Christians and medication

First, I’d love for you to read the following by John Piper:

Should Christians use anti-depressants? (by JOHN PIPER … not Jackie!)

It is a gray area. I don’t preach against anti-depressants, though I have mentioned them before and dealt with a good many people who use them.

In the secular world at large there is a huge reaction these days against the overuse and dangers of anti-depressants. The world itself is recognizing that we may be doping up too quick and too superficially.

But still, if you go to a doctor now, very often you’ll be prescribed a medicine for almost any kind of relational, emotional, or behavioral problem that you’re having. That is happening too quickly I think.

I appreciate the concern people have about the use of anti-depressants among Christians. God had something to teach Job—who didn’t have Prozac—through his pain, and he might have something to teach us too.

Therefore, I encourage slowness to use anti-depressants. God may have a way forward for someone before they start altering their mind with physical substances.

However, on the other side, it seems clear to me that the brain is a physical organ with electrical impulses and chemicals, and that mental illness is therefore not merely spiritual. No man could persuade me that all mental derangement is owing to a spiritual cause that has a purely spiritual solution.

There are physical damages that happen in life or that a person is born with that alter the brain’s functionality. The question then becomes whether we should only pray for it to be healed, or whether we might also use medicine to help it.

Just like you take aspirin to get you through a very serious back-ache, you might, for a season, take some kind of medicine that would enable you to get your bearings mentally so that you can then operate without the medicine.

Near our church there is a place called Andrew home and it houses people who are severely mentally disabled. All of them are on heavy medicines to keep them from killing themselves, killing other people, or being totally unable to work.

A few of them worship with us at Bethlehem, and I believe that through their medication they perceive and know God and that God is in fact using them for good. They are seriously mentally ill. I don’t know all of their circumstances, but I couldn’t rule out the option of medicine for them (or for others struggling with certain forms of serious depression) as a means to try and help them get their bearings.

One way medicine can be helpful is if it gets people to a point where they have enough stability to read the Bible. Then, through being able to read the Scriptures, people are able to be refreshed in the Lord and, in time, come off of the medicine. In that case medicine is a means to an end, and that seems perfectly natural to me.

© Desiring God

Well, hey there.  Jackie again. What are your thoughts on this?  I’d love to generate some discussion in the comments.  I want everyone to weigh in.  I’ll share my thoughts in another post very soon!

13 thoughts on “Christians and medication

  1. I think there are some good point to the artical. I know that with out the right medication and being in the right place mentally. There is no way I can find God or read the Bible. There is a lot that goes into the who mental health world. It is not an easy or quick fix.

  2. Well, I’m not sure I’m qualified to discuss this, but I’ll give it a shot. I take a low dosage of an anti-depressant that is meant to relax the muscles in my neck and back so that I don’t get headaches/migraines as often or as severe as they had been pre-meds. I know this isn’t a case of a mental illness, but I know that when I don’t take the meds, even if I just take smaller doses, it adversely affects how I function during the day. I find that if I don’t take them, I can’t focus on my Bible, my prayer time, or basically anything else in my day just because I literally cannot keep my mind on something for long other than my muscles tightening and my head throbbing.
    As far as medications being a means to an end, as Piper suggested, God doesn’t always choose to heal a mental (or physical) illness. And I definitely believe that He can teach through medications; Piper mentioned that some mental patients can comprehend God’s Word when they are medicated, as opposed to when they are not. Just through the process of finding a medication that worked for me taught me so much about God and my relationship with Him. To be honest, I don’t have anything against medication for depression or other mental illnesses. I have friends with depression, and I’ve seen how hard it is to comprehend overcoming it, let alone finding the strength to even want to try to fight it.
    And as far as Job is concerned, I’d call that grief, not clinical depression. And while grief-stricken people may not be thinking clearly either, it’s usually not as a result of a physical/chemical impairment, to the point where they can’t comprehend advice or establish coping mechanisms.
    Wow, sorry that was long.

