Monday, October 15, 2007

Medicated: The New American Dream:

Are prescription antidepressants helpful in the longrun, or are they only masking the true condition of our hearts? In my preaching, I often quote from a book I read in college entitled, Whatever Became of Sin; written by Psychologist, Carl Menninger. He writes, "Is no one any longer guilty of anything? Guilty, perhaps, of a sin that could be repented and repaired and atoned for? Is it only that someone may be stupid or sick or criminal or recovering or asleep? Wrong things are being done . . . Tares are being sewn in the wheat field at night. But is no one responsible? Is no one answerable for these acts? Anxiety and depression we all acknowledge, and even vague guilt feelings. But has no one committed any sins? Where, indeed, did sin go? What became of it?" It seemed odd to me that these words so loaded with Theological import would come from a psychologist. But what was quickly aparrent is that Menninger's main contention is that if he could only convince his patients that they were not guilty of some sin, he could cure them all. This is an amazing claim! In our comfort driven society, nobody wants to be confronted with the reality of guilt, much less the underlying cause guilt. That ugly, three letter word isn't so agreeable in a land of obese egos. After all, it's is much more agreeable to pass the buck. People even express a sigh of relief when they are told, "You have ADHD . . . bipolar, manic depressive, obsessive compulsive, etc. Why talk of sin when there is always a talk show host or psychologist only a click away, eager to tell you how morally right you are. Yet, there is always that feeling that things are not quite right. Hence, 1 out of 20 American adults are currently on prescription antidepressants. According to Fortune Magazine, 150,000,000 perscriptions for antidepressants were filled in 2004 alone. In our bland new world where a quick fix is found in a pill, we might feel sorry for a depressed, King David, who lived during a time when he had no access to our medical innovations. He writes, "my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer . . . I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly, I go mourning all the day long" (Psalm 32:3-4, 38:6). These words sound almost masochistic. What is certain is that King David found himself in a sleepless depression after his little rendezvous with Bathsheba. If only he had had Prozac, Zoloft, or Luvox . . . something to ease these horrible feelings he endured day and night. If only David were alive today he might have laughed at the prophet's incriminating words, "David, you are the man." If only David were alive today he'd have plenty of neo-prophets telling him all he needed was to feel good about himself. If only David were alive today, he could avoid this unhealthy talk of sin. To that I respond, "Thank heavens David didn't make it to the Twenty-first century; he'd probably go straight to Hell."

When we are physically sick, it does not suffice us merely to mask over the disease. In no less serious terms, what we desparately need for our spiritual sickness is the truth. In the July 2007 issue of Whistleblower Magazine, a shocking testimony was given by a Christian lady dealing with her own experience with prescription antidepressants. After dealing with a crippling bout of depression she innocently approached her pastor, hoping that he could offer sound, biblical advice. Instead, her pastor said, "Go to the doctor and ask for antidepressants." She says, "Not a word was said about my sinful attitudes regarding my responsibilities, and there were no offers of practical help. Just 'go to the doctor." Within weeks of taking her prescribed medication, she was feeling good, and "smalltalking with the rest of them." In her bland new world she says she felt like one of the "Stepford Wives." "Noone seemed to struggle with any serious life issues. Only smiling and happy greetings." What became apparent after her father's death a year later is that not only did she not feel those unhealthy feelings of sorrow; she couldn't even feel what she would consider, healthy feelings of sorrow. It was disturbing to her that she could not feel even the slightest sense of loss over the death over her very own father. It was not long before she was asking herself, "Why am I not grieved over my sin?" As a Christian, the Holy Spirit brought her to the place where she realized that the deadening of consience created by these mind altering drugs brought with it a deadening of the soul and its ability to hear the voice of God.Long after experiencing victory over antidepressant drugs, and now experiencing victory over the sin that provoked the felt need for drugs, she has an amazing story to tell. She writes, "When a believer is plagued by what the world calls depression, she must take a hard look at what is underneath it. Feelings are notoriously unreliable in most areas, but they are vital in recognizing sin. I believe that God gave us our emotions primarily for His use in convicting us of sin. Of course, they have many other uses, but I believe His primary purpose is for His glory."

Certainly depression can be a crippling thing, and this article is in no way intended to add more weight to the crippling effects of your condition. But there is something beautiful that happens when you quit running from the reality of sin, stop in your tracks and admit that you are a sinner (Romans 3:23). You can do what King David did after his own bout with depression and turn to God for forgiveness. David was healed of his condition, not through any mind altering substance he may have had access to. He faced reality and could say before God, "I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid" (Psalm 32:4a). Yes, facing your sin will bring with it a season discomfort and sorrow. But it is what the New Testament calls a "godly sorrow unto repentance" (II Corinthians 7:9). If you will not only face your sin, but turn to Christ for forgiveness, you will be able to say with David, "His anger endureth but for a moment, in His favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" (Psalm 30:5).

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