A Biblical Response to Mental Illness and Suicide: What Should We Conclude…

Dr. Ab AbercrombieSad Teen Boy

Practically everyone in the Christian community has been affected by the suicide of Rick Warren’s son Matthew. The Body grieves with this influential pastor and his family as they face the unfathomable process of coping with this unimaginable loss.

Matthew’s death has also prompted the Church to examine our views on mental illness, psychiatric/psychological treatment, and medication. Many prominent Christian leaders have not only offered public statements of support for the Warrens, but are taking this opportunity to express opinions about an extremely sensitive subject that impacts a growing number of believers.

Most leaders are encouraging the Church to acknowledge that matters of depression and suicide are medical in nature and should be addressed no differently than other physical illnesses. They imply that to do otherwise promotes stigma and shame and restricts the believer’s access to appropriate care.

Ed Stetzer, president of Lifeway Research, is stressing the need for the Church to address “mental illness.” In an article entitled “Christians Should Not Be Afraid of Medicine,” Stetzer acknowledges that the topic is a source of debate and that medication should be used with caution, but states that “…many mental health issues are physiological.”

Another article on the Internet, “Death of Rick Warren’s Son a Call to Address Mental Illness,” offers a similar view. According to Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, “Christians struggle with depression and even suicidal thoughts. It does not make you less of a Christian.” He further states: “Suffering from mental illness is not a sin. Yet, not addressing it, may very well be.”

The statements made by Stetzer and Rodriquez seem impulsive at best, and potentially dangerous. Both esteemed leaders make very definitive statements that many in the Christian community will embrace as factual, when in fact they are not. In reality these matters are questions requiring study and biblical discourse. To suggest that these matters have been settled in Scripture, or even in science, is absolutely untrue.

In a previous article entitled, “Psychiatric Medications: In Search of a Biblical Context” I provided a review of several studies, which leave the Christian with many unanswered questions regarding the science of mental illness and the use of psychiatric medications. Even the scientific literature has not agreed on a position.

Dr. Kenneth Kendler (2005), a psychiatrist and co-editor in chief of the journal Psychological Medicine said: “We have hunted for big simple neurochemical explanations for psychiatric disorders and have not found them” (p. 433).

In his book, Blaming the Brain (1998), Elliot Valenstein , professor emeritus of neuroscience wrote: “Although it is often stated with great confidence that depressed people have a serotonin or norepinephrine deficiency, the evidence actually contradicts these claims” (p. 292).

Stanford psychiatrist and researcher David Burns is quoted as saying: “I spent the first several years of my career doing full-time research on brain serotonin metabolism, but I never saw any convincing evidence that any psychiatric disorder, even depression, results from a deficiency of brain serotonin. In fact we cannot measure brain serotonin levels in living human beings so there is no way to test this theory” (as cited in Lacasse & Gomory, 2003, p. 385).

In summary science has not proven the truth that Dr. Stetzer boldly claims. There is no clear evidence to validate the existence of a biochemical imbalance as the source of depression and other mental conditions. In fact we do not know that “…many mental health issues are physiological.”

This is not to rule out the possibility of medical influence. We live in a fallen, toxic world that always yields the same end: physical death. Some individuals get cancer and heart disease due to lifestyle; while others get similar illnesses through no fault of their own. If a heart or lung can become diseased, it is reasonable to assume the brain could as well. But while the presence of a blocked artery or cancerous tumor is verifiable through medical testing, the presence of mental illness is not.

As a result Christian leaders must be cautious about our declarations based upon personal experience and human assessment. And while science has a place in Christian life, our first and enduring point of reference must always be Scripture. If we excuse all depression, anxiety, instability, and suicide as medical, we provide a flawed remedy without a proper spiritual assessment. In our effort to give relief, we discount the opportunity for transformation.

In Scripture there are many depictions of depression, grief, anxiety, fear, madness, and even suicide. The Word never defines such conditions as medical. Instead we see a consistent theme that divides the sufferer from God, allowing the manifestation of sin to deteriorate and defile the heart of the person.

