Thursday, August 18, 2005

Depression - Medications

I don't have a "flagship" verse with this because I want to be careful not to influence people too strongly with this topic. I've been thinking about depression a lot lately, and I'm going to try to tackle it in chunks. This chuck is about medication.

Note: I must ask you to please be a good Berean and look these verses up on your own, talk to your Pastor, pray to God for guidance on these issues. I am not trying to usurp your Pastor's authority in your life, and I am not trying to be the Holy Spirit in your life, either. As always, these are my own thoughts on the subject derived through my own study and prayer. Please take them as nothing more than that.

My goal with this is to answer the question, "As a Christian, should I be taking depression medication?"

As Christians, we are supposed to trust that the Lord will take care of us, and I absolutely do. I believe deeply that the Lord will cause all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), but I also believe that there are times when He chooses not to miraculously heal us. I don't know why, but I believe it is because there are reasons and seasons for everything in God's universe.

John 11:14-15 So Jesus then said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe [underline mine]; but let us go to him."

Mark 2:5-11 5 And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, "Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?" Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, "Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? "Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, `Your sins are forgiven'; or to say, `Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk'? "But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"--He said to the paralytic, "I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home."

John 9:1-3 As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

I don't believe I'm taking these verses out of context to say that there are times when we have illnesses that have purpose other than for punishment or because our faith isn't strong enough. People are watching, and when we continue to trust Him in our illnesses, people learn the reality of our God through us. 1 Peter talks a great deal about suffering. Suffering is part-and-parcel with being a Christian. I don't happen to believe that physical illness is somehow separated out by God as being a special, "off-limit" case.

Or mental illness, for that matter. I have no doubt whatsoever that God is capable, and sometimes willing, to miraculously cure illnesses of all kinds. I also have no doubt that there are those He chooses not to heal for a reason known only to Him.

Acts 3:2-4 And a man who had been lame from his mother's womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, "Look at us!"

So if this man had been brought to the Temple every day to beg alms, didn't Jesus see him? Why didn't Jesus heal him? I believe the answer is that He knew Peter and John would, and He left him for them. It glorified God. Jesus could have healed him just like Peter and John did, but allowing them to do so glorified God.

I also believe there are times when God wants us to go through the process of recovery. Lazarus was dead and Jesus raised him from the dead. He had breath, life, heartbeat. But what's the first thing Jesus said to him when he came out of the cave?

John 11:44 The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."

"Unbind him." Lazarus didn't emerge from his resurrection unbound already. He wasn't told to unbind himself. He said to those around him, "Unbind him and let him go." Lazarus had to go through a process of unbinding to be fully restored, fully resurrected. And the man who saw "men like trees walking around" (Mark 8:24) Jesus didn't fully heal him with the first "healing." He didn't see clearly until Jesus laid His hands on him a second time. And the man who had to go to the Pool of Siloam (John 9:7) to wash after Jesus applied clay to his eyes. Jesus could have healed him outright, but chose to ask him to participate in his own healing.

I believe these events are pictures of "process." We have a process to go through as Christians when we are first saved to put off the "Old Man" (Col 3:9-10 KJV) and put on the New Man. Similarly, when we are ill, there are seasons when we must go through the process of healing because, in some cases, the illness and the process of trusting God anyway glorifies Him.

So how about us? Does our illness glorify God? Sometimes, I think. Does our recovery glorify God? Sometimes, I think. Does the process glorify God? Sometimes, I think. But only if, and that's a huge IF, only if we continue to love Him and trust Him through it. People are watching.

So where does medicine come in? Is there a Scriptural basis for the use of medicine? I think so.

1 Timothy 5:23 No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.

James 5:14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;

Luke 10:33-34 "But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them;

Wine for the stomach, oil and wine for the Samaritans wounds, oil for the sick. These are all clearly medicinal in the Greek. They are not spiritual anointings. They are medicinal. This sounds to me like God is showing us that He intends for us to use the medicines that are in use for the day for healing. Sometimes He will heal miraculously, and sometimes not. And when He doesn't, then I believe He has left the way open for us to avail ourselves of medical assistance. I don't see any Scriptural basis for excluding mental health pharmaceuticals.

Science is becoming more and more clear that depression causes (in a chicken-and-egg sort of way) chemical changes in the brain that cause thinking, reasoning, functioning to deteriorate, exacerbating the depression. When that happens, you have a tough time using your God-given wisdom to get yourself to the "Pool of Siloam." You're still just too blind. I believe that using medications adjusts that chemistry enough to allow you to do the work, with the help of God, to resolve the problem and readjust your life. Once you have made the life changes that need to be made, then slowly, with the doctor's guidance, you can start the process of eliminating the medications.

