There are a few Christian taboo topics I want to address: taking antidepressant medications, anti-anxiety medicine, and going to counseling. Why is this taboo? Some preachers love to preach about receiving a healing from God to set us free from depression and anxiety [Which is all well and good. I pray many people will receive such healings. Heck, I pray for a healing for myself]. While at the same time lining their sermons with subtle hints of shame in their messages if one were to take medicine for depression and anxiety, or to see a counselor. There is a sense of shame associated when you don’t receive your healing right away, on the spot when you pray for it. This then becomes a taboo topic which no one wants to talk about. I just don’t get it. This makes no sense to me, and does nothing to help those who deal with these issues day in and day out. I’m tired of seeing Christianity hijacked by such ideas.
Let me tell a parable that I’ve heard:
There was a man stranded on the roof of his house as flood waters were rising up. The man prayed to God asking Him to help him. Then some people in a raft came by asking if he needed some help. The man replied, “No, God is going to help me”. A while later, as the flood waters continued to rise, a rescue boat came by offering to help the man get to safety. Again, the man replied, “God will help me, I don’t need your help”. As the man stood on the roof of his house with the flood waters now starting to cover the roof, a helicopter flew overhead offering to rescue the man. Once again, the man turned down the help saying that God was going to help him. As the man was about to drown, he cried out to God asking, “Why didn’t You help me”. God replied, “I did send help. I sent the people in the raft, and you turned them away. I sent the rescue boat to save you, and you turned them down. I even sent the helicopter to save you, but you refused the help I sent you”.
The moral of this parable: When we ask God for help, it may not always look like what we are expecting.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from the pulpit at different churches I’ve been to how God is the great healer and counselor [Which He is. This I do not doubt]. Saying why go to a counselor when you can go to the great Counselor. Why deal with depression or anxiety when you can go to the great Healer. The way these topics are usually addressed from the pulpit seem to have a connotation of shame and lack of faith if you do see a counselor or take medicine for depression or anxiety. I suffered from deep depression for years on my own. Saying, “God, it’s just You and me. Together we are going to get through this without any medication”. I didn’t realize I was so deeply depressed. All I knew was that I had an extreme feeling of just being overwhelmed by everything. I would have never classified myself as someone suffering from depression. I didn’t feel sad. I just felt paralyzed by an extreme sense of being overwhelmed. Stress too seems to be increasingly becoming another taboo topic. As the saying goes, “I’m too blessed to be stressed”. That’s great! However, that minimizes stressful situations, which are a part of life. Again, it oh so slightly brings with it a connotation of shame for feeling stress during stressful situations because it implies a lack of faith in God on your part. God created us as emotional beings, and not mindless, emotionless creatures who go about on autopilot. Since when has it become shameful for us to be the emotional beings He created us to be?
As a teen, I saw my mom take antidepressants and a wide array of other medicines to include anti-anxiety medicines. She was seeing a really horrible psychiatrist. When she had problems with side-affects the psychiatrist would just add other medicines to try to counter act those side-affects…which created more side-affects. It was a horrible cycle which propelled my mom in a downward spiral to the point she became suicidal. After watching all that my mom went through, I was hell bent on not taking any antidepressants. If a doctor suggested antidepressants or for me to see a psychiatrist I would think to myself, “are you trying to kill me”.
Earlier this year I went through something that was very difficult for me to deal with. I was crying a lot and couldn’t eat. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I just wanted to feel like I could function, and to not feel so crappy about myself. I was to the point that I was willing to take medicine if it meant I could function better. If it meant I could just get my mind to shut the hell up, and stop focusing on the hurt I was feeling. This is where the parable comes into play. Since God created mankind with the ability to develop such medicines to help people; why wouldn’t he want us to take advantage of that? The antidepressant and anti-anxiety medicine I now take are the raft and boat God sent to help me. I know God is a great healer, and will heal me of this someday. I do not plan on needing to take these medicines for the rest of my life. In the meantime, I’m not going to turn down the help He has provided me. Before I was drowning in anxiety and depression; calling out to God for help, and then wondering why I was struggling with it for so many years…wondering what was wrong with my faith for why I was still suffering with all of this. I resigned to thinking I just must not have enough faith; that something was inherently wrong with me and my faith, and therefore God could not / would not answer my prayers for healing. There was help available all along, and I just didn’t recognize it. I’m tired of the Church making it seem like taking these medicines is in someway shameful and a show of lack of faith. None of that is true! Not in the least bit. In fact, it takes more courage to seek help, and take medicine or go to counseling than it does to pray and beat yourself up if you don’t receive an instant healing. By all means, continue to pray for your healing! I am not at all against that. I pray there will be a day I no longer need these medications. Just don’t beat yourself up IF it doesn’t happen the way you thought it would. Don’t take on shame and doubt IF God does not heal you instantly. There is no shame in it, and no need to mentally beat yourself up for it.
