Medication and Faith
If you have received a diagnosis related to mental health you no doubt have discovered the concept of the “spectrum” of symptoms. The autism spectrum. The spectrum of mental illness. Schizophrenia spectrum disorder.
In a similar way, the teachings of various Christian churches present a range of ways to face your diagnosis. Let’s call it the faith spectrum. Your options include:
Take medication and pray.
Cast out a devil. This is a spiritual, demonic problem. Refuse medication — receive by faith alone.
Undergo inner healing and soaking prayer.
Repent. This is a sin issue.
Pray and fast.
Make dietary changes and walk in greater obedience to scripture.
All of the above.
Behind each belief is a sincere heart of faith. Sometimes, though, there’s also a bit of pressure (real or imagined), especially when it comes to the issue of medication. I would like to add a measure of grace to your decision.
This week a fellow blogger posted a link to a booklet about the sovereignty of God and disabling diseases (from which I will quote, below). The authors used the story in the gospel of John, chapter 9, about the man born blind. In particular, they looked at how Jesus healed the man. Their discussion might help you with any spiritual uncertainty or guilt you face over whether or not you should take a pill.
Miracles and Mud
In the story they discuss, Jesus anoints the man’ eyes with mud—dirt mixed with spit. The authors, John Piper and Tony Reinke, suggest two reasons for its use. First, it was the Sabbath, a day on which men were prohibited from working. Kneading dough, a form of kitchen labor, was not allowed, and by extension, kneading dough, clay or mud was a no-no. By making mud, Jesus was making a point about the true meaning of the Sabbath. (See note at end of article for more explanation.) The second reason I quote–4 paragraphs–from the discussion:
“God Usually Uses Means
The second reason for the mud is to show that God usually uses means in doing his wonderful works in this world. Jesus could have simply spoken and the man’s eyes would have been opened. Most of the wonders of God in the Old Testament were brought about by the use of human means. “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31). God is decisive in the victory, but he uses means. He doesn’t need the horse, but he uses the horse.
Ponder this in the bigger picture of life for a moment. What this means is that God does not despise the physical world he has made. He uses the means of food to sustain life. He uses the means of sex to beget children. And he uses a thousand remedies to bring about healing—from sleep to penicillin. From Riboflavin to radiation. From sunshine on the skin to cough syrup for the throat.
Not Despising the Physical World
And lest you think this removes the mystery of God’s wonderful work, consider boring down through layer after layer after layer of physical causes for why antibiotics work against strep. Forty or fifty layers down into the molecular, subatomic activities of the smallest particles, or non-particles, there comes a point where there is no explanation inside this closed material system. The final explanation is always God. And if our hearts are alive and humble and worshipful, we will not stop until we see God at the bottom of everything.
It is no small thing, to believe that God uses means to accomplish his purposes. And his purposes are that the glory of his work would be displayed. And therefore, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalms 19:1). And so does all the rest of creation, if we have eyes to see. Jesus used mud. We may use mud—or medicine. The difference is how close to the surface the miracle is. Let your life be full of wonder at the works of God—and full of worship.”¹
The Greater Issue – I was Blind and Now I See
Wherever we are on the faith spectrum about healing, “if our hearts are alive and humble and worshipful, we will not stop until we see God at the bottom of everything.” We see God use diets and pills and many natural means to help us heal. We see “slow” healings and “quick” ones. Sometimes we don’t see anything at all. That is when we start asking questions about our faith and His ways: Are we ‘in the faith’ or ‘in Him,’ really? It doesn’t take long to become overly focused on measures of belief rather than on our immeasurable God.
Wherever we are in the healing spectrum, we see that God always calls the healthy and the sick–every one of us–to repentance, obedience, and prayer, which he uses to draw us closer to Himself. In His miraculous way, he uses sickness as a means to draw us also. We discover too, that sometimes he turns everything we think we know about our faith upside down so we can finally see Him . . . the greatest miracle of all.
For another look at the many means God uses, see the post “Christianity and Healing of Mental Illness.”
Note: By making the mud Jesus broke the Sabbath (again) to make the point that men were not to become slaves to the myriad rules added by teachers and synagogue leaders as a means of ensuring perfect obedience. Over time their detailed law-keeping bred a sense of hyper-spirituality and pride. Jesus, the perfect man, broke their rules to challenge their proud, hardened hearts.
¹Quote taken with permission from John Piper, Disability and the Sovereign Goodness of God by John Piper and Tony Reinke, pg 10-11. Copy available at http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/books/disability-and-the-sovereign-goodness-of-god