Clearly in a perfect world and with perfect faith, medication would not be necessary. But God gives us our faith (Romans 12:3). We can't give ourselves faith. Faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ (Romans 17). Great faith takes time. It was meant to. It took Abraham 40 years in the wilderness to have great faith. We can't strain and grunt to increase our faith. Our faith is a gift from God. We can, and certainly should, pray to God for an increased measure of faith. Whether or not He gives it to us, and the timing He chooses, is up to Him. In the mean time, He has provided our relationship with His Son, our community of believers, and medical science to help us through it.

I say again, please do your own study and come to your own conclusions about this. It's just too important an issue not to.

Thank you, and God bless,



At August 19, 2005 8:49 AM, Blogger Tina said...

Hi Sue,
Thanks for your comments on my site...and for this article. This topic is a tough one for me. I used to suffer from depression and after I came to know Christ realized that the root of my depression was sin. Thankfully, now I only need to be reminded of my pride, my self-seeking, my lack of faith to stop an impending bout of depression.

That is all of His grace.

Having had this experience with the Lord makes it a challenge for me to see people that I care about look to medication as a cure for something that seems very clearly a sin issue. You mentioned the physiological effects of depression and also the chicken/egg conundrum. For me, it just doesn't seem that unknowable. I think of adrenaline and the effect it has on the body...the adrenaline is a response to anxiety or exertion or fear, it is not the cause of it. I feel the same way about the chemical changes associated with depression.

Yet I know the debilitating effects of depression and how attractive medication can be to someone who's life is falling apart. Yet I would think that if the sin isn't being dealt with, then just taking pills wouldn't be glorifying to God. As you alluded to in your post, all afflictions fall under God's sovereignty and are intended to glorify Him, sanctify us, and commend our Savior to others by how we walk it out. So I would think that if a believer felt medication was necessary, that it should not be a subsitute for faith and obedience but used as a tool to get them in a place of deeper faith and obedience. How taking a pill in these instances doesn't contradict a life of faith and obedience is a hard thing for me to wrap my mind around, actually, (as I do not put mental/emotional issues on the same plane as, say, cancer or even the flu) but I am willing to conceed that I don't know everything. :) I do know, however, that God can and will work in spite of us, and for that I am very grateful!

At August 19, 2005 8:59 AM, Blogger Sue said...

Brilliantly put. I agree with everything you said. The only thing I would add is that, even if the initial "chicken-egg" situation is that sin caused the chemical imbalance (which I intend to post on soon), the chemical imbalance is now causing the lack of faith and strength to dig out of the pit of sin. I totally agree that a pill should NEVER be used as a substitute for the work, but sometimes the work is just too hard. When a person's faith in God is strong enough, or God miraculously intervenes, then Glory Be to God! But if neither of those things is the case, then it is my personal belief that asking medical science for a little help to get back in line with God is not outside His plan for us. Not everyone is at the same level of Christian maturity and faith, and I think we have to leave room for the younger ones to grow. Having said that, thank you so much for your comments. I love a discussion! God Bless, Sue

At August 19, 2005 9:21 AM, Blogger Tina said...

"Not everyone is at the same level of Christian maturity and faith, and I think we have to leave room for the younger ones to grow."

I guess that is where I am right not. Not that I think I am at some higher level, because I truly don't. I endeavor to think I am the scum of the earth as Paul did. But it is a pitfall, I think, for all who have experienced freedom in an area of sin to expect God to work the same way in other situations...and I know that is not the case. Or should I say, I am faithfully reminded that that is not the case.

For the past two weeks, my pastor has been in Romans 14 where the "bear with the weak" section is. Again, not that I would label myself strong, but I think that passage does a lot to just put us in a frame of mind to care for and not judge people who do things differently.

I think we all need that reminder from time to least I know I do!


At August 19, 2005 9:26 AM, Blogger Sue said...

Amen and Amen!

At September 21, 2010 6:45 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

1. There is no guarantee of a cure of depression from god, nor a guarantee of a cure of anything else you suffer in this world.

2. If medication is available, you need to lower your religious pride and take it, maybe even change your religion. It will help you in the long run to know you don't have to volunteer to suffer guilt from people pounding on you for failing to get it together spiritually until you don't suffer from depression anymore.

3. Anyone who says a person is not spiritually mature because they seek medical help for their depression is someone you should not deal with at all, including this blog who seems to push the idea that only weak, immature christians need anti-depressants; don't listen to these people. They are not qualified to be a doctor, much less a therapist.


Post a Comment

<< Home