  3. If the person is an adult who is capable enough, then I loved what he said about Job & waiting to see what God has. I agree that sometimes doctors are probably just ‘putting bandaids on cancer’…but I don’t really know. I think it’s both…getting help to put you in the right frame of mind, but then not stopping there, and working to solve the root issue. In my own expereince, I have been around kids who don’t take meds at all when they REALLY should. I’ve known parents who give their kids meds some days & other days they don’t. They get violent & can’t manage their emotions…and it seems so wrong knowing they are miserable. Ultimately, God’s heart is probably that we all find rest in knowing Him and then work from there.

  4. I disagree…The same could be said about vaccinations. Should christians just pray to be immune to hepatitis? Are you not trusting God because you wear a seat belt? God has given us the wisdom for amazing medical advances…it would be a shame not to use them.

  5. If God created us without a constant intake of medication in our system then why should we be medicating ourselves? For example do we get headaches because we have a lack of Advil in our systems? No! Our bodies were created to heal and fight disease and sicknesses without the use of medications or surgeries. Don’t get me wrong I believe medicine has it’s place in an emergency but let’s get to the root of the problem. Trust that the Lord knows your body better than any doctor. What controls the function of all our organs? Our brain and the link between our brain and the rest of our body is our nervous system! If there is interference between the communication of our brain to the rest of our body how well are we going to function? Not very well, so by getting our spine check and getting chiropractic adjustments to put our vertebrae back were God created it to be we are able to function at 100 %. Being on antidepressants for 5 years myself I was not who God created me to be! He wants more for his children. Our bodies are temples and we are called to treat them that way. I could go on even longer about this because it is my passion. I see patients everyday who are getting off migraine, diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, antidepressant medications, people who no longer have cancer, or heart disease and even pts with HIV whos blood work shows no viral count! Don’t put in God in a box and limit his creation by toxic drugs vaccines and surgeries that kill. He never said he needed any help, He only need NO interference!

    • This is super interesting to me. I’m just wondering what you think about people with severe mental disabilities, or something like bi-polar then?

  6. This is a really tough question. Reading through these comments has really shown me both sides to the case. When I initially read through it, it was a quick decision for me. I truly do believe that medication can help. There are some that are in such a place, that they simply aren’t able to function.

    This isn’t exactly the same. But I was on a medication for blood pressure that had awful side effects. I had migraines and slept all the time. I was on this for so long that I never realized that this was the medication, but thought that this was me. I thought that this was the norm, I didn’t realize that there was a different way to live. A doctor figured out I was overmedicated due to other side effects. When it was changed, I was amazed how different life was. I had energy and was able to make different changes.

    I’m sort of rambling, but here’s the point. I think depressed people think that their life is the norm as well. They don’t realize that there could be something else until they are medicated. I liked what Piper said about being on this for a season. Not necessarily dependent on this, but using it for a season. Maybe it will be something more long term, but I think that medication is a powerful tool that we are able to access. Continuing to use medication is something that should be thought about with praying and counsel of others. The Lord is able to heal on His own, but I believe He allows medication to be used as well.

  7. I think believe that medicine is a good thing to a point, similar to what he has to say but maybe not as against it. I think that there are certain situations in which people misuse medications but I think that for the most part they are very helpful. His comment towards the end sort of irked me saying that we can use medication to help us read the bible then we wont need it anymore. Yes I believe in the healing power of God, but I don’t think the bible is a vitamin C pill that keeps you physically healthy. We live in a world that is fallen, since we are corrupted by sin, we die in our fleshly selves. The Bible, to my knowledge, is not here to save our earthly bodies but rather help us “die” to ourselves and be alive in Christ. It is interesting to hear Piper say this since I feel like his stance on this would be quite different if he got into the issue a little deeper. In the end I feel like God can use doctors and medication to help us get through this life in our corrupt bodies a little easier so I don’t rule out medication at all. Perhaps sometimes when we pray for healing God answers our prayer through some type of medication?

  8. Also, I don’t think the image of Job necessarily works…not really depression (though, yes he would be “depressed”) it seems to me like more of grievance or heartache. Not necessarily something that has to do with illness per say.

