On Getting Out of Bed, Alan Noble. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2023.
Summary: Written for those whose experience of life or mental state make even getting out of bed a challenge, offering encouragement that even this is courageous and testifies to the goodness of God, and of life.
What’s the bravest thing you ever did?…
Getting up this morningCormac McCarthy, The Road
This epigraph opens this personal essay from Alan Noble. He writes for those for whom life is hard. It may be the circumstances they face: grieving a loss, dealing with chronic illness and suffering, abuses and injustices, addictions, and experiences of failure. It may be that one is overwhelmed with the brokenness of the world. It may manifest as a mental affliction, either accompanying such difficulties or apart from them, including depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, or panic attacks. Sometimes you just feel blue, or exhausted, or lethargic. And in these circumstances, even getting out of bed is hard.
Noble doesn’t deny the benefit that may come from mental health care. He also acknowledges that it doesn’t always readily change things, as important and as valuable as he believes it to be. For him it still comes down to a choice that we are able to make: to get out of bed. The question sometimes is having good enough reasons to do so.
He contends that as human beings, we image the invisible God. Our very existence is good, as is the God who brought us into existence. Our actions, in consequence, bear witness to another. The choice is to get out of bed today. Even though we do not know what the day holds, getting out of bed is a decision to live and to attest that life is worth the risk. It is an act both of worship to God and witness to others.
To get out of bed is to do the next thing, not to just to keep existing, but to be faithful to God as we do “whatever good work He has put before us.” It also means recognizing that how we are feeling doesn’t excuse our responsibilities to one another, which includes the support of others who struggle to get out of bed. We help each other.
He honestly faces the reality of suicidal ideation, and without condemning the decisions of those who have chosen not to live, he contends that while we may not be able to “snap out of it,” “it does mean that for Christians who understand that the preservation of our life is an essential act of God’s love for us. suicide is not an option we can entertain” (p. 52). With the apostle Peter, he proposes that it will not always be so bad and that God will “restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” Meanwhile, we get out of bed.
And what about the times when we still can’t? The call is not to keep our struggle private, but to share it with those who love us. Sometimes, when our minds are not working right, we need others who see things better than we. And we need to trust them.
Noble, while not disclosing his own psychological history, plainly shares out of his own struggles to get out of bed at times. His own vulnerability both de-stigmatizes the struggle, and lends credibility to his call to take the next step of getting out of bed. His honesty about both his own and others struggles let us know that if we’re in this space, we are not there alone. And his account, as powerfully as any, attests to an underlying goodness of God, and the goodness of what God has made. His use of key passages in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, effectively underscores the conviction of life’s goodness that keeps us getting out of bed.
This is a book that honestly faces despair without wallowing in it. It points us to the best thing we can do in such times, which is to simply get up, put on the coffee, get dressed, and step into our days, believing we will be met there by God and his people.
For anyone struggling with thoughts of suicide or who is concerned for someone or needs emotional support, the 9-8-8 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is open 24/7. The call is free and confidential.
Or, text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the United States, anytime. Crisis Text Line is here for any crisis. A live, trained Crisis Counselor receives the text and responds, all from a secure online platform.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher.