Editor’s Note: We have spent the month of September diving deep into issues of mental health to coincide with National Suicide Prevention Month. Mental health issues are prevalent across all age groups, but particularly among young adults. If you are ministering to college students, it is only a matter of time before you will have a student share with you their struggle with anxiety, depression, trauma, abuse, eating disorder, or suicidal ideation—if you haven’t already.
As we have communicated throughout this series, we absolutely advocate that you do not downplay the issues of mental health your students are dealing with and that you help them seek professional help when necessary. We exhort you to do the same for your own mental health issues.
That being said, we ultimately believe that God is the great Healer, the one who created this world to be good and has been masterfully at work in our world since the beginning of time to restore all things to the way they were meant to be— including mental health. Thus, we found it fitting to conclude this post series with a Bible study you can walk yourself, your students, and your ministry leaders through to center yourselves around the reality that, no matter how great the statistics, overwhelming the depression, or wearying the struggle, Jesus IS greater than the problems of this world.
Many years ago I was working at Barnes & Noble Booksellers when I had a conversation about faith with a coworker, one of the few professing Christians who worked there. She was sharing with me about a friend of hers who had rejected faith years before and asking me for advice on how to discuss faith with him.
I asked what tragedy he had been through. She looked genuinely shocked. “His parents both died in a car crash when he was sixteen! How did you know?” she replied.
I told her simply that every single person I had met who had left the faith had done so because of a tragedy. Upon encountering the tragedy, they felt betrayed by God, angry at God, and finally realized that it was easier to simply deny God’s existence than to spend their life fighting Him.
I’m sure that there are some people out there who begin seeking answers intellectually and are swayed by atheistic arguments away from the faith. But if I can be blunt, they can’t have taken seriously the Christian argument for God’s existence alongside the atheistic arguments or they wouldn’t have left. Unless, of course, they were motivated to do so by something else—like the problems of this world. The problem of evil in the world is the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith, for if God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good, why do bad things happen?"The problem of evil in the world is the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith, for if God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good, why do bad things happen?" @krapin in Jesus is Greater Than the Problems of the World… Click To Tweet
This is a fair question, and one that I would be happy to explore in more detail in person. It’s not my goal, nor could I in a short blog devotional, answer every question one may have about the problem of evil. But it can be answered; and it must. So please, if you are struggling with this question, then email me (email@example.com) or your pastor and find answers.
If you are predisposed to believe in God, if you are a Christian, the problems don’t go away. In fact, as you probably realize from what I’ve already said (or your own experience), believing in God sometimes makes these problems more real and more confusing, not less. But the Bible is clear that God is not confused by the state of the world and its problems. God is not unaware of them, nor powerless over them. God is, despite how it may feel on our dark days, completely good, fully aware of the problems, and utterly sovereign over them.
So how do we trust in God’s goodness and sovereignty in the face of the world’s problems? How do we trust that Jesus is greater than the problems of the world? We look to God’s promises in Scripture.
Paul addresses these kinds of concerns (and many more) in the beautiful words of Romans 8. Paul begins by contrasting life in the flesh from life in the Spirit (vv. 1-17). He then addresses head-on the problem of suffering and corruption in the world and how Jesus is greater (vv. 18-30). Finally, Paul says that God’s gift of His Son Jesus secures for us these promises and reminds us that we are, in fact, conquerors ourselves (in Christ, of course) over the problems of the world (vv. 31-39).
Read Romans 8:1-17
- How is life in the Spirit different from life in the flesh?
- What do other Scriptures teach us about how to live life in the Spirit (e.g., Gal 5:16-26)?
- How could living by the Spirit instead of the flesh change the way we see some (or all) of our problems?
Read Romans 8:18-30
- Paul says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us” (v. 18). What are some of the sufferings you have faced? What does reflecting on this verse tell you about future glory?
- If creation will be set free from bondage to decay and be restored, how much more will human beings, the ones who were created to have dominion over creation, likewise receive freedom and restoration? How does this help give you hope? What are some things you hope for?
- One of the more well-known verses of encouragement in the Bible comes in verse 28: “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” How does God’s promise of working all things together for our good help remind you that Jesus is greater than the problems of this world?
- Paul goes on and says that this work of good by God for us is to conform us to the image of Jesus (his Son). When you are struggling with the problems of the world, do you often reflect on how you are being conformed to Jesus’ image? Do you reflect on how Jesus, too, suffered? Read Hebrews 4:14-16. How does this encourage you and help you trust that Jesus is greater than the problems of this world?
Read Romans 8:31-39
- If God did not spare His own Son, why do we sometimes feel that we ask for things that are too big? Anything God could give us is less than what He has already given us. Does this change how or what you will ask for God to do?
- Whether it’s persecution, or affliction, or any other problem of the world, nothing can separate us from Christ if we have committed our lives to Him. Instead, Paul says we are conquerors through him who loved us. So despite the challenges of the world, God the Father gives victory to those who trust in His Son. What challenges do you face to trusting Him? How does Romans 8 give you encouragement and instruction in how to overcome the problems of the world?
- Read 2 Corinthians 4. How does Paul’s discussion there of glory and suffering relate to Romans 8? What additional encouragement do you gain from that passage?
- We have only looked at a few of the many, many passages in Scripture that teach us that Jesus is greater than the problems of this world. What concerns, questions, or fears do you still have? Take those to the Lord in prayer, remembering from Romans 8 that the Spirit helps us in our weakness (Rom 8:26-27), bringing our deepest emotions, fears, and thoughts to God the Father even when we don’t have words.
In case you missed the previous posts in our Mental Health Series, here are the articles in the series so far:
- Mental Health is Raging on Our College Campuses – Are We Prepared to Deal With it?
- “Help, I’m suicidal”: How to Respond to Suicidal Ideation
- A Minister’s Experience Finding Help Through Professional Counseling
- 8 Tips for Helping Students with Anxiety
- Loss, Hope, and Healing: My Journey in Recovery from PTSD
- The Gift of Asaph: A Blueprint for Spiritual Crisis
- A Perfectionist’s Story of Recovery from an Eating Disorder