  9. Oh man, I could write a book here. I am a nursing student and I am currently spending 6 weeks in the state mental facility interacting with people who have Schizophrenia, Bipolar, Personality Disorders, Depression, Substance Abuse, etc. What I have seen in this place has been completely crazy. I do not understand how the brain can get so messed up that it completely alters the way people think, feel, and act. Do I believe that Jesus has the power to heal people? Absolutely! Do I believe this world is corrupt and Jesus works through tools such as medicine and various nonpharmacologic therapies to heal people as well? Yes! I will admit, I used to have a pretty poor attitude toward the field of mental health. You say the words antidepressants, psychosis, schizophrenia, etc. and people are immediately turned off. An unfortunate stigma exists toward people with mental illnesses. Anyway, that doesn’t have a whole lot to do with medications…

    I will also say that I am probably an odd nursing student. I hate medications. You couldn’t pay me a million dollars to take an antipsychotic/antidepressant. I know too many of the side effects…many of them come with the risk of diabetes, obesity, and weight gain just to name a few. HOWEVER, i know that so many people (especially those with schizophrenia and bipolar) would literally go crazy without their medications and the suicide rate would become even higher. It is a toss up. Medication compliance is probably the biggest issue in mental health (which doesn’t surprise me). I do believe Jesus can use medications and therapies as tools to recovery (just like he used CBT and your daily concoction to deliver you Jackie Lea!!)

    I do think the medical field tends to overmedicate patients. Medicine and surgery does have it’s time and place. However, I know that FOR ME i go to the chiropractor when it comes to headaches and running issues (I realize this isn’t anything compared to a mental illness) but I have seen excellent results. I rarely get headaches anymore (God knows had I gone to a doctor I would have just paid a couple thousand for an MRI). I prevent common running pains with the stretches and preventative visits/tune ups from the chiropractor. Had I gone to a doctor I probably would have been prescribed physical therapy (much more expensive!!) and Hydrocodone (pain meds!) Overall, I think more positively since I have been going to the chiropractor.

    This is a hard place for me to sit. I believe the medical field is getting a little bit better about recognizing more alternative therapies and their advantages in certain disease processes over traditional medicine. I believe physicians need to take a hard look at lifestyle and changes patients can make before automatically prescribing a drug with harmful side effects. If possible physicians need to combine alternative and traditional medicine into more of an integrative medicine. However, there are times that strict traditional medicine is necessary (emergencies, infections, etc.)

    I will say this. The majority of people I’ve seen in the inpatient mental health setting have been those who are relapsing…90% of the time it is because they stopped taking their medications. Clearly these medications are helpful. On the other hand, so many of these people have NO IDEA the power of Jesus and his grace and peace and hope. One of the counselors actually asked a young teenager who was on her 9th relapse to the facility and had tried just about everything to get over her issues “So what do you think that void is in your life?” I wanted to scream JESUS!!!!!! Sometimes medicationss work, but other times we forget about the entire person and what he/she is REALLY missing.

    So basically what I’m saying is I HAVE NO IDEA. Do I think taking antidepressants makes a person weak? No. Do I think a person should have to depend on them to be stable for the rest of his/her life? No. We don’t even understand what causes most mental illnesses so it is so hard to say what works and what doesn’t work. I believe some people really do need medications. I would never tell a bipolar person in an acute manic state to just hop on over to the chiropractor. Heck, the person probably wouldn’t make it there to begin with. A person in such an acute stage as that needs more than an adjustment. A person an acute state of mania is at HIGH risk for self harm and an abundance of physical problems that must be stabilized with medications or other therapies. However, it would be interesting to see how many people really are over-medicated for mental illnesses. I think medical doctors need to look into what can be done other than medications once a person is stabilized. Certainly medications need to be used in order to stabilize a person an their acute stage, but what about in the maintenance phase? Do we really need all of the meds then? My nursing textbook would tell you yes, but sometimes I still wonder!

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