Cured by Faith Alone?
By Alexander Samuels
I was listening to a Christian radio show recently where the host was interviewing a pastor who believed that medications for mental disorders, depression or ADHD were totally unnecessary for Christian believers. He went on to say that he believed these medications were harmful, and that faith, prayer and the Bible are all that any Christian needs to be cured from these problems of the mind.
I have to say that I was somewhat reminded of . . . Tom Cruise and his recently televised drivel on this topic from the Scientology point of view. Unfortunately, the pastor on the radio is not the only Christian who echoes such skewed thinking. Some Christians are even made to feel "weak-minded" by other Christians if they are taking medication for any emotional problems.
I believe that God can heal any disease. But I leave that decision up to God. At the same time, I do believe that God uses doctors and medicines to heal us. I also know that some problems of the mind are spiritual in nature (see D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones' book Spiritual Depression) and need to be cured by prayer, meditating on the Scriptures and faith in God. However, there are also problems caused by chemical imbalances in the body.
In his latest book, God Is Closer Than You Think, John Ortberg shares how an acquaintance of his dealt with such a problem:
Lewis Smedes was a teacher of mine in seminary, one of the best writers and preachers I have ever known. Even though he was brilliant and accomplished and devoted to God, he suffered from a sense of inadequacy that at times grew into deep depression. At one point in his life he stopped preaching because he felt unqualified. God came to him through two avenues. One was a three-week experience of utter solitude, where he heard God promise to hold him up so vividly that, as he put it, he felt lifted from a black pit straight up into joy. The other avenue he describes this way:
"I have not been neurotically depressed since that day, though I must, to be honest, tell you that God also comes to me each morning and offers me a 20 milligram capsule of Prozac. He clears the garbage that accumulates in the canals of my brain overnight and gives me a chance to get a fresh morning start. I swallow every capsule with gratitude to God."
I love the picture that Lew paints. I used to think that taking Prozac would be a sign of weak faith in God. But what if Prozac might be, not a substitute for God, but His gift? What if refusing might be spurning His hand because of pride? Maybe God is present in wise doctors and medication that makes synapses and neurotransmitters work right. Maybe weakness is really refusing—out of our own blindness and stubbornness—the help that God is offering.
As a Christian, I believe that we should always pray for the healing of the sick but we should not limit the means God chooses to use. Do you really believe that after Luke became a Christian he never practiced medicine again? Would it surprise you to know that one of the greatest preachers of all time, Charles Spurgeon, suffered from chronic depression for weeks at a time all his life? Would you dare say he was less spiritual because of it?
I'll save my opinions on ADD and ADHD for another time.