Brother, How are You Doing?
By: Deji Yesufu
It was after I got married that I came to understand that it was an unwritten rule in many homes that the man handles all the financial responsibilities in the house. I found pastors who said that when the Bible calls the woman a “helper”, the Bible meant that when it comes to the financial burden of the home the woman is only to lend a help – she should never take up ALL the responsibility. “It is the man’s duty,” the woman will say, “… the little I give him is only to help him”. One minister even told me he never allows his wife to share in paying the children fees: “it is my duty…”, he boasted. Another friend spoke about how he was building his house and how he ensured his wife had minimum contribution to the project: “I don’t want anyone to say in the future that they built the house I live in.” While these comments may convey machismo on the part of a man and rub on his ego as “provider”, I have also seen many men coming to an early grave – developing high blood pressure and dying before their time – because they have simply beleaguered themselves with more burden than God had given them to bear in life.
This article is inspired by a video shared by my friend Dr Bukunmi Kolade on the subject of mental health in men. The actor in the video answers a call and in response to the caller’s usual “how are you doing?”, the man nods “I’m doing well…”, when in actual fact he was not. The video counselled that rather than put up a façade of wellbeing, men should open up to each other and share their real burdens with one another. They also ask that we should, from time to time, call a man we know and ask them how they really are doing. This is something I have done once before with a brother and you could tell he appreciated my asking but in reality I do not think it is a practical way of solving mental health issues in men. Truth is that there will always be challenges in life: there will always be bills to pay; there will be issues in marriage; there will be a nagging health problem; etc, and the solution will never be in calling people and sharing all your troubles with them. Fact is that the people you are calling also have their problems. While it might not be wrong to share a burden with a confidant from time to time, I think there is a greater way in solving mental health challenges in our men. Let me say upfront that because I am a Christian my solutions will be steeped in a Christian worldview.
First. Men should realize that as creations of God and as persons made to lead their homes, God is their foremost confidant and greatest help in this calling. The man who has found Jesus Christ as his sin’s advocate and burden bearer (1John 2:1-2; Matthew 11:30), is that man that has taken reign of the issues of this life in the proper manner. It means he is able to be absolutely vulnerable with God in the place of prayer as he finds forgiveness for his sins and mistakes, while at the same time finding wisdom to sort out life issues and also finding strength within to do what is right. Take the example of the story of a brother who suddenly looses his job. He goes from the height of the person who doles out money in the home to the depth of the one who humbly receives help from the wife. This brother understood the temporary nature of his situation and quickly takes up a new role in the house. While the wife is at work, he takes care of the house and ensure food is ready before she and the children returns. He also uses his free hours to study for a new career. He is in this situation for two years but he humbles himself and with time he returns to being able to provide for his family again. The strength to do this could not have come from anything but God abiding in him.
Second. There is the need for complete openness between spouses on financial issues in the home. I will never understand how couples strip themselves naked and make love, while they hide their finances from one another. A man and a woman who are one in body cannot be separate in finances. While I advocate joint account for couples, those couples who choose not to do this must ensure that their finances are worked together. I am convinced that God gives a home all that they need at every point in time but a man or a woman may be dying, while all the solution to their financial challenge lies with the other spouse. The reality is this: if your spouse dies of ill health because of bearing the financial burden of the home, you will be left to bear it after they are gone. I hear of a woman who owned the housing complex in the heart of Abuja where the husband was renting a flat in. The man was paying millions annually for this house to an agent that works for his wife, and didn’t know that the house belonged to the woman. Such women will kill their husbands and nobody will know.
Finally. Dear man, find a Christian assembly and be part of it. Now this is my own calling in life: to help build Christian congregations where the truth of God’s word is taught, where families can pray together and where brethren can bear each other’s burdens together. I find it deeply worrying that many churches are synagogues of Satan and not places people can find true solace in Christ. I know of churches where pastors side with the women folk because they find the women more malleable to giving than the men. Many churches have contributed to the destruction of homes than one could imagine. Some marriages will be better off if the couples were not attending those churches. One pastor told a wife that her husband is her head in physical things and not in spiritual matter: therefore she could disobey him with regards to what church he requires they attend. Pastors have become heads of home, while the men stare on as house-helps. Such pastors will find their judgement with Christ at the right time.
May God grant us pastors who love the flocks of God and are willing to tell them the whole counsel of God regardless of what they lose in the process. A pastor must be able to lead a congregation and individual members, as the case may be, to the place of repentance before God. Sin is at the root of troubles in the home and when spouses can repent before God, and then seek to forgive each other, they are one step to solving whatever nagging problems they may have between themselves – and thus easing each other’s mental health.
A Church where Jesus Christ is Lord will offer comfort to the burden on men’s heart. The Spirit of Jesus will so work in the hearts of men, giving wisdom to sort out issues in the home at each point in time. Then there will be the time of prayer where the brethren bear each other’s burden, while the community of Christians offers a collective effort at reaching their unsaved neighbors with the gospel of Christ. Where there is a godly Christian community that is serving Jesus Christ in the environment where they are, the individual challenge of each men will tend to fizzle out. I see some men in their older ages all by themselves. They have been alienated from the church they once belong to and there appears to be no relationship with their wives. Such men are usually lonely and that in itself is detrimental to the mental health of the person.
I work in an hospital and from time to time I see couples come to the hospital. The man or the woman has a terminal disease and the two realize, perhaps for the first time, that they have to battle this disease together. The same way they have worked at praying together, solving financial issues together and working together as a couple in the days when there was no sickness, is the same way that they will deal with that illness. Many a man have perished because they have lived their lives in an egocentric machismo, where they believe they can do things without the help of their wives because they have money. But when illness come, they suddenly realize that they need a close confidant – money cannot cure sickness. On the other hand, a couple who have truly been together in prayer and in their finances, face such an illness and overcome it. And even where the other spouse die, there is never the debilitating guilt of not having given your best to your spouse while they lived.
Dear brother, how are you doing? The reality is that no one bears mental health issues like Jesus Christ. May we find the wisdom that God gives to direct our lives. May we find the inner strength to face challenges of life. May Christ be your burden bearer: the one who calls all men to himself, promising them that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Amen.