If God Is All We Need, Why Do Christians Take Medicine For Depression And Anxiety? (Part 2)

Examining the spiritual components of suffering and depression

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God created us with a body, soul, and spirit, and each of these parts play a role in our mental health. In my last article, I discussed the biological and psychological components of mental health, addressing when medication or counseling may be beneficial to help an individual recover (Read HERE). In this article, I will attempt to address some of the spiritual components of mental health, and explain when medication may not be beneficial for symptoms of depression. I will try and differentiate between suffering which carries a divine purpose, from that which requires medical intervention. This is a complicated topic, one that a short blog can never comprehensively address, but my goal is to at least touch on some of these spiritual issues, possibly uncovering a bit of truth for those in need of hope, and offering new perspective for the journey forward.

Since there are many types of spiritual problems, there are different approaches for healing spiritual wounds. Sometimes an individual needs deliverance from a demonic stronghold, and other times they need inner healing. Then there are those whose restoration comes as they surrender to God in a “dark night of the soul” experience, and yet others whose healing comes through the simple act of “choosing life” in spite of their pain.


The Bible gives us examples in which people are spiritually healed through deliverance from demonic oppression. Jesus cast out a legion of unclean spirits from a violent man who lived naked by the tombs, and this act restored the man to his right mind (Mark 5:1-17). And when Philip proclaimed Christ in Samaria, many unclean spirits left the people there too (Acts 8:7). As followers of Christ, we are instructed to confront the powers of evil that imprison God’s people and help set these captives free; (Matthew 10:7-8) however, deliverance does not always present a dramatic display. Deliverance can also come through the gentle touch of God’s love to our heart, as He uproots the false beliefs that gave grounds for the enemy to torment us, and He replaces those lies with the truth of who we are in Christ. In other words, instead of a session of “casting out demons” – sometimes God just steps in as we seek Him and surrender to His voice, and tears down the demonic strongholds the enemy built in our lives. For those whose battle with depression is due to the unseen forces of darkness in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12), deliverance will lead to a freedom that far surpasses any breakthrough counseling or medication could provide.


Sometimes symptoms of depression can be connected to a wounded spirit, and the individual’s victory depends on the healing of these deep wounds. In his book, Healing, Francis MacNutt writes, “Inner healing is indicated whenever we become aware that we are held down in any way by the hurts of the past.” He goes on to say, “We are deeply affected not only by what we do—our own sins and mistakes—but by what happens to us through the sins of others, and the evil in the world (original sin). Our deepest need is for love, and if we are denied love as infants or as children, or anywhere else along the line, it may affect our lives at a later date and rob us of our peace, of our ability to love, and of our ability to trust other people—or God.”

There was a time in my life when God revealed to me the root of my emotional outbursts, and led me through a process of inner healing. I have not always communicated in healthy ways, but with God’s help (and counseling), I have come a long way. However, last year I found myself exploding in an argument. I said some unkind things, even using foul language in the process. I felt awful afterwards and repented quickly to God and this individual. However, I still felt sad and broken-hearted the following week. I do not typically struggle with guilt or condemnation, so why couldn’t I get past this and move on? I shared the situation with a wise friend of mine and she asked me if I had been praying for more of God in my life. I told her I always pray that; it is my heart’s desire. She replied, “That is why it happened. God was putting His finger on an issue and bringing it to the surface, so you could surrender it for healing. Let’s ask him to reveal the root.” We prayed, and God brought some memories to mind from my childhood, times when I felt rejected and when my feelings were not validated. In that moment, I realized I had developed a coping mechanism to “survive” in relationships by fighting to make sure I was always heard. When I didn’t get the validation that I craved, it triggered something deep inside of me. However, I prayed with my friend that day and forgave those who had hurt me. God did a great work of healing in my heart and replaced my sadness with a tremendous peace and joy. His affirmation gave me the true security I needed, so I no longer demanded others to meet those needs. I learned that my heavenly Father’s voice trumps every other . . . and as I listened to HIS voice, I would discover my true identity and worth.

Francis and Judith MacNutt, from Christian Healing Ministries, describe inner healing this way, “Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, takes the memories of our past and heals them from the effects of those emotional wounds that still remain and affect our daily lives. He can fill with His love all those places in us that have so long been empty. He can give us the grace to forgive past hurts and resentments. We can ask Jesus Christ to go back to the time when the hurt occurred and free us from the effects of that wound that still remain in the present. This involves two things: bringing to light the things that have hurt us and then praying to the Lord to free us from the binding effects of our hurtful past.

There are many forms of inner healing ministry: SozoTheophosticsAnanias Prayer, etc. They differ from traditional Christian counseling because those ministering are not just listening and offering advice; rather, they are connecting the individual with the presence and power of Jesus Christ to reveal the root of the issue, then submitting to the Holy Spirit’s lead for healing. Scripture describes Jesus as the Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6), and the Holy Spirit also as our Advocate and Helper (John 14:26), so certainly we should look to them for guidance first and foremost in our journey to healing!


There are times when our suffering serves a greater purpose, and numbing our pain with medication could be counterproductive. Some struggles are meant to refine the areas of our life that are not completely surrendered to God, but rather ruled by self. When struggling, we often pray for God to change our circumstances, but it may be that God wants to use our circumstances to change us.

However, it is important to note that suffering is different from depression. Though they can co-exist, God does not ordain seasons of depression for our lives. I cannot explain why some people struggle with depression; I can only say that God wants to deliver us from its’ grip. As Paul learned the secret of being content at all times, God also wants us to find our contentment in Him, a joy that is not dependant on our circumstances (Philippians 4:12-13).

St. John of the Cross coined the term “dark night of the soul” to describe painful life experiences that God orchestrates for a divine purpose. Unlike the symptoms of depression, those experiencing “the dark night of the soul” will present differently. They will seldom experience symptoms of abnormal guilt, self-loathing, worthlessness, or the physical symptoms that can accompany depression. In a “dark night of the soul” experience, the misery serves as a teacher, and the soul learns the joy of sharing in the sufferings of Christ. As Gerald May explains,

When we cannot chart our own course, we become vulnerable to God's protection, and the darkness becomes a 'guiding night,' a 'night more kindly than the dawn.' To guide us toward the love that we most desire, we must be taken where we could not and would not go on our own.

Through the "dark night of the soul" experience, one realizes their true dependence on God, and that His strength is made perfect in their weakness (2 Corinthians 12:10). This is why Scripture teaches us to consider it pure joy when we face trials, because the testing of our faith produces perseverance (James 1:2-3, 1 Peter 4:12-13). As John Piper puts it in his article, through suffering, “followers of Christ can experience and display that no pleasure and no treasure compares to knowing Christ. That is, the loss of every good thing in this world is meant to reveal that Christ himself more than compensates for all losses.” 

We are all fallen beings, and sin has birthed ungodly desires and attachments within us. We often put our will first, seeking that which will gratify our wants and needs above all else. But God desires to break every attachment to sin in our life, so He allows these “dark night of the soul” experiences to purify our desires and draw us closer to Him. As Gerald May explains, "There is a relentless willfulness in us that seldom ceases until we have been brought to our knees by incapacity and failure." In the midst of this failure or suffering, some may feel that God has abandoned or betrayed them, but God does not hide FROM us, he hides FOR us. May goes on to explain, "The dark night is a profoundly good thing. It is an ongoing process in which we are liberated from attachments and compulsions and empowered to live and love more freely."

The truth is, if we will search for God in our pain, He has treasures waiting for us to discover: intimacy, peace, strength, wisdom, etc. And during these dark nights, He waits in hopeful anticipation of our newfound joy in Him alone, knowing this process is critical to our spiritual formation (Proverbs 2:1-5, Proverbs 25:2).  In his book "The Release of the Spirit," Watchman Nee explains,

The work of the Holy Spirit is intended to break you down in the flesh on the one hand and, on the other, to build you up in the spirit. Anyone who serves God will discover, sooner or later, that the greatest hindrance to his work for the Lord is not others, but his own self. God’s means of delivering us from sin is not by making us stronger and stronger; rather, it is by making us weaker and weaker. Our daily testings and trials are for our greatest profit. All the experiences, troubles, and trials that the Lord sends us are for our highest good. Everything that God gives us is His best for us, so that our outward man may be broken and the spirit can come forth.

In his booklet “Towards a Powerful Inner Life,” Graham Cooke explains, “Whatever God is touching in you is what He wants to bring under His rule. He wants to work on a certain part of you, but it doesn’t have to be a painful process. The pain depends on how you approach the task. God’s touch can be a gentle caress if we will lay down our wills and agendas and let Him work.”

We should bear in mind that even though God can bring good from all suffering, He is not the author of all suffering. There is a big difference between what God allows and what God chooses. Many of us have forgotten that God’s original design for our lives was the Garden of Eden, for us to live in paradise and rule the earth with Him. This is His heart for us, what He chose for us. But He knew that real love could not exist without free will, so He allowed us the freedom to choose . . . and Man’s sin opened the door to a world with evil and suffering. Thankfully, God loved us so fiercely that He refused to leave us without hope, and He immediately put His plan of redemption into effect. God has now restored our authority on earth through Jesus, so we shouldn’t sit passively while the enemy pushes us around. We are called to pull down His kingdom with force, and live into the fullness of our identities as His sons and daughters (Matthew 11:12, 2 Corinthians 6:18).

Scripture clearly teaches us that God can redeem anything in our lives if we will let Him (Romans 8:28), but it is important to differentiate a “dark night of the soul” experience that He orchestrates, from suffering we experience because of the sin and evil that exists in this world (which is provoked by the enemy, not God). Though God is sovereign over all, He is always the author of life, so we should not credit Him for the evil and tragic things in this world. Instead, we can submit these things to His touch, and He will create something beautiful from them in our lives (Genesis 50:20).

For example, I have a family member who found Christ while going through a painful divorce. The situation brought him to the end of himself, to a place of brokenness where he recognized his great need for God. Though God did not orchestrate his divorce, God used his “dark night of the soul” experience for his good. There are certainly cases in which people experience trauma or loss in their lives and medication can be instrumental in their process of recovery, but this individual knew he was not supposed to take medication. He needed to hit bottom and feel his pain, because this is what ultimately provoked him to search for peace in Jesus. So like my family member, 

Maybe your dark night is a gestation, a coming into being of a level of existence you have never dreamed of.  Maybe your dark night is one big ironical challenge, just the opposite of what it appears to be - not a dying, but a birthing. - Thomas Moore

Overall, I believe we should be slow to treat our sadness and stress with medication, but even “dark night of the soul” experiences can exist in conjunction with clinical depression, so there are certainly times when it is appropriate to use medication. We should just be careful not to default to medication instead of turning to Christ, or to use medication in attempt to avoid dealing with the root cause of the problem. When someone has a toothache, it can be beneficial to numb the pain until they can get appropriate treatment for the infection or decay. But, if they ignore the source of the pain, the infection will fester and manifest in negative ways. Hence, are we attempting to numb something that really needs to be uprooted or transformed . . . or are we turning to Christ as the ultimate source of our healing, AS we seek professional help through medication, counseling, or inner healing? 

For those who have sought the Lord and still suffered from depression, medication may be part of the solution . . . and there is absolutely no shame in this. He does not want His children to needlessly suffer. But even those that need medication should continue to seek the Lord for revelation and healing, because there may come a time when He reveals other elements that lead to greater victory and wholeness.


We make choices every day, and these choices begin with our thoughts. This is why God tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:22-24) and that we should “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Our thought life is connected to our beliefs and our choices, which is why the enemy tries so hard to convince us of his lies.  God’s voice, on the other hand, will always guide us to a place of joy and peace – so we must regularly ask ourselves, to what voice are we surrendering? This is critical, because the thoughts we have (and choose), will directly impact our ability to walk in the fruits of the Spirit, and the level of freedom we experience (Galatians 5:22-23, Philippians 4:8).

Just like stress, hunger, fatigue, or PMS can cause us to be more irritable (and may be the reasonfor our poor behavior or attitudes), they are not an acceptable excuse for them. As the pastor Perry Noble said of his personal experience with depression, “It really is okay to not be okay, but it’s not okay to stay that way.” Jesus loves us exactly as we are, but He loves us too much to leave us in our brokenness. His desire is for us to be WHOLE, and He is an expert at making all things new (Revelation 21:5).

Scripture teaches us that we have a choice each day between death and life (Deuteronomy 30:19). “If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace” (Romans 8:6 NLT). We can’t let our feelings dominate and drive our decisions; rather, we overcome our struggles when we choose joy in the face of adversity and disappointment. As we seek God’s help and surrender to His lead, there is still a role we have to play in our healing each day, in simply choosing life (in our thoughts, attitudes, words, and behaviors).


Just like stimulants can help anyone focus better (not just those with ADD), antidepressants can help lessen anxiety and sadness in people even when it is not clinically indicated. Though this is not a black and white issue, I believe there are certain situations in which medication is not the answer.

  • Normal grief over a loss – This will vary for each person, but it is healthy to allow yourself to grieve over a loss or disappointment in your life (as long as these symptoms are transient and don’t lead to clinical depression).
  • Teenagers going through normal stages of social/emotional development – It is expected they will wrestle with their identity and have some “difficult” days. Some conflict is healthy, and even necessary, for growth and maturity.
  • “Dark night of the soul” experiences – This pain was designed to lead the individual to the end of self, where they find their strength and contentment in the Lord – so numbing the pain from a dark night experience could hinder one’s spiritual growth.
  • Spiritual laziness or moral failure – Instead of repenting of known sin, some people “get used to it,” numbing the consequences of it with medication. This would only quench the Holy Spirit’s work in our life. If there is a known pattern of sin that remains active in one’s life, or a resistance to do something the Lord has already revealed as important, this will hinder one’s healing, and medication is not the answer. Feeling the effects of our poor choices can lead us to repentance and healing. We must bring things into the light if we want to experience the true freedom and abundance He has for us.
  • Stuck in a cycle of self-pity – When people get caught up in comparisons, and focus more on what they don’t have instead of what they do, they can end up in a trench of self-pity, which only feeds depression. Medication may take the edge off the pain of self-pity, but it will not fix the unhealthy thought patterns that imprison the individual. However, if the individual turns their focus from inward to upward, and chooses to be grateful for the blessings in their life, this weight will begin to lift.

Scripture does not teach that we need to “have it all together” as Christians – even the giants of faith struggled with sin, discouragement, and failure. God often uses the weak things to shame the wise, and the broken things for His glory and our good (1 Corinthians 1:27). But as we discover who God really is, and who we really are in Him, we will begin to experience the abundant life that He fashioned for us. As we progress in our healing, and our hearts and minds are transformed, some may realize they do not need medication anymore. Our job is simply to keep striving for more of God, but in doing so, to just take it one day at a time. 

There is no precise equation for fixing our spiritual life – God’s transformative work in us occurs in phases, and it continues throughout our lives. Our breakthroughs are sure to come as we seek Him and surrender in obedience to His leading, but He will use different means to assist each of us in our journey. He can heal supernaturally, and He can heal through doctors and medicine, but regardless of the approach, our ultimate hope rests in Him throughout the process. Even if medication is necessary along the way, we should never stop the quest for more wholeness. We should ask God to reveal the root of the problem, and then allow others to love and support us through the process of healing and growth. There is always more of Him to behold, and He promises that we will find Him when we seek Him with all our heart (Jeremiah 29:12-13).

In the end, our full healing won’t be complete until we reach our home in heaven; until then, we are all a work in progress.  So, let’s press into Him and embrace every bit of life, liberty, and love He has for us along the way.  

*You can read about the biological and psychological elements of depression in Part 1 of this article HERE

Further Reading:

Article on "Inner Healing" by Christian Healing Ministries

Article on “Understanding the Dark Night of the Soul” by Emily Stimpson Chapman


What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do: Discouragement and Depression” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

Overcoming Depression” by Neil and Joanne Anderson

Choose Joy” by Kay Warren

"Biblical Healing and Deliverance: A Guide to Experiencing Freedom from Sins of the Past, Destructive Beliefs, Emotional and Spiritual Pain, Curses, and Oppresion" by Chester and Betsy Kylstra

Carey McNamara

I am a wife to Bob, a mom to Connor, and a physician assistant who is passionate about beating heart disease. As a devoted lover of Jesus, I am on an unending quest for more truth, love, and wholeness through Him. I have come to a place in my life where I realize God is not afraid of my questions, and I have learned the joy of pursuing Him until I discover His heart. As a result, I created a blog to encourage others in their own journey towards Life, Liberty, and Love in Christ. I am passionate about doing life authentically in community, and am thrilled to share a bit of that with you here.

*Please comment respectfully. I welcome honesty as you share your thoughts and feelings. However, since many of these subjects are controversial, I ask that you take care to honor others in the process. I reserve the right to delete any inappropriate comments.