And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.” Ezekiel 47:12
Medication for mental illness is a hotly debated subject with many proponents on both sides with plenty of evidence to support their viewpoint. It is a difficult, and very confusing subject to discuss even amongst patients. For many, medication itself is a sign that something is wrong, a truth people refuse to acknowledge and therefore refuse medicine.
As a Christian, these differing view points take on an additional layer of taboo and meaning. For some, taking medication is a akin to refusing the help of the Holy Spirit, a way of blocking God’s healing. Other Christians believe God made us in his image and gave us these medicines for us to use in our brokenness. So what is a Christian to do? Do we take medication or wait for God to heal us?
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
I have looked quite a bit into this subject over the last 20 years and have always clung to the truth that God has given us medicines to use and the knowledge we need to administer them correctly. I have consistently taken my medication, but I have not always constantly turned to God to guide me.
It is during the times I try to go it alone in my own strength in which I fail. I have had to rely on my discernment of what the holy spirit is saying to me to effectually treat my bipolar illness, and he has always told me to continue with the medication. When I stray far from God I begin to wonder if my medication is helping and if maybe I should look for another path.
Now Isaiah had said, “Let them take a cake of figs and apply it to the boil, that he may recover.” Isaiah 38:21
Throughout the Old and New Testament there are plenty of passages which refer to the use of medicine. Obviously God gave us certain plants that could heal us. He made us in his image, and gave us knowledge in how to prepare these plants and medicines. Even amongst the early Christians we see a physician:
Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. Colossians 4:14
Christ died for us, but that doesn’t mean we only rely on him to heal us through our prayers. Physical and mental illnesses is not always spiritual. We live in broken bodies in a sinful world. God can heal and cleanse our spirit, but our bodies are still decaying and will die one day. Our illnesses are not punishments meted out by an angry God for our sins, but rather a side effect of living in a fallen world.
So how do we determine if medicine is right for us? It is my conclusion this is a highly individualised decision. Below is a list of questions to ask yourself if you are questioning taking medication.
1. What does my doctor say? What is my diagnosis, and what medicines help with it? You do not need to accept what the doctor says immediately, but take some time and do your own research about your condition and how it may be impacting your life.
2. Do I believe I have this particular mental illness? Have I fully accepted my diagnosis? Do I agree with it? The first step is to admit you have a mental illness, until you can do this there is not reason to try and treat it. Accepting your diagnosis is paramount to your treatment.
3. Am I self-medicating? Self-medication is a tool many people with undiagnosed mental illness use, and it works, or people would not have done it for centuries. If you accept your diagnosis, and are looking for proper treatment, you must seriously look into how you are self-medicating and how you can effectively implement change in your life. Many substances used for self-medication will interfere with prescriptions and may not work as well to treat your illness.
4. What is God telling me? I think this is the most important step, and also the last one. If you have gotten through the first three questions and you are ready to try medication, you still need to talk with God about all this. Any road you walk down, even if it is the “right” path, but you are walking without the guidance of the holy spirit is still the wrong way.
Romans 12:2 is so poignant, we need to discern what God’s will for us is, and let God transform our hearts through prayer and meditation. It is not an easy thing to treat mental illness, but one thing is certain: You can not do it alone! You need a whole team of doctors, family and friends, and the holy spirit. God has a very important role to play in your recovery, but it is ok with Him to get more help.
God certainly didn’t design us to be alone in this world. He gave us each other for companionship, and we are stronger when we work together. For many, our mental illness can be isolating, but if we press into the spirit and ask God for discernment, if changes the playing field dramatically.
Medication has worked for me, and God continues to encourage me in using it. Maybe one day things will change, but here and now God’s spirit is leading me through this illness with the help of medication.
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