Is It OK for Christians to Take Anti-Depressants?
Is it OK for Christians to take anti-depressants?
I used to tell people that if Job had been a better Christian he would never have gotten so depressed. Was I ever wrong—and hurtful to others! I used to believe that living with the power of Christ, good Christians would never get depressed—and if they did—it was because they weren’t good Christians.
You know the story of Job. The Lord God and Satan had a bet that the only reason Job served God was because of the divine blessings heaped upon him. “Take away the blessings and he will curse You,” said Satan. Job was simply a pawn in the spiritual battle that soon commenced. Satan destroyed his health, family and possessions; but, Job never once stooped to cursing God.
As chapter three begins, Job was falling into abject depression and despair. Of course, who wouldn’t? His pain and losses were incredible. He was enduring what we often call today, “situational depression.”
Read the following verses and see if you can immerse yourself emotionally with Job’s pain and despair.
Job 3:1-3: After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. He said: “May the day of my birth perish, …”
Job 3:11: “Why did I not perish at birth and die as I came from the womb?”
Job 3:16: Why was I not hidden in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day?
Job 3:25-26: What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.”
It is cruel to tell someone that if he or she were just a better Christian he or she wouldn’t feel like this! In fact, heaping guilt was exactly what Job’s three friends did when they arrived to comfort him. After listening to their accusations Job said to them, “Miserable comforters are you all.” Jesus taught us that people who are hurting need comfort—not lectures, criticism, guilt, or encouragement.
Now, can you imagine that some people go through pain and agony like Job—only their pain and depression are not situational—but, brain chemistry imbalances. These poor people actually experience all the feelings of Job even though life isn’t treating them badly. We might call their problem, “clinical depression.” Depression can range from mildly uncomfortable to absolutely debilitating. From my perspective, telling people to “snap out of it,” or “life isn’t that bad,” or “just think happy thoughts,” or “if you would pray more you wouldn’t feel this way,” is absolutely cruel.
I know, I’ve been there. I was once so depressed that I stood on a third-story balcony deciding just how I might jump off. I realized that to jump feet was to risk just breaking my legs and then having to explain what in the heck I was doing up there. On the other hand, plunging off face first was really going to hurt. I didn’t want to do that. So, I sat on the balcony and just cried for awhile and finally got up and went home.
I remember some nights feeling as I my life were spinning absolutely out of control—and I was helpless to stop it. “Julie,” I would say, “I feel so depressed. I think everything around us is breaking apart. I am probably going to get fired! It seems that there is no way out. Every emotion in me is telling me that we are falling into ruin. In my rational mind, I know it’s not true—I think. But, I’m just not sure. Tell me the truth. I will have to trust what you see. Is any of this true?’
“No,” she would say. But it sure seemed that way to me.
One day I went for an appointment to my long-time-doctor friend. As we sat in his office I mentioned to him, “You know, Terry, I’ve decided that I could never commit suicide; but, if I ever have a heart attack, I’m just not going to bother to call 911.”
He replied, “Oh, Roger, that’s terrible. How long have you felt this way?”
“I guess since I was in high school.”
“I am so sorry. Here try some of these.” He handed me some samples of an anti-depressant.
I returned for a follow up several months later. I was so excited. My depression had all but dissipated! I said to Terry, “It’s like I’ve put on rose-colored glasses!”
“No,” he said, “The anti-depressant just took off the gray ones!”
For the previous three decades of my life I thought that my gray glasses were normal. I now know that most depression and bi-polar problems manifest during and/or shortly after adolescence. Looking back, that was certainly my experience.
About a year after my introduction to this medication Julie bought me a new wedding ring. I still have the one she gave me when we married. It is in a door in my desk. The hidden one we call, “before meds.” We call the new ring, “after meds”. This is how much my life has changed since bringing my brain chemistry problems under control.
I have learned a lot about SSRIs and dopamine and serotonin and all sorts of other neurotransmitters. As a pastor I see these neurotransmitter “imbalance” problems as the root cause of so many personal pains and problems—not just for the individual who is suffering, but for their family and friends as well.
I’ve noticed that some Christian people have a strong bias against Christians balancing out their brain chemistry issues in order to lead more normal lives.
Here is my conclusion. If you suffer from any sort of depressive or bi-polar spectrum disorder —or suspect that you might—pray hard for God’s healing hand upon your life. If He chooses to heal you, great! Problem solved!
If, on the other hand, your suffering continues, have no qualms about seeking medical help. I mean, after all, if your thyroid were not producing enough thyroid hormone and your doctor told you that Synthroid would solve the problem, you would take the medicine without a moment’s hesitation. By the way, one of the side effects of hypothyroidism is depression. If your doctor—and be sure to find one familiar with treating brain chemistry issues—prescribes an anti-depressant and it works, praise God, take your medicine and go on with life. If your problem gets no better, but, perhaps, even intensifies, your depression may originate from a bi-polar type of brain chemistry and need another approach. What ever. No one need suffer mercilessly from the agony of depression when so many good prescription remedies are available.
Well, Roger, I hope these thoughts are helpful—especially for those of us who suffer depression. May God work through your doctor to help you remove your dark glasses. They may not be rose colored; but they certainly will make life look brighter