1 Timothy 5:23
Don’t drink only water. You ought to drink a little wine for the sake of your stomach because you are sick so often.
It is thought that Timothy was getting sick from drinking the local water. So, it was suggested that he drink a little wine so he wouldn’t get sick from the water. Is this not a form of medicine, for the time period, to help with his stomach? If it was ok in the Bible times to take things that were viewed as beneficial to your health, why would that change for us today? I don’t think it has. Why is physical health and mental health looked at so differently? Depression and anxiety manifest by altering the chemicals in our brains. That is not something we can control. There is no shame nor lack of faith in God when deciding to take medicine to help with these issues, and others. I don’t believe God would agree with creating a culture of shame for those who do choose to take medicine to help them. They are simply choosing to take the help God has provided for them; wither it’s needed as a short term help or for long term help. God’s children are hurting enough as it is. The last thing they need is for someone to cause further pain by placing shame on their attempts to get help.
As someone who would like to become a counselor, this one particularly rubs me the wrong way. Why is there this connotation of shame for a Christian to seek counseling outside the church is beyond me. I simply don’t understand it. The counselors I’ve had have all been a Godsend to me! God has used them to help get me to where I am today. He has used them to help me see things I might never have seen on my own. Yes, God is the Great Counselor; He is faithful to show up to all of my counseling sessions. He is faithful to work with me day and night everyday, and when I’m not talking to my counselor. Giving me new things to talk about when I see my counselor to help me work through and process those things; so that I may continue to reach new levels of healing. Counseling to me is the helicopter God has sent to rescue me to keep me from drowning. Why should I turn down such help?
Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. -New Living Translation
Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. -King James Version
Are not counselors fulfilling this law of Christ? They are helping to bear the burdens of others. So, why is there such shame associated in the church with seeing a counselor? Why are we made to feel shame, and as though something is wrong with us if we don’t receive an instant healing from God for such things. Who are we to limit God to an instant healing or none at all (at which case the believer is blamed for not receiving their healing)?
How many have felt judged by the Church and then by God? How many people have been hurt and turned away from God for feeling shamed for seeking counseling outside of the Church or for taking certain kinds of medicines? You can’t say, “well, they were looking/trusting man and not God. Their faith must have been weak to let that offend them and to turn from God”. Are we not to be the ambassadors of God? Are we not to do our best to represent Him? Aren’t we supposed to help build others up, and help build up their faith? Who are we to say how much faith a person has or “lacks”? Is that for us to judge? NO, I don’t believe it is our place to judge such things. Yes, we are flowed and make many mistakes. I would hope no one would hold God accountable for my mistakes and short-comings. Neither do I hold God accountable for the short-comings of others. We are to help build one another up; not to tear each other down. Only God knows the true condition of a person. We are to do our best to help others. This sense of shame that is conveyed from many pulpits needs to stop. I do not believe it is the will of God for His hurting children to be caused further pain.
So lets drop the judgement. Lets stop viewing these things as taboo. Where the presence of the Lord is there is healing…no shame, no assumption there is a lack of faith, no judgement…just healing. Healing can take many forms. It could be instantaneous, however, I believe it’s more common for healings to take time. We need to stop being bullied into feeling shame and doubt when God does not reach out to us in a way we have been taught to expect it.
So, I plead with you; the body of Christ, the Church…Stop making these things taboo! It is helping no one.