In the best-selling nonfiction book Same Kind of Different As Me, a homeless man named Denver described how he worried about being “different from other people, even from other homeless folks.” He didn’t think anyone, especially someone who’d never been poor, could understand what he had been through in his life. Do you worry about “being different,” too, because of your symptoms of schizophrenia?
Not only was Denver poor, he was black and carried prejudice in his heart against whites due to unjust events in his past. The homeless man, a former sharecropper, reluctantly became friends with a wealthy white art dealer who volunteered at a shelter with his wife.
As Denver’s friendship with the couple grew, the rich man’s wife became ill and died of cancer. All the access to medical care her wealth provided did not spare her from suffering, but heaven did. Denver realized for the first time that we all suffer here—black or white, rich or poor— and that our final rest only comes in heaven. His feeling of being so different from others began to dissolve.
He saw that each person walked a unique road in life determined by God, but “…this earth aint’ no final restin place,” he said. “So in a way, we is all homeless—just workin our way toward home.”
Denver echoed what the bible tells us, that we all suffer, but our hardship will end in heaven. Scripture says, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to test you, as though some strange thing happened unto you…”¹ Schizophrenia is a fiery trial, as is multiple sclerosis, paraplegia, HIV, blindness, poverty, and life in a refugee camp.
A list of difficulties and anguish could go on for pages, each trial and life unique, yet all the same. “…the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world,”² said Peter. Maybe no one in your life can comprehend the anguish of schizophrenia, but the people around you are working their way toward home with their own set of circumstances. Judge not. Forgive those who do.
The road you’re walking and working on includes symptoms of mental illness and a torment you think you cannot bear, but you will endure by the empowering grace of God, just like many other Christians in the world do today. Look at what you have in common with them, instead of focusing on the oddity of your misery.
Paul tells us while we suffer to keep our gaze fixed on eternity and our final home of blessed, sweet rest with our God and Savior. Look up and away, suffering saint, with your feet firmly planted in present grace.
If that advice seems too broad to grasp when you despair of your personal pit of sickness and sin, heed the words of Robert McCheyne, a 19th century preacher: “For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely.”
¹ I Peter 4:12
² I Peter 5:9
Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore with Lynn Vincent (Thomas Nelson, 2006).