If Christians love God enough, trust the Bible enough, walk in the Spirit enough, and discipline themselves enough, should we assume they won’t need the chemical support of psychoactive drugs (i.e., medications for anxiety, depression, & other mental health issues)?

It’s a question we should approach with a high level of caution. For one thing, the Scriptures do not speak specifically to the matter, and the biblical principles which apply line up on both sides of the issue (more on that in a moment). For another, even secular neuroscientists and psychiatrists aren’t entirely sure of the biochemical causes of psychiatric disorders; how much more cautious should Christians be, since the Bible acknowledges far more factors to our suffering than just our body chemistry?

That being said, what principles does the Bible offer to guide our decision, should we find ourselves in a situation where a doctor suggests a prescription drug for emotional/mental support? Here are a few questions to ask yourself, with the related biblical principles in tension on both sides.

Have you sincerely surrendered yourself to God’s will and sought His intentions in your suffering? It is a Christian value to relieve suffering, but it’s also a Christian value to refine us through suffering. Jesus healed and fed and comforted people! But often He delays healing for higher spiritual purposes—e.g., to teach us humility, perseverance, trust in God, compassion for others, etc. 

Is your ultimate hope in God or in medicine? Modern medications are a marvelous gift of God’s grace, but they can also become idols. If the medicine works, a God-centered heart is even more thankful to God and more earnest in seeking Him; an idolatrous heart overlooks God’s role in healing and quickly returns to God-ignoring habits. If the medication fails, a trusting heart sustains its joy and faith in the goodness of God; an idolatrous heart is bitter and complaining.

Are your motives in either case to honor God and know Him better? Either decision—to take medication or to refuse it—can be driven by wrong motives. In fact, heart attitude is often the most important factor in the decision. Some people simply want immediate relief and see no need to examine their own thoughts and habits for contributing factors—sub-Christian motives at best. Others resist the weakness and shame they associate with psychiatric drugs—sure signs of pride, self-sufficiency, and the fear of man. 

(NOTE: Special credit to Dr. Michael Emlet for many of the insights in this column – source available upon request.)