After last weeks podcast I wanted to take some time and discuss again the topic of Christianity and anxiety. A question was brought up during the episode that I thought was worth addressing. The question being “why do you think the church has had such a hard time with Christians who suffer from clinical anxiety and depression?”
To answer this though I think there are two things we should consider when we look at the Christian response to brothers and sisters who take medicine or seek counselling regarding these debilitating issues.
First we should remember that the Christian response to a slew of things that aren’t fully understood or researched by the main stream church is that it’s instantly a spiritual or sin issue. When we see passages in the Gospels where Jesus was covering things like worry or doubt, even fear we equate the daily concerns that Christians think about or deal with as the same as a clinical diagnosis. Yet when Jesus discusses worry and anxiety, He seems to be repeating truths from books like Proverbs.
Proverbs 6:6-9 “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.”
We know this because He talks about the sparrow and God’s provision for food or the lilies of the field and their want for clothing. These day to day cares are symptomatic of a larger issue of faith. Putting your trust in your own ability to provide for yourself and making that become your ambition or drive.
That is not clinical anxiety.
Now, I’m not a doctor nor do I play one on television but I do understand a little about brain chemicals and what happens when people experience hormonal imbalances that effect the brain. A common example of this happens in women after childbirth in what many now know is called post-partum depression. During the pregnancy and birth process, some women become susceptible to a lack of various hormones and chemicals that cause swings in mood, changes in life’s outlook etc…. I’ve never met someone who has lobbed accusations at a new mother that she is lacking faith because she is dealing with chemical imbalances after a child birth. Most people would agree that that would be completely inappropriate.
This leads me to my second point so bear with me here.
The church has notoriously been behind in understanding societal norms. Anytime something seemingly spiritual surfaces in culture it takes the church about 10 years (my estimate) to discover and conclude where the church should stand regarding said issue. Though it may sound silly, I’d like to present to you the churches reaction to the Harry Potter books, Dungeons and Dragons and video games. Now not completely inclusive to these things, the instant demonization of these things were on the forefront of every pulpit for years and the stigma behind them was often uneducated at best and ignorant at worst.
Because mental health is now rising as a legitimate issue, with real science and research behind it we can see and research for ourselves about issues that effect our family in Christ and not continue in speculation over these things. We can know and understand the same types of hormonal and chemical deficiencies found in “acceptable” clinical issues, to be found in clinical diagnoses’ of these other issues.
The reality is that we may be saved and no longer slaves to sin, but we still live in these vessels of flesh that are prone to sickness, disease and various forms of imperfection. Sure we have an obligation to submit ourselves to Christ fully, including our minds and bodies but we do great harm to our brothers and sisters when we disregard real issues from real doctors and simply discount them as fellow believers and heirs of the promise.