Book review · Christian Living · Christianity · psychology · Uncategorized

On Getting Out of Bed

Suffering is a normal part of living in this broken world, in broken bodies. Truly, those who have a mental illness would love nothing better than to be rid of it. They often find themselves overwhelmed by thoughts and feelings that lie to them and distort reality. I know this because I’ve been there. Author Alan Noble has as well.

In his latest book, Alan writes about living well despite daily suffering in “On Getting Out of Bed: The Burden and Gift of Living” released on April 18, 2023. He wrote for Christians suffering mental illness as someone who intimately understands anxiety and depression. People living with mental illnesses struggle every day to rise from their beds in the morning. They don’t want to face another day living with the dread of having panic attacks with side-kicks of guilt and shame. Alan likened depression to “falling into the same hole day after day. That tracked with my experiences.

Among the people closest to him, Alan has seen them live in poverty and/or with addiction. Some had been abandoned or neglected. Others imprisoned, raped, or molested. Many appeared to pass on their afflictions to the next generation, as if it were part of their DNA. His original belief had been that people chose paths that led to their suffering. He believed most people lived happy, comfortable, safe, and productive lives. He thought he could just “put in the work” and honor God with his life and he’d escape that level of suffering.

But now, after living with mental illness, he said he believes people with acute suffering are the norm, not the exception. His earlier assessment made him more like Job’s friends in scripture , he said, who blamed Job for all the tragedies visited upon him by the enemy.

But he wouldn’t be the only one who thinks that people bring mental illness on themselves. He showed how our society tries to keep this “unspoken conspiracy” in place. We’re expected to ignore the tragedies and traumas in life. If we just make the right choices, we will have a successful, happy, and comfortable life.

I’ve seen this false teaching among “health and wealth” preachers. They blame the Christian for an inability to escape illness and poverty. They treat God like a bank of prosperity. They tell people to “sow” into these ministries. They will reap a financial windfall and experience great health and happiness. But trouble is a given. Jesus can give us His peace He said in John 16:33, but we’re not immune to pain and suffering any more than He experienced while He dwelled with us. I’ll talk more about this problem in Christianity in my next review of Allen Parr, Jr.’s “Misled: 7 Lies That Distort the Gospel (and How You Can Discern the Truth).”

Alan said Americans tend to think every problem has a solution. Think of all the programs, medications, therapies, various apps, and words of wisdom from self-appointed life coaches. With all the available research and technology, how could people not find a cure? They must have sin in their lives. They must lack self-discipline. They must not keep up on their self-care routine. These well-meaning people offer technique-based advice that adds pain and heaps shame onto people already suffering.

Alan said those with mental illnesses have tried many methods and techniques. They haven’t found a cure because treating depression and anxiety is not like treating physical illnesses and infections. Mental illness involves the heart and the soul, he said, and no test exists that will provide doctors with data about things like anxiety levels in our blood. Psychology and psychiatry can only do so much to help this complicated medical problem.

In fact, when it comes to medications like antidepressants, he said doctors don’t even know how and why they work, just that they are useful, work for some people, and the alternative is worse. (Alan does touch on suicide, not from a place of judgment. I did want to warn you if that might be a trigger.) The people in our lives can become frustrated as the days, months, and years go by and we’re still in the hole. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders rarely have clear answers no matter how much we wish they existed.

Alan answered questions like “Why put up with suffering?,” “Why prolong the pain of this life when death is inevitable?,” and “When life is no longer pleasurable, and suffering is inevitable, what keeps us living?” His forthright response on these hard topics kept me engaged with his commentary on mental health. Alan talked often about “doing the next thing” in faith throughout this book. And faith is the key. He didn’t have an introduction when I read the review copy, but I am hoping he touches on that.

Still, another question he raised is “How do people manage life with depression and anxiety if they don’t have Jesus by their side?” This same Jesus is the One who walked among us and suffered in human form. When you repent and accept Jesus Christ as Savior, you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The enemy will lie to you and tell you, “You are alone.” You are never alone though. The Spirit hears your groans and prays for you when you have no words. God the Father protects and shelters you when you are in desert places. You will find this throughout scripture. I can attest to this myself because I too have lived it.

Alan said when we rise from our beds, our actions speak volumes about “the goodness of God, His love for us, and the goodness of His creation.” We do the work God has for us each day and live for Him. We alone make the choice. Living your life for God is your spiritual act of worship. Rising from your bed every morning…or afternoon…defies your flesh that wants to hold you to the mattress. “Each choice to do the next thing is an act of worship,” Alan said. And it can be as simple as making your bed, cooking meals, and taking care of your pets. They are acts of faith.

A few more takeaways from his book are: 1. Our lives are a gift from a good and loving God who created us. He loves us! He created us for His glory and our good. 2. We are not living here on Earth for ourselves. Others depend on us. We have a responsibility to keep getting out of bed. 3. Choosing to act through the power of the Holy Spirit goes against our flesh, Alan said. 4. We die to self and honor God when we make the choice to rise from our beds amid pain and suffering. And 5. Jesus’ work on the cross and His resurrection are why we have hope for the future. This moment in time is temporary. It is not all there is to life.

I think that last part resonated with me the most. If I’m not going to rise from my bed for me, I can at least rise from my bed for other people who need me to do so. People are watching to see how I hold up in the face of extreme hardship and pain, Alan said. I knew my life is not my own. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. Alan said my suffering also is not mine. God wastes nothing and uses everything to mold me into becoming more like His Son, Jesus. In moments of despair, I can say it is good I exist, Alan said, and that God’s opinion is the only one that counts. When my mind is tormented, I can turn to the Holy Spirit for help, as well as comfort. I will be made whole again, if not completely now, then in eternity. I like what scriptures tell us in Psalm 23:3,

He makes me whole again, steering me off worn, hard paths
    to roads where truth and righteousness echo His name.

Alan encourages us to share these burdens with medical professionals, friends and family, and trusted people within the body of Christ. We need to do this before life becomes too overwhelming and we’re not in a good place mentally. They will reap the blessings, Alan said, so I should not be afraid to turn to them for help and support.

I recommend this book to those who are suffering from – or know someone suffering from – mental illness. Alan writes from a place of knowledge on how to live well despite a broken heart and mind. He reminded me of God’s promises. He showed me life is worth living because God has work for me to do. I will remember that my life is a witness and “counts for something.” Having walked through those valley days, I am better equipped to help those who likewise will walk through those dark days.

Thank you to Netgalley and InterVarsity Press for the opportunity to read and review a copy of Alan’s book. You can order Alan’s book here and here. Other works by him are “You Are Not Your Own: Belonging to God in an Inhuman World,” and “Disruptive Witness: Speaking Truth in a Distracted Age.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” (ESV)


One thought on “On Getting Out of Bed

  1. Thank you for this review. Mental illness is rough…What stood out to me in the post was the section on the proliferation of “healing” pages and apps. I do like some of these pages, ones run by professionals, and apps–but it never occurred to me that these tools could actually backfire if someone needs medical attention. So true.


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