Q. I struggle with depression and feel guilty taking antidepressant medication. Some Christians say that depression is a sin problem. Others say it’s a disease. I’m so confused. Am I sinning by taking medication? Lori in IN
A. You are not alone. Many depressed people feel ambivalent about taking medication. They fear it means that they aren’t trusting God enough. But there is evidence in nature and in Scripture that God is not opposed to the use of medicine, and he created some plants to be used specifically for medicinal purposes. The Bible refers to a special balm in Gilead that was used to heal wounds (Jeremiah 8:22; 46:11). Wine and myrrh were mixed together as a painkiller (Mark 15:23), and a poultice of figs was heated and applied to boils (Isaiah 38:21).
The right medicine can be extremely helpful when your physical, emotional, and mental state are deteriorating and you are losing your ability to function. If you can’t sleep, if you can’t think, if you feel confused or totally numb, if you can’t get out of bed, if you can’t comb your hair, if you can’t make it to work, or if you can’t stop crying, you need to see a medical doctor and most likely need medication.
However, with that said understand that antidepressant medication (although a wonderful blessing for people) does not cure depression. It helps alleviate many of the debilitating symptoms of depression, which is a great start. But it’s important that in addition to feeling better, you do the work to actually get better.
It’s important that we understand that we are bodies and when our bodies aren’t working well, the rest of us doesn’t function well either. However, depression is more than just a physical disease. Let me give you an example.
My brother was recently diagnosed with coronary artery disease. He noticed some shooting pain down his arm during a golf game and paid attention enough to realize that something was wrong. After seeking medical attention he found out he would need to get stents to open up his clogged arteries. Everyone agreed he had coronary artery disease. But was that the end of the story? Not really.
The stents opened his arteries so that the pain stopped, but the stents did not address why he got coronary artery disease in the first place. Was there a family history of coronary heart disease? Was his diet healthy and did he participate in aerobic exercise? Was he a smoker? How did he handle his emotions, such as anger, and how did he deal with stress and relationship difficulties? These questions all shed light onto someone’s vulnerability to heart disease. For my brother to adequately deal with his heart problem, in addition to having his arteries opened, he must also examine his lifestyle and make changes where necessary. Medication and stents was only part of his solution. In order to get better, he must also address other issues that possibly caused his heart disease to begin with.
To defeat depression, medication may be one of the steps. But you must also look at your lifestyle and habits and how you deal with things (or don’t). Depression begins and grows out of a complex interplay between our bodies (biological factors), our minds (the way we think and look at things), our habits (our personality style and patterns we have developed for coping with people and life’s stresses), interpersonal factors (our relationships with others, past and present), and spiritual problems (sinful responses, faulty teaching or understanding regarding God and his character, and a loss of purpose or meaning to life).
My new book Defeating Depression will help you:
Make sense of the symptoms of depression and what causes them
Hold on to God more firmly and trust that he won’t abandon you
Listen to and grasp what your depression is revealing to you
Take specific steps to get better – and to grow stronger
Look forward to feeling normal again and enjoying the future
You will find it on my website at www.cart.leslievernick.com/category/books/