King Saul suffered with depression and paranoia (1 Sam 16:14-17). Due to his disobedience the Lord removed His Spirit from Saul causing Saul to suffer in isolation, divided from God’s comfort and empowerment. Eventually his division from God and resultant pain prompted his suicide (1 Sam 31:4).

David likewise suffered depression as a consequence for sin. Speaking of unrepented sin, David lamented:

When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away

Through my groaning all day long.

For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;

My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah

(Ps 32:3-4).

And while David repented and was forgiven, the ramifications of his sin rippled throughout his life and family, so much so, that late in his life David cried out to God for his own death (2 Sam 18:33).

Other biblical characters suffered depression: Job (Book of Job), Elijah (1 Kings 19), and Jonah (Book of Jonah). Job suffered due to the providence of God even though he was considered “blameless and upright” (Job 1:1) before his Creator. Elijah fell into despair because he feared human threat and left his appointed position. Estranged from God, he hid in a cave far away from the assignment he had been given (1 Kings 19:14). Jonah struggled in bitterness, wrath, and disobedience as he attempted to flee the Lord and refuse God’s will (Jonah 4:1-3). In the end he too asked for death.

Based on these examples, depression comes by sin, disobedience, unresolved emotion (especially bitterness and anger), spiritual attack, and the sovereignty of God. How then can we make the claim that such mental suffering is without spiritual influence? Rev. Rodriquez’s claim that mental illness is never due to sin is simply counter-biblical.

While the word suicide is not used in the Bible, there are several direct references to people killing themselves.  Zimri, who briefly reigned over Israel, died in a house fire he started himself.  He knew that he was about to be overthrown by his enemies and could not bear defeat (1 Kings 16:18).  King Saul fell on his sword after losing a battle against the Philistines (1 Sam. 31:4-5).

Samson stopped allowing God to direct his life, fell to sin, forfeited his unbelievable strength, and was subjected to humiliation at the hands of the Philistines.  Faced with ridicule and failure, Samson, in his final act of strength, pulled the pillars down, killing himself and his captors (Judges 16:25-30).  Finally, we know that Judas hanged himself after betraying Christ for 30 pieces of silver (Matt. 27:1-5).

In each biblical example, we see the pride, anger, and rebellion of man that leads to death.  The sin of suicide was always preceded by a progression of sins culminating in this final act of desperation.  Each of the biblical characters was responding to external circumstances.  Each chose to escape their situation rather than endure and persevere.  None of the men referenced placed their faith and hope in God, possibly because they were already disconnected and relying on human strength and decision making, long before this fatal act.

Did Zimri, Saul, Samson, or Judas have medical imbalances that affected their judgment? Were any a product of childhood abuse or other painful experiences?  Did genetics play a role?  The Bible does not refer to such things.  But the Bible is clear that murder proceeds from the “heart of men” (Mark 7:21).

In every biblical example, the circumstances around these men revealed the content of their hearts (pride, foolishness, wickedness, murder, evil thoughts, and covetousness).  Even when there is a question regarding a medical condition or predisposing factors, Christians must be prepared to address the condition of the heart, paying heed to the emotions and actions that are evident in its expression.

Jesus dealt with numerous physical conditions, but His focus was always directed toward spiritual healing.  He cured leprosy (Luke 5:12-13), blindness (Mark 8:22-24), paralysis (Mark 2:5-12), hemorrhaging (Mark 9:20-22), fever (Matt. 8:14-15), and even raised the dead (Matt. 9:23-26).  But the Lord’s physical gift always paled in comparison to the spiritual truth and reconciliation He brought.

This too, must be our objective: reconciliation, truth, love, eternal security, and holy living.  The physical healing is according to the Lord’s sovereign will. But, we know by God’s Word that He is “…not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

I pray our church leaders will not forget nor forsake the eternal objectives of the Kingdom, focusing instead on explanations and remedies that are temporal and deceiving. Believers and unbelievers can be sick, sinful, or both. But while some things are physical, all things are spiritual (Eph 6:10-24).

