This is a question that I get asked a lot and one that you’ve probably heard before too. Does pursuing medical or mental health treatment mean that I don't have enough faith?
This is a major theme in Christian circles, and while probably well-intentioned, can do a lot of damage. Some take the extreme when answering this question. You’ll hear things like, “If you do ABC, or if you don’t do XYX, then you don’t have enough faith.”
This has been extremely hurtful to many and has even pushed people out of the Church and into a downward spiral.
I once had someone tell me that in the midst of a severe major depressive episode, people from his church told him that if he just prayed more, then he would be healed.
Another person told me that someone was upset with him for considering a necessary medical procedure, saying that if he had enough faith, God would protect him.
Yes, it is important to trust God in everything...
...but how does making prudent and responsible decisions mean that we don’t trust God?
After all, He is the One who gave us the resources for health, wellness, and survival that we have. I’m sure you could take anything to an extreme, but if doing something out of medical necessity means the same thing as not having enough faith, then so is having car insurance, locking your doors at night, wearing a seatbelt, or any other kind of prudent things people do.
The foundation of our faith is Jesus Christ and His promise of everlasting life. As we go through this life, there are struggles, trials, and sufferings that we all go through. It is important to not judge others’ faith, especially when we don’t know what they are going through. One of the worst mistakes we can make as believers is to judge, or even base our assessment of the likelihood of someone else’s salvation based on what they do or don’t do.
Mental health is a major area where people judge others.
When someone is going through a depressive episode, some may judge them as lazy.
When someone is going through trauma, some may judge them as not trusting God.
When someone is going through a manic episode, some may judge them as someone who has no self-discipline.
However, who is the one coming alongside that person and drawing them closer to God?
Can someone who is psychotic truly stop being psychotic and trust God without any kind of intervention?
That happened during Jesus’ day when He healed others. However, I have never seen that happen.
We should use the interventions and provisions available to us as tools to help us maintain health in order to draw closer to God. But we should never use those interventions in place of trusting God.
We use what God provides us as we trust in Him.
David wrote in Psalm 144:1 (NKJV),
“Blessed be the Lord my Rock, Who trains my hands for war, And my fingers for battle.”
What he didn’t say was that God does all of the work for him as he can sit and relax back at the palace.
Part of walking with Jesus Christ in our daily life is using the wisdom He has given us to discern what to use and what not to use in this world.
Another psalm illustrates how we use the strength and resources God gives us to win battles, but in the end, God gets the glory, and He determines the outcome. When it appears that we are the ones that deliver the results, it is really God who empowers and equips us to succeed in the first place.
Psalm 44:5-6 (NKJV, emphasis added) Through You we will push down our enemies; Through Your name we will trample those who rise up against us. For I will not trust in my bow, Nor shall my sword save me.
God works in partnership with each and every one of us. He has given us gifts, talents, and influence in this world in order to glorify Him in our lives. There is an active participation on our part. God does the heavy lifting, but we have an active role.
1 Peter 4:10-11 (NKJV) As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
The Bible has many stories about people taking the initiative in partnership with God instead of waiting on God to act alone on their behalf.
Esther went before the King of Persia, risking her life, to intercede for her people.
Joshua, David, Gideon, and many others fought in battles, but God won them.
Joseph was a vessel to save not just his family, but potentially millions of people from famine through God’s wisdom and power.
My point is that there are resources that God has given us, and we should use them wisely. What we should not do is completely ignore those resources, instead assuming that God will do everything for us.
God desired Adam and Eve to have dominion over the earth prior to the fall of man. I believe this included understanding and mastering science. Developing techniques and interventions that bring healing to others is something that can definitely bring glory to God. Not only that, but I think God probably enjoys watching His children learn and discover the amazing design of His creation, and use that knowledge to help others.
As a Psychiatrist, I do not depend on medications and therapy alone to heal people. I know who is ultimately in control, who has all of the wisdom, and who has all of the means to do whatever He wills. However, I see my role as a vessel to help bring healing to people, and if they are willing, to draw them closer to God through their suffering.