Should Christians Take Antidepressants?
- Erin Davis erindavis.org
- 2017 26 May
From the LYWB.com Team: We love it when our readers throw tough stuff our way. One reader recently pulled up this post from the archives and asked us to pray and think through some of the words we used. Thank you! We always want to drive you toward God’s truth, and we must go there first. So with some prayerful edits, using God’s Word as our guide, today we tackle the question: Should Christians take antidepressants?
Depression isn’t easy to describe, and it can be an even tougher subject to talk about, especially among Christians. We have Jesus. We should always be happy, right? But the Bible never says that.
In a Revive Our Hearts broadcast on the subject of antidepressants, author Elyse Fitzpatrick put it this way:
People tend to think that if you have the Lord, then you ought to be joyful all the time. But that’s really not the picture that we have in the Bible of anybody who was walking with the Lord. Do we have the joy of the Lord in the midst of trial and difficulty? Yes. But we also suffer grief and sorrow, and we live in a fallen world. Part of what that means is that I’m not going to be happy here the way in which I’m going to be happy when I’m there, when I’m standing with the Lord.
If you’re a Christian and you’re struggling with out-of-control emotions like depression and anxiety, where should you turn?
To the Thousands of You on Antidepressants
One recent study showed that around 10 percent of thirteen- to seventeen-year-olds have been prescribed antidepressants. That means that if our readers are a representative sample of American teenagers, one out of ten of you have been given antidepressants by your doctor. With hundreds of thousands of you reading this site, as many as 1,500 of you may be reading these words while taking or considering taking antidepressants. That makes this a subject worth talking about.
That same broadcast I mentioned earlier gave some wise insights on this subject. If you are wrestling with depression and the decision whether or not to take antidepressants, I suggest you check out the entire broadcast here. In the meantime, here are some key points:
1. Dig up the spiritual root of your hurt.
Antidepressants are often prescribed when there is a physical issue such as chronic headaches, pain, or sleeplessness that doctors cannot pinpoint the source of. If you are struggling physically and your doctors can’t track the source, it’s possible that there is an underlying spiritual or emotional root. (For more on this, check out yesterday’s post: Are My Emotions Making Me Sick?) In this case, antidepressants won’t do the work that needs to be done through counseling, mentoring, and allowing God to move in your heart.
2. Emotions are God-given.
Being sad or angry or depressed doesn’t feel good, but numbing yourself robs you of the tapestry of emotions God wove into your heart and intended for you to feel.
Elyse said, “You see, God has given our emotions to us as a very good gift. They color life, but then they also tell us when things are wrong and when things are right. They draw us to the cross. That’s the purpose of our emotions. So we want to be very careful when what we’re doing is simply blunting our emotions without taking care of the underlying causes.”
The reader that wrote to us pointed out that not all antidepressants medically numb emotion. Many of them increase serotonin, a chemical messenger that carries signals between brain cells. I appreciate the warning to broaden this conversation beyond antidepressants. No matter what is happening on the chemical level of these medications, the reality is that when we experience negative emotions our reaction is often to want to escape those feelings. Some may attempt this with antidepressants, others with food or entertainment or a relationship. But no matter where we run for relief, if we are only looking for temporary numbness rather than lasting healing, we will find that our feelings of anxiety and depression always boomerang back.
3. Ask God to remove the tack.
Let’s say that I put a tack on a chair and you sat on the tack on the chair. Now, how can you respond to that? You can respond by jumping up and getting the tack off the chair, or you can take morphine that will blunt the pain.
Now, I know that seems silly, and I’m not trying to make something that’s very, very serious seem silly. I know that women really do struggle with this. But that’s very much what we’re doing when we take anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications for emotional pain. We are not dealing with the fact that we’re sitting on a tack. We’re not dealing with the fact that there are problems.
Just like you had significant problems in your life that really needed to be dealt with and brought to the cross and thought about in a godly way, we need to get up and remove the tack. If you get up and remove the tack, in many ways that pain will not go away. It would be like taking morphine for a broken arm. It doesn’t mean your arm’s not broken anymore. It just means you don’t feel it.
First Peter 5:7 says, “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” When we tell Him about our hurt, we aren’t just venting. We are free to ask Him to remove the tack, the source of pain that is injuring us.
Make sure you are running to God as your first defense and not as an afterthought.
Make sure you are running to God as your first defense and not as an afterthought. He is in the business of dealing with the yuck in our lives. With God there’s no such thing as hopeless. He may use doctors or pastors or friends or mentors to heal you, but before you run to outside sources for help, ask yourself: Do I trust that God can heal what is broken in me?
As you wrestle with that, here’s a nugget of truth to hold on to:
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Ps. 147:3).
4. God created the church to be a hospital where the sick and broken come to find hope and healing.
If you’re struggling with feelings of depression to the point that you’re considering taking meds, make sure you seek help from other Christians in the process.
The brave reader who wrote to me said, “It took me a long time to put aside my pride and fear to receive counsel from godly women in my life, because I thought for sure no one would be able to relate to deciding about medication for a mental health diagnosis and would tell me what I had been telling myself for years: ‘You’re a huge spiritual failure, you don’t trust God enough, just pray more, read the Bible more, etc. etc.’ But I was surprised to discover that one of them struggles with a similar problem and understood my hesitation about medication and could speak with me on an educated medical level about the options, because they had done research, too. Others I’m sure feel the same way.”
I love that! She ran to a wise, older Christian woman for guidance and that set her feet on the path to healing. God has given us each other as a safety net to keep us from plunging into the deep, dark places depression can take us.
If you’re struggling with depression and anxiety, in addition to talking to your parents and your doctors, talk to the people in your church.
This isn’t a black and white issue. Not everyone who struggles with depression has an undiagnosed emotional or spiritual issue, and there are no biblical grounds for a claim that antidepressants should never be taken. But it’s also an issue worth putting through the filter of your faith. If you are wrestling with depression, use the tools God has given you as His child:
- Pray about it specifically and often.
- Search God’s Word for His truth about what you’re feeling and how He wants you to proceed.
- Lean into other believers and seek the counsel of wise, Christian mentors.
Invite the Holy Spirit to work in your heart and life so that you can live fully healed and free.
Note: If you are taking antidepressants, please consult with your parents and doctor before making any adjustments. This post is not a suggestion that you stop medication cold turkey, but rather an open invitation to discuss this delicate topic with people who love you and desire to point you toward God’s Word.
This article originally appeared on Revive Our Hearts and LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. Used with permission.
Erin Davis is passionate about pointing young women toward God's Truth. She is the author of several books and a frequent speaker and blogger to women of all ages. Erin lives on a small farm in the midwest with her husband and kids. When she's not writing, you can find her herding goats, chickens, and children.
Image courtesy: ©Thinkstock/Brent_Davis
Publication date: May 26, 2017