In our efforts to comfort we must always be purveyors of truth, as well as vessels of love (Eph 4:15). And while it is loving to offer compassion, prayers, and support for the Warren family and others suffering in such complex traumas, it is equally important that we remain grounded in the fullness of truth and the totality of Scripture so that we are not carried away with ideas that are well-meaning, but structurally unsound.

Tragedies like the death of Matthew Warren should open our debate and the Church should indeed have a response. But in our response we must be first and always biblical, willing to prove our conclusions according to God’s Word. Without this as our base, we will be unstable voices, echoing the theology of the world, to the detriment of the masses.

Abercrombie, W.P., “Psychiatric Medications: In Search of a Biblical Context”, The Biblical Counseling Institute, 2012, http://dev2017.bcinstitute.com/psychotropic-medications-in-search-of-a-biblical-context-2/

Kendler, K.S., “Toward a philosophical structure for psychiatry”, American Journal of Psychiatry 162: 433–440, 2005.

Lacasse, J.R., Gomory, T., “Is graduate social work education promoting a critical approach to mental health practice?” Journal of Social Work Education, 39: 383–408, 2003.

Valenstein, E., Blaming the Brain: The Truth About Drugs and Mental Health, Free Press, New York, 1988.

 

 

38 thoughts on “A Biblical Response to Mental Illness and Suicide: What Should We Conclude…

    • I believe that some mental problems can and are Biblical. BUT there IS messed up Chemicals in the brain. I am a strong Christian who knows the Word. I KNOW sometimes I am depressed cause I have disobeyed, but then I repent and am better. BUT there are times when I am so depressed for NO GOOD REASON. AND I get suicidal at times. My medicenes have helped me tremoundesly. They have made me able to be able to read the Bible as the truth and see Jesus as kind and loving, not harsh and condeming. You are condeming people that CANNOT help themselves. They need medication and Christian based therapy. PLEASE, DO NOT SAY THIS IS JUST A BIBLICAL PROBLEM, CAUSE THAT IS NOT ALWAYS THE CASE!!

      • My task as a teacher and counselor is simply to present God’s Word. How one responds to Scripture is between that individual and the Lord. I encourage you to read the Word and review God’s examples.

        It is not my goal to change your mind or deny your experience…only to give a proper, contextual review of Scripture so that the Christian bases his/her response upon the Word and not experience only.

        Your servant,
        Dr. Ab

  1. Thank you for writing so clearly and concisely. I was deeply perturbed when I read the articles you are responding to. I am deeply grieved by the Warren’s devastating loss and then was angry over the ill informed articles I also read and to which you refer to. Men of such influence need to think more biblically before they put pen to paper and not be swayed by pop culture.
    Thank you for so graciously responding and providing clarity and assurance to many who have unanswered questions at a time such as time. May the Lord be pleased to bless and use your ministry and the promotion of biblical counselling. It is sorely needed. God bless you brother. You have ministered to me today and I am grateful

