Medication and Spiritual Weakness; What to Think?

I have lost count of how many times I have been asked about the proper use and perspective on medications for problems that the Bible describes (anxiety, depression, etc.). The position of the elders has been OFTEN misrepresented by others. So, having received a link to some very excellent treatments of this controversial issue, I thought it would be good and helpful to document for the church family through the blog how we think and how we try to approach these sensitive issues.

Let me say first of all, that no one believes (or should ever say) that it is always wrong to take medications. Neither you, or I, are medical professionals and should never be giving advice or counsel regarding when it is right or wrong, necessary or unnecessary, to be taking medication of any kind. I arrived at CCC with this clear position in my mind, and have never once violated this principle. At the same time, I have encouraged people to consider potential side effects, evaluate the certainty of presumed causes of their condition, understand the science of such medications, and give prayerful thought to their motivations and goals for taking medication. This, I am convinced, is a necessary process. Asking those tough questions has, on a few occasions, been interpreted as saying “it is wrong.” But I do not think that, nor have I ever said that.

What is clear, both practically and medically speaking, is that there are uncertainties, limitations, and risks involved in taking many medications. Those prescribed for the problems above are not exempt from these concerns.

Here are two links to a couple of articles that articulate fairly well our beliefs and philosophy regarding the use of psychotropic medications.

The first article, by Ed Welch, entitled “Why Do We Seem Negative about Psychiatric Medications?” highlights why it is a necessary exercise of spiritual wisdom to carefully consider the limitations of these types of medications. It is brief and to the point, and offers a helpful balanced perspective that does not minimize the pain of emotional distress.

The second article (link here), by Dr. Michael Emlet (M.D.), is from the Journal of Biblical Counseling (published by the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation). It is much more detailed, and is referenced in the shorter summary above. It will familiarize you with the different classes of psychoactive medications, the conditions that they are typically prescribed for, and an analysis of how these medications presumably work. More importantly, there is a detailed biblical evaluation of this information. He covers issues of suffering, motives, and the interaction between moral, spiritual, and physical issues. He concludes, “I hope you have seen there is not a clear-cut ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer. There is no universal ‘rule’ we can apply to all people at all times. There is no simple algorithm. Rather, the use of these medications is a wisdom issue, to be addressed individually with counselees. There will always be a mix of pros and cons, costs and benefits to carefully consider. We must ask, ‘What seems wisest for this particular person with these particular struggles at this particular time?'”

I have considered for a long time writing an article like these, and am thankful that my views have been adequately expressed by these articles so that I don’t have to.

I have counseled people in the past who were on so much medication that I had to suspend counseling (they were so altered by the medication, that I did not feel they were mentally sharp enough to continue). I have also counseled people who I believe were suffering more from the side effects of their medication than they would have been suffering with the original weakness (whether physical, emotional or spiritual). Unfortunately, simply asking questions about sensitive issues like these can easily be interpreted as being “against” medications. I am not “against” medication, per se. Nor do I think the conditions for which they are prescribed “do not really exist.” Rather, I am FOR the exercise of biblically informed wisdom to find true and lasting solutions for the weaknesses (spiritual and physical) that cause our suffering. God’s Spirit, and God’s Word, is powerful enough for us to have spiritual victory over every weakness caused or magnified by the presence of sin in our lives. The extent to which our weaknesses are physical must be addressed through physical or medical means.

I hope this is a helpful matter to address. I am always happy to address any specific questions you might have. Let me know personally, or by posting a comment or question here.

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