Can I trust Jesus AND take antidepressants?
I am not sure I would have put antidepressants and Jesus in the same sentence about ten years ago. I really wish I would have honestly considered how those two could beautifully coexist in my own life. I had seen both Jesus and antidepressants working in other people's lives. But for my life? I didn't have ears to hear.
We struggled through 31 months of infertility (but who's counting) and found ourselves joyfully pregnant. The pregnancy went really well until we hit 34 weeks. My firstborn son was born six weeks pre-mature and we spent 23 days in the NICU (again with the counting).
Laying in my hospital bed just hours after delivering him, I found myself incredibly empty and surprisingly alone. Quite full with life and nurses and friends one minute, empty and isolated and confused the next. My room was quiet. No baby. No husband. No team of people. We had decided that my husband would follow the ambulance that held my son as it traveled 30 miles north to the NICU. And we had decided that everyone should head home so I could rest. And I decided in the darkness: this was not what I had expected.
And so it went.
Expectations can be brutal. In the early years of motherhood, I was often finding myself on this cycle of full and empty, full and empty, full and empty. Full of chaos and diapers and crying. Empty of adult-time and dreams and things to show for my day. Full of love for this tiny person, empty of energy from the long night. Full of questions, empty of answers.
Motherhood was both day shift and night shift, it was beautiful and it was gritty, and it had so many moving parts. And somewhere in the whirlwind things got knocked off-kilter.
After my second and then third baby, combined with my part-time job in ministry and my often anxious soul, depression and anxiety were regular, unwanted guests in my life.
So I got to work. I started exercising 5-6 days a week. I changed my diet to include brain healthy foods and cut out processed foods. I went to counseling. I read books and stayed connected in deep friendships and my local church. I memorized scripture. I used oils and supplements. But even with all of that combined, I still battled greatly. I couldn't possibly eat better or exercise more. I did the hard work of unearthing emotions, of trusting Jesus with past and present pain, of putting goodness in my body. All of this was still not enough.
After several years, I finally considered antidepressants (in tandem with my diet, exercise, counseling, etc). And my next thought was: But, Jesus.
Can I trust Jesus AND take antidepressants? Was this allowed? Would it reveal that my faith was too small and my depression was too big for God?
Oh my goodness, friends. Let us see that the world fell and with it fell everything. Things simply do not work right. Babies are born early. Cancer takes our loved ones. Anger rages and harms those closest to us. Legs break. Affairs happen. Serotonin depletes.
But God is still good. And nothing is too big for Him. He conquered the sin that broke the world, and He defeated the death that doomed us all. He did this with strength and with grace. And in His grace, He continuously gives us good gifts on our broken earth.
Jesus and antidepressants are not opposites. Far from it. Medicine is a gift from God— given to help aide us in this broken world. One of the chapters in my book, Chin Up, talks honestly about this. I share:
Antidepressants have been a gift in my life as they work together with good nutrition, exercise, and counseling. The fog has lifted and I can see clearer. Anxiety isn't ruling me and I am able to make better choices. The scripture and God's truth that I have memorized are more tangible than ever before. I am sure antidepressants are not forever, but they are for now.
One of my dearest friends often says: "Meds, The Holy Spirit, and Community. This is why I am healthy." Amen, sister. Let's continue to take a hatchet to the lies and clear a path for each other. Let's share our stories. Let's point to the King and boast in our weakness—because God's power is perfected. In our weakest of places, His grace is enough.
I am in ministry. I teach about Jesus, share about Jesus, and lead Jesus-things. I am on staff with a church. One may be tempted to think with all this extra Jesus-padding, I would be bubble wrapped and immune to depression. I am not. Those who pastor are not. People who are all shapes, sizes, and spiritualities are not.
So here I am, sharing weakness and taking a risk. But here God is, giving gifts and delighting in me.
May we find freedom, grace, and hope.
May we call antidepressants and Jesus companions. Call them gifts. Call them grace.
Another fantastic resource, from Jen Reviews, gives fantastic shape and vocabulary to how empowering a diagnosis can be! Find it here.
When asked if Christians can take antidepressants and still rely on God, John Piper responded: "That relates to an earlier question about how any physical or personal means that you use can signify that you're not relying on God. So eating might be a failure to rely on God, because He might just fill your stomach by miracle, and you don't have to eat. Or not sleeping would be a way of relying more on God, since you don't have to have your psyche made stable by sleep at night. And so on."