  2. I agree that lots of mental illness is the result of guilt, unconfessed sin, rebellion, bitterness, anger, etc. However, that doesn’t mean that there are not true physiological reasons behind mental illness. We must be careful not to blanket all mental illness in either one camp or the other. The very reason some Christians have not sought medical help is because of the belief that if they were ‘Christian’ enough, they shouldn’t really have these problems. That is just not true. As I said, there are Many factors contributing to mental illness and unless you have personally suffered with it, you cannot understand.
    I suffer from depression and have for years. I take medication for it. There was a time that I got off the medicine. I was walking with the Lord, eating well, excercising, and there was no reason for me to feel depressed. I was off my medicine for 5 months and then I crashed. Hard. I Did despair of life and wanted to die. I Did struggle with thoughts of suicide. I Did get back on medication, but it takes several weeks to work. I suffered terribly until the medication started working. I did Not give in, obviously. I asked for help. I told my husband when I felt like dying because I had committed to do that. It was awful to go through. But, I made it with God’s help and by His grace. There were times I couldn’t even read His Word I was so beside myself. But I listened to it on tape. I couldn’t even focus on what was being said but the power of His Word soothed my soul. After the medicine took effect, I felt normal again.
    My point in sharing this is to ask God’s people to please be careful not to dismiss mental illness as sin and be judging. I firmly believe that it is physiological in some cases. Don’t be quick to judge. We live in a fallen world and the effects of sin include all kind of illness including mental illness. As I said before, I don’t think all of it is physical. We are spiritual and you cannot separate the two. I think the statements in the article above may come across as attributing all mental illness as sin and I just don’t believe that is the case. You have to examine yourself in all things to see if there is sin as the cause. Sometimes I think it is both spiritual and physical at the same time.
    Either way, it’s impossible to judge someone because only God knows the heart. Be careful not to make general statements. It can be hurtful to those who do suffer with mental illness.
    I don’t know anything about Rick Warren’s son, but I do know that the family is suffering greatly. I don’t have to know why he did what he did and I don’t have to decide whether he was really mentally ill or in sin. That’s not my place. My place is to love and support the family in prayer. Obviously, taking a life is wrong even if it is your own. We are not our own and we dont have the right to decide whether we live or die. But we all fall and we should be quick to forgive. Just as Christ forgave us.

    • As we can see, this is an emotional topic. But the purpose of the article is to challenge believers to base our assessments of such matters on Scripture, not personal experience or worldly theory.
      I have been careful to state that individuals can be “sick, sinful, or both” and that while some things may be physical, “all things are spiritual.” I have taken care to address the blanketed claim that mental illness is physiological, by citing clinical research that states otherwise. Likewise I have attempted to provide a scriptural review that illustrates the position expressed in God’s Word.
      We cannot conclude our experience and feelings are correct. We must use Scripture as the only reliable and true template of assessment. To ignore how the Word addresses such matters is dangerous and leaves one vulnerable to his/her own conclusion based upon the fleshly experience of life in a fallen world. As God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah:

      “The heart is more deceitful than all else
      And is desperately sick ;
      Who can understand it? (Jer 17:9)

      I will always present Scripture’s position on any matter, knowing that in the world God’s Word will always find argument and rejection. I know no other way to explain human experience than through the unchanging Word.

      For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb 4:12).

      Your Servant,
      Dr. Ab

  3. Dr. Abercrombie – Thank you so much for this article (and the linked article in response to Emlet). You encouraged my soul with your application of biblical wisdom to a difficult subject. One gets fatigued in reading articles written by well-educated men who know better than to take Scripture out of context to support their worldview. You are uniquely qualified to write on this topic. It would be most appreciated if you would write several articles (perhaps another book) along these lines.

  4. Thank you! I am so grateful for you both. I am so grateful for your
    teaching and loving admonition to focus on His Word and His Majesty!
    He is Sufficient–HE REIGNS!! These articles are such a blessing!
    Eventhough I cannot attend class right now, I am able to share these
    with my son and others.
    Continuing to pray for you.
    Because of HIM,
    Lissette

  5. Many thanks to you for posting this helpful and well balanced article that reminds us to remain “grounded in the fullness of truth” of the Scriptures as we express our compassion to those hurting! Can’t tell you how steadying it is to hear such a clear exhortation at this time!

  6. This type of article is harmful to a Christian who is struggling with depression and needs to be on antidepressants. How do you respond or account for the cases where once the person goes on antidepressants, they do in fact start to improve? You cannot simply throw out all personal experience because it doesn’t fit the conclusions you have come to in the way you choose to interpret things. When people respond positively to medication, when it clearly helps some people get back to their baseline, become themselves again, you cannot tell me that there isn’t something chemical or biological going on!

