Have you ever thought that human being is a very complex being? That you sometime, as a complex being, cannot understand yourself and why you do thing that you do not want to do. You may hear someone saying, “I do not know why I do it again and again, I cannot stop myself”. There are several theories in psychology which explain why we “do” or “do not do” what we do. A classic theory in psychology gives explanation that our behavior is influenced by our consciousness, sub-consciousness, and unconsciousness. This theory says that sometime our behavior is driven by our sub-consciousness or unconsciousness so that our behavior is not always in the area of consciousness. But later experts found the weaknesses of the theory. They do not agree with such theory because human has a choice for their present behavior and behavior is not mainly driven by libido, by the past, or by our sub-consciousness/ unconsciousness. And then we got another later theory such as human existentialism, which explains that human behavior may be driven by our need for existence. But still, up to now, there are so many things about human psychology that we do not completely understand. Such as why an individual behaves completely different from his/her habit and from his/her personality in a certain social context, and the same individual behaves similarly to others around him/her who have completely different personalities and backgrounds in another situation. We do not understand the complexity of diverse factors which may influence human behavior and why humans do what they do. We have so many psychological theories to explain human behavior, and yet there are so many things about human behavior that remain as mysteries.
The Bible mentions that human being is indeed a complex being. Take a look at Proverbs 18:14, “A spirit of man can sustain him in sickness, bodily pain, or trouble, but a wounded or crushed spirit who can bear?” When I read this verse, I remember that I have seen and met many people who are alive but are actually dead inside. They do not live their life, but just go on living without living their life. They loss their willingness to live, they loss their hope, and they feel helpless. But I also have met people, who have gone through so many terrible experiences and despairs, can survive and even revive. How can we explain that one person can survive and revive, but another person is crushed by those terrible experiences? Beyond what I have learned in psychology, the Bible gives me a missing piece of understanding which explains the complexity of human being. One factor which drives human behavior that I find in the Bible is human spirit and its fundamental origin.
The Bible explains that human has a human spirit which is created by God. However, since the human fall into sin, that human spirit has been crushed and human cannot access the tree of life in the Garden of Eden or heaven (Genesis 1-3). Human spirit which sustains human inner life has been crushed! But God does something to heal our broken/crushed spirit. Psalm 34:18 says that the Lord is closed to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. And this what makes it different between individuals! When the spirit is crushed, no human being can bear the pain and suffering. But for those who have a relationship with God, God’s spirit heals their spirit, and therefore they can sustain any troubles and pain! However, the Bible also shows that it is not that simple. Human psychology is not merely related only to our spirituality. It is more complicated than that!
Proverbs 14:30 says that a heart at piece gives a (tree of) life to the body. In this verse we find human being consists of heart (emotion and inner being), tree of life (spiritual being), and body (physical being). And these three parts of our being influence each other. Proverbs 15:13 says that a happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit. This verse also shows the three parts of our being; heart, body, spirit. In another verse, we also find that human is also a moral being. And we can find the relation between emotion, behavior, and moral in Proverbs 28:1, “The wicked man flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion”. Our behavior (to flee) is influenced by our moral awareness (wickedness), and our moral awareness (righteousness) influences our emotion (being bold). But then we also find contradictory between behavior and emotion in Proverbs 14:13, that our heart may ache in laughter and rejoicing may end in grief. It shows how complex is human being’s emotion and behavior. Proverb 14:10 says that each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy. This verse shows our individuality, how solitude we are as human being. This verse also implies that we are both individual being and social being. We are separated from each other as individual being, but we seek to emotional connectedness with other people as social being. From these verses alone, we can find so many things about human being, that we are individual and social being at the same time, that our behavior, emotion, spirit, and morality can influence each other, and that our behavior can be different from what is in our heart. Beyond what I can find in secular psychology, is the revelation of the Bible about the fundamental origin of human spirit or human existence. It is unique and beyond our reach to test it empirically because it relates to the story of creation in Genesis 1-3.
Genesis 1-3 explain human existence beyond the theory of human existentialism. This ‘origin of our being’ sustains our existence as human being and gives meaning in everything we do every day. Our existence is started in the Garden of Eden. In the Garden of Eden (or heaven) we can find the tree of life, the tree which gives life to the spirit. This tree of life of God is the origin of the human spirit, the origin of our existence. When human fell into sin, human spirit was crushed and human had to leave Garden of Eden. Human could no longer be able to be in the presence of God. When human spirit, which sustains us, was crushed, we experienced so many pains and sickness that we often cannot bear (Proverbs 18:14). But God promised a solution for human being. He promised that one day, it would be possible for human spirit to get healed and human would to be able to be in the presence of God again, to go back to the Garden of Eden, to have life and relationship with the Holy God. God made a progressive covenant which He revealed to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15), Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3), Isaac, Jacob (Genesis 26:1-5), David (2 Samuel 7:16), through the prophets such as in Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7, 53:1-12, 61:1-3. Those promises refer to the Messiah who died on the cross and was risen from the death. Isaiah 61:3 refers to Christ who gives us garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair and makes us trees of righteousness, the trees of God, to show God’s splendor. He restores human spirit that is crushed (Psalm 34:18). God gives us Spirit who strengthens our inner being. Proverbs 15:13 says that a ‘happy heart’ (inner being) can deal with all circumstances in life, and as it is also mentioned in Ephesians 3:16. God is active to restore human spirit that has been crushed and to bring back the origin foundation of our human existence.
