While we know that medications can play a critical role in our recovery process, other Christians sometimes feel differently. Generally, these people also believe that mental illness results from a “lack of faith,” or “not trying hard enough.” They may not consider mental illness a true physical illness, despite what we know today.  Don’t let their stigma hold you back! God uses medications to bring about supernatural recoveries. How do I know? Hezekiah.

 

God uses His people and the natural things of the earth as part of His plan.

 

 

 

In 2Kings 20:1-7, King Hezekiah “became ill and was at the point of death.” Told by the Prophet Isaiah that he was on his death bed, Hezekiah prayed. Mercifully, God answered through Isaiah. He went back and ordered the servants to make a “poultice of figs;” after they applied the poultice, Hezekiah recovered. A very simple story, it reminds us that although we worship a supernatural God, sometimes He acts through His creation. God uses His people and the natural things of the earth as part of His plan. As such, all we need to do is ask for healing.

For those who think I am preaching a prosperity Bible here, let me be clear: Just because God can heal you, doesn’t mean He will heal you. One example is Paul, who prayed three times for God to remove “a thorn in my flesh.”  God answered the prayer, saying, “No, that’s not part of My plan.”

When it comes to those of us who live with a mental illness, our “thorn in the flesh” can be debilitating. It can keep us from living out our God-given purpose. And often when we are in the throes of our illness, we cannot see or remember what our purpose is (if we even knew it before the disorder showed itself). In the same way that God uses the Holy Spirit to give us the right words to say, He also gives us medicines to heal.

We see this in cancer drugs.  When cancer drugs first began to show their effectiveness in healing people, they were viewed as “miracle drugs.” They were proof of the amazing things that happen when we steward God’s creation well. Today, if someone told us that they had cancer and were treating it through surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy, would we look at that person and say, “Why? You just need to turn your illness over to God.” I bet you just snorted, giggled, or in some other way just blew that statement off. And why? Because it’s absurd. We would never advise someone with cancer that drugs were an unnecessary or un-Christian response.

So why do we offer this response when it comes to mental illness? In my heart, I believe it’s because mental illnesses are misunderstood by those whose lives are not touched by it. Stigma appears where education is missing.  The belief that mental illnesses are simply “emotional issues” minimizes and misunderstands what mental illnesses are: brain disorders. Increasingly, research shows what sufferers have always known: We literally do not have control of our ability to respond. Some very stressful situations may not elicit any strong reaction from us, whereas others will throw us off the rails entirely. What had us in tears one day may get a shrug from us on another – and not necessarily because we’ve learned a coping mechanism. It’s not a matter of “just getting over it,” it’s a matter of an illness hijacking our brains and our responses.

One of my favorite PBS documentaries, “Ride the Tiger,” interviews researchers who look at the brain from a variety of perspectives. When discussing depression, we learn about missed connections in the brain and the impact on the creation of hormones necessary to mood stability. Mental illness is a very physical illness, just as cancer is. And, just like cancer, some of us are born with it. The same way that smoking causes cancer, environmental or traumatic experiences also risk triggering mental illness. We cannot control who gets the illness. We can only control the help and support we offer.

 

Stigma appears where education is missing.

 

It is rational and Biblical to use medications to help us.

With all this in mind, then, let’s take another look at medication within the Christian context. Knowing that we are addressing a physical illness and knowing that God created and used medicine to heal Hezekiah, it is rational and Biblical to use medications to help us, as well. We may not get Hezekiah’s results; like Paul, we may have to live with our “thorn.” Even so, while they may not heal us, we can take advantage of the rich world God provides us. We can take a medication that eases our symptoms enough that we can act on the rest of our treatment plan. Then, the medication along with the treatment plan (typically diet, exercise, sleep hygiene, therapy, and journaling) helps us get to a place where we are able to live again in our God-given purpose.

Ultimately, that’s where God wants us: living out His plan for our lives, sharing the Good News of Jesus, and modeling for other Christians what it means to be Christ-like. And if it takes a pill or two to get there, then go ahead and follow the example set by Hezekiah and Isaiah.

If you are looking for more information on the role and value medications can play in our recovery, I would start here. If you are interested in getting a prescription but aren’t sure how to get started, this article goes into the details.

 

Have you had any experiences with prescriptions for a mental health condition? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below!

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