    And of course you don’t see it described as medical in the Bible, they didn’t have modern medicine back then!

    • A response to mind-altering medication does not in fact prove the existence of biochemical impairment. Proper scientific inquiry would not base conclusions upon one’s experience only but upon multiple sources of verifiable evidence including a scientifically measurable influence on brain chemistry.

      This article only points out the absence of such evidence in the scientific world. All science has produced thus far is theory and assumption. Reading the totality of studies reveals this fact.
      But again we must base our understanding of truth on Scripture. Christians must never base their assessment of truth on experience and relief. Our only reliable reference is God’s Word.

      You state the article is “harmful” but I contend otherwise. The article only references God’s Word on the matter and gives no heed to human feelings about a complex issue. The article further identifies the inconsistency in science. We must not become so invested in validating our emotions about a subject that we fail to honor Scripture.

      Your servant,
      Dr. Ab

  7. Finally a biblically informed position on this topic! Been waiting to see this in the blogosphere. We are quick to medicate the pain and the fluctuating emotions and we do not deal with the underlying issues and sinful causes and dispositions.

  8. I just wanted to take a moment and thank you for this article. It’s so hard to wrap our minds around some things, but God knows the hearts of man, and I think your handling of this is well-grounded in the standard of His precepts. As with the killings in Connecticut, the masses of people spoke of mental illness unchecked as the problem, and I think this is too simplistic a view. The spiritual, as you say, is always wrapped up in the physical things of man.

    Grateful that you are willing to speak hard truth.

    I understand the outcry of those who have battled with depression, and who have found medication helpful. I hope they can hear your heart, Ab. That you are not judging them for taking medication, but that you strongly encourage a deep reliance on God as Our Healer, Our Wonderful Counselor, and Our Lord! I think of Asa’s experience…

    “In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease… Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the LORD, but only from the physicians.” 2 Chronicles 16:12

    We must FIRST seek our help in the Lord! The danger is “explaining away” sin. Again, not all depression is rooted in sin, but often times it is simply falling into discouragement – a heart and mind that has dropped its guard, fallen away from fixing on Truth.” That is a danger.

    Dr. Ab, I respect you for speaking this word of caution.

  9. The one out of your list of those committing suicide that gave me pause was Samson. I think this is an important character to point out in this conversation and I’m glad that you did! The last time we read Samson’s name in the Bible is in the hall of faith in Hebrews 11:32. We can certainly be encouraged, and walk in obedience to the Word of the Lord when we read this example. If Samson was saved at last, and put into the hall of faith, can’t we be encouraged by this in our time of struggle with the same sins? This is how one wayward sinful judge in the Old Testament can be an encouragement to the elect!

    • I agree. There is hope for all, no matter the depth of despair. Believers do fall into sin but through true repentance, grace and reconciliation is assured.
      Your servant,
      Dr. Ab

      • I thoroughly enjoyed this article. I’ve ready lots and lots of the responses, and I whole heartedly agree with Catherine’s reply and Dr. Abercrombe’s response regarding Samson being in the faithful hall of fame. I’m so grateful for Jesus’ reconsilling work He did on Calvary’s cross, He paid the price for ALL sin. Like David, if we’ll just open our hearts & mouths, repent of our sins, we will find relief.
        However, some people may not believe as much as others for healing and for that reason God gave mankind wisdom and knowledge to address illness and disease. He knows we are flawed, weak and oh so imperfect…. but He loves us and provides for us just the same and hopes we will choose Truth and Life in Him so we can spend eternity loving on each other. HALLELUJAH!!

  10. There was a different mental health “medicine” several thousand years ago—“wine that maketh glad the heart of man.” (Ps 104:15) We just happen to have more advanced medications. I don’t have a problem with well-researched psychotherapeutic drugs, when coupled with the primary intercession of biblical counseling.
    One example I hate to bring up, but a woman can often predict to the very day when she will feel depressed. Moods can be physiological. Might not always need drugs, but in a severe situation I think it’s OK, especially if it is naturally derived? (Gen 1:29)

  11. I honestly have to say that I have mixed emotions about this article. I am a Christian, who is also a Psych major, and someone who struggles with depression. It does seem as if you made a blanket statement that all depression in brought about by sin, and I honestly have a hard time seeing this. I know the Word, and yes, I agree with aspects of what you are saying, however to deny our own experiences which God pulled us through, is a bit closed-minded. Yes, take the Word and put it to life experiences, however, God did create us as cognitive individuals who have the capacity to think for ourselves. I cannot help but think of the woman who suffers from Postpartum depression. That is chemical. She bore a child and yet is in psychological torment. However, if I may ask a personal question, have you ever suffered from depression? Are you saying that Matthew Warren was caught up in some sin that tore him away from God and His peace? I simply, flat out disagree with that. To honestly know the mind, only God can do that, but to say that we do not, is incomplete information at best. I have wanted to know a Christian perspective on mental illness and suicide, however I was a bit taken aback by your article. I study Psychology at a Christian university, and there have never been so all or nothing statements I have ever experienced. There has to be a happy medium. I see you on one side of the spectrum and science on the other, but neither one completely right.

  12. I wanted to thank you, Dr. Ab, for the Biblical truths underscored in your article. I thought it was EXCELLENT! It was very insightful, and a blessing, to see Biblical perspective, vs. the knee-jerk reaction that has taken place here lately in light of Pastor Warren’s tragic loss. While it is hard for the church at large to beguile such a loss, it is equally important, as you eloquently pointed out, that our priority must be focusing first and foremost on God’s word, and how it specifically relates to the greater issue at hand.
    Your article did in fact point out that the brain can be sick just as any other organ, but that “all things are spiritual.” I specialize in treating patients with neurochemical imbalances, but I’m also the first to point out that the patient’s soul is ALWAYS the most important aspect to treat. If I make someone’s brain or body (the physical) better for a lifetime, then that is a blessing indeed; yet it does NOTHING for them if they lose their soul. We must prudently examine our methods in guiding patients to health, to make sure that we are not putting a Band-Aid over a spiritual matter.
    Thanks again!

  13. ” How then can we make the claim that such mental suffering is without spiritual influence? ”
    And how do you explain the depression that children that are physically or sexually abused experience?

  14. I too grieve with the family of Rick Warren, but am also saddened by the response they gave that they attempted to give their son a plethora of different medications and the “best professionals”.
    Things to understand about suicide is that it is based on a deception; the deception that suicide will end the present suffering. If one is a Christian that may be true albeit loss of rewards.
    Furthermore, there are 3 things that humans need to thrive: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for. When a person is deprived of all 3, and deceived into believing that none of those can ever be achieved again, they enter into despair, and suicide is often inevitable.
    Psychiatry overall is based on humanistic philosophies and sees mental illness as a disease. Our emotions are derived from the soulish part of the human, and the only “disease” that affects it is sin. A disease in terms of science and health is related to physiology, not a mental state.
    There are some organic problems that may require supplements in order to restore a chemical imbalance, but far too often such imbalances have been CAUSED by drugs. But the psychiatric community has labeled so many things from bad attitude to depression about being told to make ones bed into diseases that it is no wonder that any patient often leaves such an office worse than when they arrived.
    This psychiatric community thinks that God is insufficient and that without the aid of human observation and diagnosis (hundreds of variations), that God is incapable of restoring a person’s unbalanced spiritual and mental health.
    Laura Hendrickson, a former secular psyhiatrist now Biblical counselor at IBCD has 2 good audio sessions on the issues of depression and medication:

    *Medicine Only Approach to Counseling http://www.ibcd.org/resources/messages/10-the-medicine-only-approach-to-counseling/

    *Psychotropic Drugs and Biblical Counseling http://www.ibcd.org/resources/messages/11-psychotropic-drugs-and-biblical-counseling/

  15. Ab: Scientists are only at the beginning of their study of the brain—it is a marvel of complexity. Considering the plethora of destructions that occur in the body, it would be unreasonable to assume that there would be nearly none in the brain.

