Jesus isn’t an anti-depressant.
There is some sort of misconception among Christians that faith and prayer to Jesus is some sort of cure-all for mental illness. Instead of viewing mental illness as a physiological illness, they treat it like a spiritual one that the mystic powers of Jesus alone can heal.
Now, I’m not knocking Christianity. Hell, I am a Christian. But these lies about Jesus and mental illness are harmful, dangerous, deadly, and just plain wrong. So, let’s address them. Let’s talk about the ways that Jesus isn’t an anti-depressant.
1- Jesus doesn’t change your brain chemistry.
Serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, and other chemicals all help our brains to function the way they are supposed to. Sometimes, mental illness occurs when one or more of these chemicals becomes deficient. Sometimes, the other chemicals become over productive in response. The result is an off-balanced soup that can leave us in a panic attack, depressed, in psychosis, or a host of other states. Bottomline, when the brain chemistry is off something bad is happening.
People that believe in Jesus don’t have bulletproof brains. Jesus doesn’t balance out a mixed-up brain chemistry through simple belief or force of will. There are many, many, many Christians who love Jesus and believe what he says, yet still, need medication to help their brain chemistry balance out so they can contain and control the mental illness they live with. If an anti-depressant, SSRI, SNRI, anti-psychotic or other drug works and alters someone’s mood, that is proof that there is something that the drug is altering, correcting, addressing. Christian prayer and faith don’t seem to have the same effect on mental illness.
2- Jesus isn’t a shield from mental illness
According to NAMI, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year. That’s around 43.8 million people. Now, considering that there are around 173 million Christians in the U.S. (as if 2014), there is an undeniable fact that some Christians live with mental illness. Jesus isn’t some sort of vaccination from mental illness. In fact, As of 2014, it was reported that 1 in 4 pastors wrestle with mental illness.
So yes, Christians live with mental illness in spite of their faith in Jesus. This doesn’t make someone a weak Christian or somehow deficient in faith. This is just the numbers. I am one of these Christians that lives with mental illness, so I know the reports aren’t just making things up. I’ve been a Christian my whole life, volunteered in the church for over ten years, preached, led music, taught classes. I’ve studied the Bible and have faith in Jesus. But I still live with bipolar. Just like some Christians get cancer or diabetes, some Christians live with mental illness.
3- Jesus doesn’t always heal
Christians live with sickness, disease, hurt, and trauma just like everyone else. Having faith in Jesus doesn’t make someone immune to the ravages of life. Christians still get sick. Christians still deal with mental illness. Believing in Jesus, even believing that he can heal illness, is no sort of guarantee that healing is actually going to happen. There is simply nothing that means for certin Jesus is going to heal you.
But we know that anti-depressants and treatment work. The right treatment configuration will help someone live with mental illness, and in some cases get completely well. Sure, the science is hit or miss sometimes. There is a lot of trial and error. But it’s progress towards finding the righ medication, the right therapy, the right treatment for the mental illness you live with. There is hope that’s better than waiting for some capricious caricature of God to touch you.
We don’t need to treat Jesus as if he was some anti-depressant. That’s not who he is. That’s not what the Christian faith is about. Again, Jesus isn’t an anti-depressant.
Now religion and community may be things that help you deal with your mental illness is positive ways. That’s great. Keep at it. But Jesus doesn’t replace Prozac or Effexor or whatever drug your doctor prescribes. It’s ok to believe, but it’s not ok to ignore science and the mental health community. Believe in Jesus and take your meds.
Aaron is a father, a nerd, a Jesus follower, and lives with bipolar II and anxiety. He’s kind of a mess but doing the best he can. He’s been writing for over 10 years and focuses mostly. On faith, mental illness, and where the two meet. Follow him on Twitter @CulturalSavage and find him at www.aaronjsmithwriter.com and www.culturalsavage.com