Jordan Peterson tells fans he's thankful for 'God’s grace, mercy' amid debilitating health battles

Jordan Peterson speaks in a video to his supporters that was posted to YouTube on Oct. 19, 2020. | Jordan Peterson/YouTube

Jordan Peterson spoke of God's grace and mercy in his first public communication with his fans on Monday after a year spent largely out of public view as he sought treatment for an addiction to a prescribed medication. 

Peterson posted the eight-minute video on his YouTube channel and in it, his cheeks appear more hollow than in his last video. He also spoke more slowly than usual but remained clear and coherent. His voice filled with emotion when he spoke about his friends and family supporting him.

“My extended family and friends went above and beyond the call of duty in my estimation,” he said in the video. “I’m certainly not convinced that I would have the character to provide to any one of them what they provided to me. That was a humbling lesson.”

In his online lectures, Peterson has shown many people that the Bible contains relevant truths on living a meaningful life. With over 3 million YouTube subscribers from around the world, the soft-spoken psychology professor from Toronto, Canada, is one of the most influential intellectuals in public life today. Commenters on his videos often thank him for pointing them toward God.

Peterson said he plans to write a series of lectures on the book of Exodus and a video series devoted to the book of Proverbs.

“You’ve all heard, no doubt, that wisdom is proverbial or there’s such a thing as proverbial wisdom. That phrase stems from the book of Proverbs,” he said. “I think the analysis of those will prove of benefit to me and perhaps to those of you who are inclined to watch or listen to my analysis.”

Peterson’s approach to the Bible doesn’t concern itself as much with whether Bible stories are literally true as it does with whether they are metaphorically true. Although he has refused to say whether he believes Jesus rose bodily from the dead, Peterson often tells listeners that goodness overcoming death is an important concept that gives people meaning to live by. The facts don’t matter to him so much as the story.

Peterson himself is famously reticent to answer whether he believes in a personal God or is a Christian. When asked by interviewers whether he’s a Christian, he said that as a Westerner he was conditioned and influenced by Christian moral teaching. On other occasions, he said he cannot say he believes in God because, he contends, anyone who truly believed in God would live a morally perfect life, and he doesn’t.

“I try to act as if God exists, because God only knows what you’d be if you truly believed,” he said in an interview with Prager University in May 2019.

Despite Peterson’s past statements about his belief in God, he declared that “With God’s grace and mercy, I’ll be starting to create original material once again.”

Peterson visited hospitals around the world searching for a cure after he developed a physical addiction to the medicine he was taking to fix a severe autoimmune reaction to food. The dosage he was prescribed was reportedly increased to help his anxiety after his wife was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2019. The medicine also had the unusual effect of doing the opposite of what it normally does, he said.

While fighting the addiction and autoimmune disorders in the hospital, Peterson experienced terrible withdrawal symptoms, including a restlessness so severe that he wanted to kill himself.

“I’ve been suffering from impaired health,” he said in the video. “Severely impaired health, as a consequence of benzodiazepine use for anxiety, or more accurately from a combination of using that medication and then ceasing its use once I realized it was dangerous.”

Peterson ended his video by thanking his fans and YouTube subscribers for their continued support.

“Thank you very much, and … thank you very much is probably sufficient,” he said.

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