    Moreoever, in all depressions (for eg), there will be a physical component because we are unified creatures. How much varies on the source of the symptoms. Among others, there is a depression that emerges from ethical brokenness, a kind that emerges from receiving the consequences of others’ ethical brokenness, and a kind that emerges from physiological brokenness.

    You have, I’m afraid, a severe case of dualism. I have a pill for that. 🙂

  16. I commend Dr. Ab Abercrombie for writing this article knowing the kind of negative feedback we read in the comments on his Biblical approach in understanding a topic as sensitive as mental illness, suicide, and/or depression. One major thing wrong with Christians today is that we’re not all biblical minded enough but rather double minded. God, His Word, faith are placed along opposite side of the material world, secularism, and science; giving each side equal footing at best but often siding with the latter. We forget that God is Lord of all and everything is as it is according to His will and nothing is apart from His will. He rules over science, over human experience, over the material world and even though the Scriptures do not expressly speak of many things such as anti-depressant drugs, etc., it nevertheless provides us a foundation by which we can judge them. Dr. Abercrombie is simply allowing Scripture to interpret the subject of depression and suicide rather than allow unguided experience and anti-God/secular thinking distort Truth.
    There’s a lot of talk about how chemical imbalances lead to depression and even ultimately result in suicide, but when has there been any time someone got depressed or took their own lives as a result for no apparent reason? Being depressed presupposes a reason to be depressed about. Debating whether you should take your life or not requires the ability to think and reason. Are you not yourself when this occurs? Do you have no recollection of what happens during these moments? My point is you’re always in a position to make a choice. I have done lots of things I have regretted doing in the midst of some highly emotional feeling, but to give God the glory, I would never say that I was not in my right mind or suffering from chemical imbalance so that I wouldn’t be held responsible for my behavior. I’d have to admit that it was done willingly if I were honest about it. No one can argue that circumstances can get rough even to the point of being unbearable but that’s what makes a Christian stand out from a non-believer. While they have no hope we have the only hope; the only reliable and steadfast hope so that whatever circumstances we encounter (whether death, torture, solitude, life of seeming mediocrity, poverty, wealth, persecution) we can endure, even if for a time or season we become affected by it. Mood altering drugs are nothing but a way of numbing us from the effects of the circumstances around us. I would argue you’re the real you without it.
    Homosexuals, as an example, argue that their homosexuality is genetic so that they can’t be held responsible for their behavior and if that were true I’d probably find no fault in their objection to God for condemning them. If mental illness were physical/chemical and resulted in sinful behavior neither could the person suffering from it be culpable. If the above claims were true, you or I would not be responsible for our behavior if we suffered from it any more than we would for the color of our skin or sex. Those who make such claims unknowingly make God out to be a monster; because it would be like saying God could consider “blue eyes” to be sinful and cause people to be born with “blue eyes” (which they have no level of control over) and assign sin to them because of it.

  17. Dear Dr.Ab,

    I was reading through this article and the responses to it.
    Iam thankful to you for stating so clearly about the topic.I am trained mental health professional majorly with experience in clinical setting. Moreover I myself was suffering from depression during the time of my pregnancy and even post delivery. I could boldly say that it was an aftermath of the unforgiving spirit, pride, self sufficiency, jealousy , dabbling with occult, etc. A kind of chastening from the Lord.Prior to this i thought I was a believer, but wondering if I were one…may be I drifted far..or that my doctrinal/scriptural foundations were not strong…whatever…I had to take medications…(it had its effect..i cant explain the ‘how’)for 4 years…and attended secular CBT sessions briefly…mainly centering around my thoughts…which was nothing but Phili:4:8..living in the present..I realize if
    I had practiced what the Word of God says..I would never have had to face the bout of depression…I am fine by God’s grace now…enjoying life and God’s grace…many things have broken inside me…giving me new insights and light into God’s Word…
    Moreover ,I think the purely medical model takes away a person’s (patient’s) responsibility in in the cause and treatment of the disease.One can say that I am taking medicines…its all because of my “disease’. and continue on a victim kind of a life…pitying oneself…
    I am not judging anyone..just sharing out my experiences…I do have times of low feeling/tiredness/aimlessness/etc…even now…but I want to rejoice and trust in that Lord…Phili:3:1 coz ..Its more a command..not a mere suggestion…
    Thanks

