- (Photo: Courtesy of NewSpring Church)
That's what I used to think!
I remember the very first time I ever had to deal with someone who told me they were struggling with anxiety and depression. I did not understand and could not relate-so, I told them what I thought was the typical "Christian" answer to all problems…they should pray more, read their Bible more and memorize more Scripture.
Instead of lessening the load I was unintentionally adding to it.
The person mentioned their doctor had told them about going on a certain type of anti-depressant to help out with their struggle, and so they asked my opinion.
In a completely illiterate and uneducated manner I told them that people with "weak faith" are the ones that needed such meds, that godly people did not struggle with feelings of anxiety and depression and that taking such medication would essentially be screaming to God, "I don't trust you."
I honestly felt that way then…
I don't feel that way anymore!
In 2008 I entered into the darkest time of my entire life that lasted for around three years.
It was brutal.
I even gave suicide serious consideration.
However, through a series of situations in my life that needed to be changed, along with some intense and excellent Biblical counseling I was able to come through the storm that had dominated me for so long.
My doctor and I considered medication during this process, and while it was strongly considered, we both decided that, though it was not wrong to take it, it was not the right thing for me at the time.
I secretly held this as a badge of honor, that I was somehow a better person because "I did not need medication" to defeat depression!
Our church did a series about stress, anxiety and depression in the Spring of 2012 and it was, hands down, one of the most talked about, responded to things we have ever done. I shared my story about my battle and we saw so many people finally realize that it really is ok to not be ok…but it's not ok to stay that way.
After a lot of prayer I decided to write a book about my battle and what I learned about Jesus and His faithfulness.
However, as I began the writing process the feelings of anxiety and worry began to slowly slither back into my life like a snake sneaking up on it's prey. I remember writing a chapter in the book, driving home and having a panic attack in my living room.
About three days later I took my daughter to a restaurant for lunch and found myself feeling like I could not breathe and that the walls were closing in on me.
What was going on?
I thought I was done with this, that I had whipped it and that I was going to be able to tell my story and inspire other people to do the same.
But…that wasn't the case. Anxiety was a fight, and I was losing.
I called my doctor and we had a long talk about my options. He spoke to me honestly and openly about anti-depressants. When he first mentioned them I blew him off; after all, I had defeated this one time without the "drugs for weaklings" and figured I could do it again.
However, the anxiety in my life continued to increase to such an extent that I distinctly remember calling him one afternoon and telling him I could not take it anymore and that I needed something to help me.
I can honestly say that making the decision to take an anti-depressant during this time period in my life has been one of THE BEST decisions I have ever made. It really has clarified my thinking, made me way less of an emotional basket case and allowed me to make better decisions.
I'm not ashamed of the fact I am taking an anti-depressant and have done a complete 180 in regards to how I used to feel about them.
I have had people push back on the issue that Christians should even consider taking an anti-depressant…and my response is always the same…
If your liver was shutting down and you were going to die as a result and you went to the doctor and he said, "here is a pill you can take to fix the problem," you would be considered negligent and insane for not taking the medicine.
The brain, just like the liver, is an organ in the body. And scientific research has proved over and over again that chemical imbalances in the brain can lead to cases of anxiety and depression. If you would take a pill to cure the liver then why would you not do the same for the brain?
"But some people abuse anti-depressants," some people say! However, if the rule for keeping things around and making them available is based solely on whether or not people abuse them then the first things we are going to have to get rid of are ice cream, cupcakes and buffets!
What I am saying is this…
The church has used, "pray and read your Bible more" as a "cure" for anxiety and depression for far too long.
And we have placed people who use medication to treat the issue in a category that is way less godly than those who do not use it.
However, as someone who has been on both sides of the issue I want to speak definitively on this by saying that it is NOT a sign of weakness to admit your need for medication in dealing with these issues; in fact, in many cases it may actually be a sign of strength.
It was quite humbling for me to begin to do something I once considered to be a sign of weakness.
However, as a Christian and as a pastor I can honestly say that making the decision to swallow my pride and accept the common grace God has provided through medicine has made me a better husband, father and friend.
If you're feeling anxious or maybe even depressed, I would encourage you to get some help. Talk to a friend, a doctor, or you can even come talk to someone here at NewSpring. You weren't meant to feel this way. It's ok to not be ok, but it's not ok to stay that way.