I remember when I was studying Christian counseling in a Southeast Asia Bible Seminary in Indonesia, my teacher once asked me a very deep question about how I develop my existence as an individual. He asked me, “Who are you without your garden scissors?” He described me as a person who likes to fix things which (or more accurately; people who) are broken and makes things (or life of people) beautiful, such as a gardener with the garden scissors. And his description about me was correct because at that time I related my existence to what I did or to the best thing I could do. But when the garden scissors were taken away from me, who am I and what would I be? That was a big question for me. I struggled for several years to find the answer for “Who am I without anything in my hands?” Until God revealed who I am in front of His eyes through some friends and a strangers in several occasions. Once a friend told me, “You are also a diamond of God!” And I was startled to hear that comment. In another conversation with my mentor, my mentor told me, “Betty, you have to remember that you are His diamond, too!” Her sentence pierced me to the heart. And then in a prayer group with a bunch of strangers I just met in Bali, they all told me various visions they got from God with the same message that I was His diamond and He would always keep me save in His hand! It was an overwhelming revelation which explained my origin and what God had done, was doing, and would do in me and through me. I could find my origin as a master piece of God. God has created me, has taken me from the dirt, cut and honed me, and will use me to shine His glory. And it is all begun by the gift of Jesus, the tree of life that makes me able to come into His presence, Garden of Eden.
Psychology has a theory about human existentialism, but Moses had written about the existence of human being in different language and terminologies much longer before. The Bible even has explained deeper about human origin of being. The very strong foundation of our origin of being that will never be able to be shaken and is eternal. The strong spirit, which is our inner being, can sustain us from any pain and trouble (Proverbs 18:14, 17:22). Our fundamental inner being is the fundamental love between us and God and between fellow human beings. On this fundamental love we build perfect intimacy with God and with our fellow human being. It is the three of life in the Garden of Eden which give us the ultimate joy; joy that cannot be destroyed by any kind of circumstance. It is an eternal joy, eternal love, and eternal life. However, since the human fall into sin, this eternal joy, love, and life do not belong to human being anymore. Human being is casted out from eternal Eden, and dwell the world who only knows temporary joy, temporary love, and temporary life which can be broken easily. In this temporary world, we can hurt each other and we can be wounded by other human or by any kind of natural causes easily. Our psyche or soul, and our body are vulnerable to be wounded and to be crushed in this world.
The spirit of life (heart/inner being/spirit) in Hebrew language is used also for soul and wind which has power, energy, force, passion for life, and emotional energy. The crushed spirit, on the contrary, has a meaning of “no desire in life, no desire to deal with life, or discouragement”. When the human spirit was crushed, the inner being was broken. And when our inner being is broken, we would not be able to endures troubles in our life. Hence, problems in human behaviors are not only related to moral problem, spirituality, socioemotional, or mental problems. The Bible explains that human problem is more complex than that. Psychology can explain what and how human can have behavioral or mental problems, but for many cases psychology cannot offer certain solution to fix the problem, and cannot explain comprehensively why one solution for human behavior may work for one case but not for another case. The Bible provides me the missing piece of the puzzle in understanding human psychology. Combining both Bible knowledge and psychology helps me to get the complete picture of human behavior and complexity of human inner being.
A case sample is loneliness. Loneliness has become a big problem everywhere and for everyone in our modern/post-modern society. Social psychologists explain that we need social relationship, so that when we do not get this social connection, we would feel lonely. Theory of evolution in psychology explains that human needs social connection for survival, and loneliness is an alarm to get that connection. And what does the Bible say? Proverbs 14:10 says that each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy. The Bible tells us that our inner being is indeed separated from other’s inner being. Our inner being is solitude. We cannot understand ourselves and no other human being can understand us completely and perfectly. Only God who created us who can understand us perfectly. We can be completely lonely without our connection to the Spirit of God, because even our closest family or friend cannot understand our inner being, and be with us in the very inside room of our being. No one can enter that room except God, and we have the desire to fill the emptiness in that room. Our deepest desire is to get fulness of life, the perfect intimacy with God and with other human being. It is a desire toward the tree of life, and the emptiness will only be fulfilled by this spirit of life. Even when we have enough friends and good relationships, we would still experience loneliness because we were cut off from this tree of life of Eden. But this tree of life is not separated from our love relationship with God and our fellow human being. The spiritual, social, and individual being in us are present at the same time, have different needs to be fulfilled at the same time, and all are at work at the same time in such a beautiful dance in us. The dance that can be beautifully performed only through a hard work of long practices. And even after we have mastered the dancing movements, we can still be stumble and ruin its beauty because of our sin. Because we are a complex unique being, created by a very creative God who wants to see His perfect beauty in us, but we have fallen into sin and broken the beauty. Our broken beauty God wants to restore! He has worked in us, He is working in us, and He will keep working in us till we are back in the Garden of Eden.
#Bible on human existence
This book is about kingdom of God in the eyes of a foreigner