As Christians, we’re taught that God loves us unconditionally. Yet, some of us (like maybe you) suffer beyond measure with depression and other forms of mental illness. Why does a good God allow His children to feel that way? And why doesn’t He heal us of mental illness, naturally (i.e. without medicines)? As an overtly Christian physician, I've been asked these questions on more than one occasion.
During my seventeen years of medical practice, I have known many patients who suffered miserably with depression but refused to take medicine for it. They all said basically the same thing, “No...I don't want to take antidepressants. If only I could straighten out my thinking, I’d feel happy again. I'm going to just keep praying about it." Still, they go on feeling miserable.
I’ve also known patients who take their anti-depressants for a while but then, when they finally feel better, they go off of them. They figure they’re “cured,” even though the main reason they feel better is because of the medicine. You can guess what happens after they go off the medicine. Most slip back into depression, slowly but surely.
These patients remind me of the man who was shipwrecked and stranded, floating a few miles from shore on debris from the wreck. As he laid there floating, he fervently prayed to God for a rescue. But when a boat finally came by and the sailers saw him, he declined the rescue. He said, “No thanks, I'm waiting on GOD to rescue me.”
Don't forget that sometimes medicine is the answer to your prayers!
Taking medicine for depression is no different from taking medicine for high blood pressure. Both conditions are due to physical conditions, so if you’re okay with taking blood pressure medicine, you ought to be okay with taking depression medicine.
“But, Doc, depression is due to negative thinking and high blood pressure is not.” Wrong! Negative thinking causes anger, fear, and bitterness, which, in turn, can raise your blood pressure and lead to heart attacks and strokes. Lots of illnesses are due in some part to wrong thinking, not just depression.
Moreover, even though your thinking can affect both your level of depression and your blood pressure, the converse is true only for depression. Depression actually affects your thinking, causing you to falsely feel guilt and shame, whereas high blood pressure does not affect your thinking. The point is, depression is not just a result of wrong thinking, it also causes wrong thinking (clouding your judgment and making you feel false guilt, shame, and lowliness).
Do you want to know why I think people justify taking medicine for other illnesses but not for depression? Sometimes, their problem is pride. They think depression is a sign of weakness and they don’t want to admit to themselves and others that they need help to control their thinking. Or their problem is shame. They feel bad about who they are and don't want to do anything to help themselves. It's like they're punishing themselves for things they falsely believe they're responsible for.
Please don't let pride or shame stop you from accepting the miracle God is trying to give you through doctors. The antidepressants may be the exact extra boost you need so you CAN once again bring your thoughts into submission to God's Word. I believe that's why God allowed scientists to create anti-depressants (for your benefit) and that's why you should both swallow your pride and swallow the pill, too. If you believe you are depressed, please pray for answers but also talk with your doctor about whether anti-depressants are right for you.
See Dr. Rita's other mental health posts: