Medical Illness and Jesus
Tonight at Providence, I made a statement that was pretty polarizing. (Let's be honest, that happens a lot.) Yet, this time I felt a need to post a follow-up as soon as possible. My comment went something like this:
"If you are struggling with depression, your problem is not that you have lived too little and need to live it up more, it is that you haven't died to self yet."
I still agree with this comment. However, it may present an oversimplification of illness. What about medical depression? Is it true that depression is merely a lack of trust in Christ and can be handled always by mere faith and attacking root idolatry? As Christians, is it wrong to take prescription medications? Is depression just a secular term for spiritual oppression? Does this downgrade and degrade people who struggle with it? Is it only depression, or are other sicknesses just people's lack of faith?
All of these questions are legitimate, and important to discuss.
We have to start with Jesus, and how he treated illness. Jesus was a healer. Much of His earthly ministry was spent healing the sick. Jesus dealt with people who were leprous, blind, lame, and mute. He handled rare blood diseases, demonic possession, and even in some cases raised people from death after sickness had appeared to win. Yet, it is important to note that in all of this Jesus did not diminish disease. He did not pretend it didn't exist. He did not mock the sick for lacking faith and even when given the opportunity he did not correlate their struggle with sickness with their personal sin (John 9:2-3). Jesus has the power to do all things. The book of Colossians gives us a healthy respect for the power of Christ.
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together." Colossians 1:15-17
Jesus is the great physician. He has the ability to heal. However, His sovereign will is wise. At times, God does not heal and chooses to allow sickness. We do not always understand why, but we do know He does. He knows His plan, and His plan is the best. We trust Him. In NO WAY does this hinder us from praying and asking. We trust and believe that whatever He decides is for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).
As for medicine, we must approach this subject clearly and humbly. First, we must thank doctors. There are many talented and well-educated doctors who help others and save lives every day. Secondarily, we must note that at least two books of the Bible were written by a doctor named Luke, who used his skills to benefit missionaries like Paul the apostle in their endeavors to share the gospel.
God has given a level of common grace to all people. This common grace allows doctors to make new discoveries and create treatment plans to help others in pain.
Medicine and treatment is not unbiblical or sinful, but permitted and gifted to us by God Himself.
The question that must be asked by each of us individually is an issue of abuse. Any of God's gifts can be abused and turned into sinful vices. This can be seen today as teenagers use common bath salts to produce a chemical high or as pain killers like hydrocodone are sold at $5 a pill to addicts.
Depression is a serious issue, and some may seek professional care and find help. There is nothing wrong with that.
However, some might need to ask themselves the tough questions first. Some symptoms of physical ailments can occur because of spiritual neglect.
In summary, let us be thankful to God for exercising common grace and allowing human physicians the knowledge to help some who are in need, but let us first seek the Great Physician who has and will always help in our time of need.