I’m all for medication. If it helps, take it. By all means. But before you do, let’s talk about what we mean by ‘helps.’ If we mean it relieves immediate pain and suffering, I’m for it. I take aspirin for headaches. It’s a good thing.
On the other hand, if taking the medication hides something else going on in the body, does it really help? If you have a persistent headache, maybe you will want to take the aspirin while looking for a deeper source of the pain. It could be that you have a brain tumor or you are inadvertently poking yourself in the head with a sharp stick. The aspirin may help with temporary pain, but you really need to do something about the tumor.
Let’s change the illustration to something more akin to the sharp stick scenario. Suppose, a woman, we’ll call her Nancy, has a husband who thinks he’s the center of the universe and he treats her like dirt. He comes home from work and spends the rest of the evening yelling at her and belittling her. He hits her and calls her all kinds of names before drinking himself into a stupor and finally going to bed. The next day, he goes to work and it all starts again.
If you’ve ever done much counseling, this story is one you are probably well acquainted with. Nancy has come to you feeling severely depressed. You ask her to tell you the story and she relates the above. She won’t leave her husband (she loves him), and she is becoming more and more unable to function in the home. She can’t wash the dishes anymore, her housekeeping has fallen off drastically, and most days she can hardly get out of bed. All of which just ratchets up her husband’s frustration with her and the yelling is intensified.
Now suppose Nancy’s husband, who is the same man at work and in public that he is at home, stays at the bar a little bit too long one night and gets in the face of the wrong group of men. These boys are offended by Nancy’s husband, and proceed to take him out back and beat him to death.
You might think that Nancy would feel elated and because the source of her pain and suffering is no longer around, her depression would lift. But, nope. She’s still here feeling worse than ever. Now she can barely get to the office to see her counselor.
Does she need the equivalent of aspirin? Antidepressants? I think so. I can’t prescribe them for her, but I would send her to a doctor to help her. In the same way that I would take an aspirin for a headache, for temporary help, I would say that Nancy needs some medicated help for temporary help.
Like the headache, it was caused by the sharp stick, so Nancy’s depression was caused by her husband (the most obvious culprit), but also by a huge number of other things. Nancy was and is depressed because of a lot more than just having a vicious animal for a husband. She is also feeling guilty for not loving him in a way that would change him. She feels guilty for not helping him when he was being beaten to death. She feels guilty for being angry with him. She feels guilty for being bitter now. She feels guilty for not leaving him and for thinking about leaving him, at the same time. She is sad, misses him, and is grieving his death. She feels guilty for feeling relieved that he won’t be coming home again. And on and on we could go.
Here’s where we part ways with the secular and non-Biblical counselors. They have no answers to any of these feelings Nancy is exhibiting. The best they can offer is help with living with the feelings and thoughts. They can talk about them all day, but talking doesn’t do anything about relieving the suffering. They may talk until Nancy becomes bored with talking about them, but this only shoves them down into the dark recesses of her soul. They never go away and she will never be brought out of her depression.
Only, acknowledging where sin exists, confessing it, giving it over to God, letting Jesus’ death take the pain and suffering, coming to the cross and exchanging her load Jesus’ load, can or will free her from the bondage of what has caused her life to collapse in depression.
A good counselor will work with each one of these feelings and actions to help Nancy let them go in a constructive and redemptive way. Jesus is Lord, he is the Savior, he is the only one who can set us free from the things we bind ourselves up with. Some of these feelings and thoughts are not sin at all. Sadness, for example is not sinful in itself. God asks us to draw near to him for comfort in times of sadness and he will give us relief and restoration. A good counselor will help Nancy draw near to God and to the people of God for comfort and help.
When Nancy meets with God and exchanges her sin for his mercy, God will lift her spirits, give her joy and peace, will clean her off and remove any guilt or shame that remains and she will have new life. The symptoms will be gone and she will no longer have the results of the pile of feelings and thoughts tied to the things her dead husband . She will rejoice and not be depressed.
Medication was helpful to help her get to the place where she could function, and to think about things in the light of the Gospel, but medication by itself doesn’t heal, it only helps at best. And when prescribed by the wrong person can cover real help because it claims to do what it can’t do.