Perry Noble, senior and founding pastor of NewSpring Church in South Carolina, revealed Monday that he has been taking anti-depressants since 2012 after years of struggling with anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
Noble, who speaks to an average of 26,000 people at his multi-campus megachurch weekly, made the revelation in a post on his blog he titled, "Should Christians Take Medication for Mental Illness?"
He explained that his answer to that question used to be a very emphatic "NO!!!" and that he would advise Christian disciples under his care against medication.
"In a completely illiterate and uneducated manner I told them that people with 'weak faith' are the ones who 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,'" wrote Noble.
"I honestly felt that way then…I don't feel that way anymore!" he added.
The NewSpring leader then goes on to explain his mental struggles beginning with a mental episode that began in 2008 and lasted for three years. He said he was fortunate to overcome that bout without medication.
"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," wrote Noble.
"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," he said.
Perry explained that, after getting the victory over that episode without the use of medication, he decided to do a series about stress, anxiety and depression at his church in the spring of 2012. He eventually decided to write a book about it called "Overwhelmed" that will be released on April 1.
It was during the book writing process, he explained, that he began slipping away again.
"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 its prey. I remember writing a chapter in the book, driving home and having a panic attack in my living room," he wrote.
When the situation got too much for him, he said he reached out to his doctor and reluctantly gave in to treat his condition with anti-depressants.
"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," said Noble.
"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," he added.
He shared the post with his Facebook followers on Tuesday night and sparked a raging debate on the issue with many people praising him for his honesty and supporting his decision.
"I have needed them [anti-depressants] on and off for several years and have always felt a little guilty about taking them! Thank you for your honesty and sharing this! You have helped put my doubts to rest! Thank you so much! I needed this! God Bless You!" wrote Tina Henderson Campen.
A few commenters, however, did not support Noble's decision to use and promote the use of anti-depressants.
"Please hear me out. I struggled with depression and self-injury for years. Medication was not the answer. It is 100 percent a spiritual issue," wrote Mark Samuel Melton.
"You claim it is a chemical imbalance. How can they measure that chemical to know it's imbalanced? The pharmaceutical company is lying to you! Please don't be deceived and settle in the easy way out of claiming it as an illness. God has so much in store for you without taking these life changing drugs!" he urged.
Another commenter, Shawn Francis, agreed that depression is a spiritual issue.
"You take medication to treat biological issues. You treat spiritual issues spiritually," began Francis in his comments.
"This topic is coming back strong on the backs of the 'who are you to judge' or 'where does it say in the Bible it can't be true' crowds who prefer to get their Bible knowledge from best-selling authors and mega-church inspirational speakers rather than reading the Bible for themselves," he continued.
"There are several good books on the topic we can brush the dust off of to fight this movement back just as we did back in the '90s when it was all the rage. Satan always has some new burden of proof to throw on the church," he ended.
Noble's response to his critics was: "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."