  18. I guess my point is that there are myriad ways ppl get depression. For some it is sin that is the cause – whether disobedience, unresolved emotion or other sinful causes There are also depressive conditions which are given to some by God’s purposeful and intentional design in order that God is glorified through it. That is not sin. Our response to God’s sovereign decision for the condition may or may not be sinful.

  19. Further, some depression may well be brought on by circumstance, or by the sin of others. Once again, the condition itself is not sinful, its the way we respond to it that matters.

  20. The other thing is that God is sovereign over all secondary causes including sin. There is nothing outside his control. He can turn anyone or anything to praise His name – look at Nebuchadnezzar. God may decide that the greater glory for his name is wih sick ppl who speak and act in ways which glorify His name.

    • Sandy,
      I have read the article you referenced in your comment and it clearly states there is no blood or urine test for depression. Instead the article sites a need for scientific and verifiable testing to affirm the physical genesis of depression; but as yet none have been established. The article in fact proves the opposite of your claim and demonstrates there is still no reliable confirmation of depression having a medical origin. As Christians we must not exclude science or the potential answers that my one day come; but we must be very careful not to speculate about so called facts that have no scientific basis. To do so only complicates our understanding and distracts us from the true source of healing and eternal life…Jesus Christ.
      God bless you.
      Dr. Ab

  21. I am a Christian, a qualified Psychologist, member of American and Australian Psychologists Associations and can verify that there are times that a person needs to reset bran structures in order to be able to recover from mental illnesses.

    Whilst the Bible doesn’t specifically describe all cases of depression, the same doesn’t also describe many cases of physical illness.

    It is true that many mental disturbances are spiritually link and even based; however there are things that cannot necessarily be easily explained. Doing so implies to someone who has a congenital heart disease that there is a spiritual problem in their lives.
    Or like saying to someone who suffers chronic migraines that their condition is due to their spiritual condition.
    Or that someone obese or overweight is due to their lack of consecration (cf. 1 Cor 10:31)…
    Because of the easy stigma we have over mental health conditions it is rather also easy to discard the factual possibility of neurochemical structures that are literally affected and need a tangible response.

    I recommend everyone reading the resource book:
    “Depression the way out”
    By Dr Ned Nedley

  22. Thank you for sharing the truth of God’s Word. I’m saddened by how many “believers” in church are on anti-depressants, anti-anxiety pills, and other such drugs. One thing that folks forget is that God talks about our mind – – this is not the same as our physical brain. God gave us feelings, but feelings are not God. We are not to be emotionally led, but Spirit led. We are not to follow our heart, but follow the Word of God. When we allow ourselves to be consumed with something negative or even “feeling depressed” we are putting something other than the Lord Jesus on the throne of our hearts/minds. Too many times people are more concerned about being “happy” than being holy. Thank you for being courageous enough to say these things. I have found that so many hold onto AD’s (and other psych. meds) like they are a sacred cow. We’ve seen them play a large part in several young peoples’ suicides (3) in the past two years. I have several questions – why – when we are the richest country in the world – do we have the most depressed people? Why were folks who went through The Depression not need medicine for “depression”? Why would we want to short circuit the grace-growing process? One last side note: Interesting how new “diseases” end up in the latest DSM (mental health, psychiatric handbook) after the latest drug is in the PDR, hah? Lord, please help us!

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