Medication, God and Christians. What is helpful? Part 1

He told me that he didn’t want to take the medication ‘Because, well, I know God can heal me so I am just waiting, praying and hoping. Isn’t that what we are meant to do?’

I have heard the sad story of God and medication too many times.

People getting all messed up with their thinking about God and illness and where medication fits in the whole scheme. They may be fine taking some medication for a chest infection or a headache but to take a medication for a mental illness?

Well, that just shows a complete lack of faith. Or does it?

He, like many others, wanted to wait and pray and hope. I said ‘OK’, but with the provision that if the depression and anxiety didn’t get any better in the next week that we would both visit his doctor.

He was OK with that, and we decided to review how things were each day and make a decision at the end of the week.

In this series, I will be covering some thoughts about Medication, God, and Faith.

When I have talked with people about the potential need for medication I like to ask some questions because so much of  where we are now has been determined by the answers we have concluded in the past. Perhaps some of those conclusions need revisiting and thinking through.

Some questions I like to ask.

What is God like?

I remember talking to a young man who was struggling with psychosis (schizophrenia).

He was unwell and kept connecting various Bible passages to aspects of himself. Into my thinking came a picture of a coat hanger. The coathanger was like all the things he definitely knew about himself, in particular in this case, his name. He had found his name in the Bible so he then interpreted that reference in the Bible to somehow mystically refer to him. On to his coathanger, he placed this idea of what God was like.

His understanding of God and what God was like was being formed in unhealthy ways.

Have you got a slightly wonky view of that God is like?

I think to myself about the spiritual teachings and experiences I have been shaped by. Some of the churches I have been in were over the top hype fests. Name and claim, God will heal you, just pray harder, power healing.

Then there are the follow the Bible and its rules/ principles, be good and all will be well type churches.

What has shaped your view of God and medication?

All these experiences and teachings go into shaping our understanding of who God is.

This then follows on to us having various expectations of what a ‘God’ like this should or shouldn’t do. God should heal me, just like Jesus did with all those miracles. We wait, hope and pray for that spiritual/ mystical/ magical touch to happen. Perhaps it will be this Sunday as I get prayed for yet again at the end of the service.

When this doesn’t happen we feel disappointed, let down and possibly think we have failed in some way. That there is some unconfessed sin, we haven’t given enough money, we aren’t trying hard enough.

Do you see how this can become like a hamster wheel of increasing pressure to try and please a vending machine type of God we have created?

Within this culture, medication may be considered a poorer option to that of having faith, waiting and trusting.

Is God is good?

God is present to our struggles, needs, and pains.

Does God sometimes work in miraculous mysterious ways? Yes, but not always.

God won’t be prescribed to (pardon the pun). Instead, as we read biblical stories of healing these are descriptions of how God worked at that time for that person. 

It is interesting to note that every miraculous healing Jesus granted was different from the next. He never did the same miracle the same way again. One day it may have been just through touching his clothes, the next it was through a mud pack made of his spit. 

God cannot and will not be boxed into our demands. 

Summary:

God is indeed good, and perhaps medication may just one of the options God uses to help you. We all have to question our perspective of what God is truly like. Perhaps you have been laboring under a viewpoint that leads you down a path of ongoing unwellness.  There is always room for new ideas.

Quote to consider

  • There is a persisting notion in some circles that the medications used to treat depression and other psychiatric illnesses can somehow interfere with deeper spiritual processes such as the dark night [of the soul]. Nothing could be further from the truth. To my mind, there is never an authentic spiritual reason to let any illness go untreated.  Jesus Wept: When Faith and Depression Meet by Barbara C. Crafton

Questions to answer

  1. Why do we so desire a spiritual/ mystical/ magical solution to our problems?
  2. In your journey of faith, how have your views of God changed? Why?
  3. What is God like to you and how does this play out in relation to unwellness?

Barry Pearman

Image: Michael Ramey



6 comments

  1. Hi Barry, thanks for your post. I know you asked me if I had any questions regarding this issue. I use to get angry with God because he didn’t heal me but over the years and especially in the past 6 years since I entered a new marriage and allowed someone to really ‘see’ me for who I am, the good and the ugly..and with his unconditional love for me and seeking to understand, and going with me to the Doctors last year and hearing the Doctor say that 90% of people take anti depressants at different stages of their life and come off them and are fine, but there are the 10% who need to take medication regularly and that I am in that 10% category. For my husband to hear what the Doctor said and to gain deeper understanding about my condition has brought us ever closer together. So I take my medication every morning, my husband gets it out for me along with my vitamins and puts them on the table with our breakfast. For me having someone close who loves me unconditional, shows me the Fathers love, and its ok. It really is OK.
    I now look at my depression as a thorn in the flesh, not in a bad way, but as a gift. I read an amazing book, The Thorn in the Flesh by RT Kendall which helped immensely, there
    was a major shift in my thinking ( which had come through Church teaching etc, as you alluded too..but also my own self judgement)
    I was married to an alcoholic for 13yrs, I knew in the first 2 years it was not good. But hung in there, believing the Lord was going to heal my marriage, prayed, fasted…I didn’t believe in divorce, I believed wholeheartedly in marriage and that God could heal my marriage if He so desired…..but I left, it was leave or die. So its been a journey for me little my little moving ever closer into the loving heart of my gracious God. I know He loves me unconditionally. And now its OK that I take medication for my depression.
    Bless you for listening to my little story.
    (ps I love the photographs you posted from Michael Ramey. And I have ordered that book, Jesus Wept.)
    Wendy

  2. Just as every miracle Jesus performed was different from every other, I believe each and everyone of us is a miracle, or “masterpiece”each in their own way, in the eyes of God.He only asks us to follow Him wholeheartedly, without coveting the miracle He has done in someone else’s life.

    Just as Peter once asked Jesus what John was doing, following Jesus, Jesus told Peter,”Follow Me!” This is easier said than done, but Jesus Himself is our model in self-emptying and full obedience to His Father. This is what Oswald Chambers calls,”reckless abandon!” Amen.

  3. Barry, people who refuse to acknowledge the value of depression meds are the same misguided ones who contribute to stigma. God works through mental health counselors, psychiatrists and psychologists just as He works through family doctors and surgeons.

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