging. If, under trying circumstances, men of spiritual power, pressed beyond measure, become discouraged and desponding; if at times they see nothing desirable in life, that they should choose it, this is nothing strange or new. Let all such remember that one of the mightiest of the prophets fled for his life before the rage of an infuriated woman. A fugitive, weary and travel-worn, bitter disappointment crushing his spirits, he asked that he might die. But it was when hope was gone, and his life-work seemed threatened with defeat, that he learned one of the most precious lessons of his life. In the hour of his greatest weakness he learned the need and the possibility of trusting God under circumstances the most forbidding. Prophets and Kings, 173
Problematic. Hope and courage are essential to perfect service for God. These are the fruit of faith. Despondency is sinful and unreasonable. – Prophets and Kings (1917)
Note: The comments above on the EGW statement that “It is a sin to be sick. . .,” may provide a helpful explanation. But this quote from Desire of Ages rises to the top it comes to offering encouragement to troubled sinners:
Jesus knows the circumstances of every soul. You may say, I am sinful, very sinful. You may be; but the worse you are, the more you need Jesus. He turns no weeping, contrite one away. He does not tell to any all that He might reveal, but He bids every trembling soul take courage. Freely will He pardon all who come to Him for forgiveness and restoration. – DA 568