Medication has a REALLY important part to play as part of helping people recover from a period of emotional illness - just like it does in physical illness. And it DEFINITELY isn’t a sign of poor faith. God heals through a COMBINATION of things - including great medicine, great therapy, and great prayer - and medication can be a really key part of this mix.
What does medication DO?
Well, there are SO MANY different meds around to treat emotional health stuff - no way we could go into them all here :)
But the most common ones prescribed are what we generally refer to as ‘antidepressants’.
If you think of life as a bit like getting a boat across the sea, two things can cause us problems where emotional health is concerned....
1 - We can sail into storms
Sometimes life just throws tough stuff at us. When this happens the waves get big and can come over the sides of the boat. When it's really rough we might feel at risk of going under. We have to bail out water just to stay afloat.
2 - We can discover leaks in our boat
Sometimes the way we’re made, or stuff life has taught us growing up, or patterns in our thinking, or what we believe about ourselves - that stuff can be a bit like leaks in the boat - it lets the water in. And of course, that becomes even more of a problem in a storm. So we might always be bailing from time to time, but usually, it's not a problem - then in a storm, we start to struggle.
Medication doesn’t fix any of the leaks - those longer-term issues. Talking therapies like CBT or counselling can be amazing at this stuff - or more directed work done with a psychiatrist or other mental health professional.
What it does is a bit like adding a pump to your boat. This takes the pressure off you - getting some of the water out so you feel less on the edge. And it frees up some of your energy as you’re not having to bail all the time. This might make it more possible for you to do some of the work involved in fixing some of those leaks.
Sometimes medication can get you through a stormy patch - and then when life is calmer you don’t need it anymore. Other people find they need to stay on it longer term. Everyone is different.
If medicine and doctors may be found in Gilead, why aren’t my people healed?
So what DOES the Bible say?
Well, to be honest, it doesn’t actually HAVE verses directly talking about taking medication for mental health! (who knew?!). But it IS pretty clear that it’s not just ok but important to seek proper medical help when you are unwell.
Jeremiah 8:22 says “If medicine and doctors may be found in Gilead, why aren’t my people healed?” (CEV) - that’s pretty definite that the source of this healing should be coming from human and medical expertise - and medications! And Luke - who wrote the gospel - was himself a doctor!
So Jesus may have said that sometimes our faith can make us well - but he never said we shouldn’t see a Doctor. The amazing thing is that where human medicine has reached its limit, God has not - so if doctors cannot help, we know that God the greatest doctor of all can still offer us hope and health and happiness.