Jesus Isn’t Going to Take My Zoloft

I have been taking Zoloft (anti-depressant) for four years. I began taking it during my freshman year in college because I had been suffering from severe panic attacks for about five years and they were beginning to severely interfere with my ability to function in school. Before I became a Christian at the age of twelve, I suffered from severe anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. When I came to Jesus, I was told that I would be healed and finally find joy and lasting peace.

For the first few months it worked. I didn’t have any panic attacks, my suicidal thoughts went away, and my depression vanished. It was a miracle! But slowly, as the new-Christian buzz wore off, my struggles began to reemerge. I would suffer regular panic attacks almost every day and would experience severe bouts of depression. When this began to happen, I was sure that I was doing something wrong. Jesus was, after all, the Prince of Peace. I was told that if I would just cast my anxieties at the “foot of the cross” then I would be released from the burdens that weighed so heavily on me. I so desperately wanted the formula that I had been taught to work- read my Bible, pray everyday, and go to church and all will be well. But the problem was nothing I was doing was working. In fact, it was causing me more anxiety and depression. I hung crosses around my room, only listened to Christian music, and would never lay down in bed to sleep unless I had spent time reading my Bible. When nothing worked, I began to suppress and hide my struggle. I was, after all, one of the leaders in my Youth Group. I wanted to be a Pastor. I had to have it all together.

This struggle has plagued me for years. The fact that my depression and anxiety didn’t go away when Jesus “came into my heart” and the reality that I had to be medicated to live a normal life made me feel like a second-class Christian. I have been told multiple times that God doesn’t want me on depression medications. I have been told that the root issue of this all is my sinfulness and the Jesus would heal me when I dealt with my depravity. But as I have grown in my faith and studied more about psychology and theology, I have finally come to a realization that has been liberating for me:

Jesus isn’t going to take away my Zoloft and none of us will ever find lasting satisfaction in life.

Now I know that this may sound pretty cynical and well…depressing. But in the words of philosopher Peter Rollins, “I am not making you depressed, I am just telling you that you already are depressed and just don’t know it.” Just think. What if Jesus didn’t come to make us happy? What if his message and mission has less to do with improving our “quality of life” and more to do with equipping us with ways to cope and live within our various neuroses?

What if “becoming a Christian” doesn’t actually psychologically change us in any real way and that “Sanctification” is really about living and loving in the midst of our brokenness? What if the cross isn’t there to offer us satisfaction but rather to show us love amplified in suffering?

For far too long, Evangelicals have preached a Gospel that says if you come to Jesus that you will find shalom, satisfaction, health, wholeness, rightness, certainty, a foundation, clarity, abundance, and direction. This message doesn’t belong to the “Prosperity” churches, but also to the neo-reformed, the mainstream, and the progressive Evangelical communities. We have promoted a Gospel that says peace and wholeness can be yours today, when in fact, they cant. We have said that “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in him” when the reality is “God is most glorified in our reliance on him in the midst of our brokenness, dysfunction, and lack of satisfaction.” There isn’t a single human being on earth who has “perfect peace” or “total wholeness”. And maybe that’s a good thing.

Everyone is searching for meaning and satisfaction and no one has ever found it. Not even in Jesus. Because that’s not the point. Throughout the Bible the narrative of Exile is found in almost every story. The reality that we have not arrived at home and that we are, in fact, wandering aimlessly in the wilderness. We all are hoping for the Promised Land. We even get to taste glimpses of it- in our manna from heaven, water from the rock, and seeing it from a distance like Moses. In our wandering, we see glimpses of God to remind us that we are not alone and that there is more than this. The pillar of fire by night and the cloud of smoke by day. God is guiding us. But the reality still exists- we are not satisfied. We aren’t in the Promised Land. We are still dry, thirsty, and lost. I’m still depressed. You still have you’re struggles. None of us are “Whole”. None of us are “satisfied”. But very few of us are humble enough (or free enough) to admit it.

The truth is, I will probably always need my Zoloft.

No, I am not “limiting God’s ability to heal me”, but rather am admitting that maybe “healing” would be the worst thing God could do. As Christians, we have over-realized our eschatology. We believe that the full benefits of salvation are meant to be experienced today. But that’s not true.

The Christian life and indeed, the human life, is one of sojourning and traveling through brokenness and pain. It’s one of struggling and failed expectations that are occasionally interrupted by a glimpse of “the Kingdom”. We all live for those moments of joy, peace, and fulfillment. Whether that is the embrace of our lover, the satisfaction of a job well done, our the moment of peace we experience in worship. But the embrace ends. Another job comes along. And the worship experience will pass. And the fallenness of this world will become our reality once again. It’s in this fallenness that God is most present. It’s in this suffering that our longing and motivation to work for the Kingdom of God is fueled. It’s in this brokenness that faith becomes essential- we must hope for a better day. And it’s that hope that quenches our soul in the desert of life. The hope that we will one day be united with God and neighbor. The hope for no more fears, tears, or suffering. The hope of lasting satisfaction. But until then, I’m going to take my Zoloft. You’re not going to be satisfied. Life is going to be hard. We all will continue wandering. But take heart- Jesus wanders with us. And maybe its time that we start to admit that. Live into that. And embrace that. Because that’s Good News.

 

 

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  • http://adelasteria.blogspot.com/ K. Elizabeth Danahy

    Thank you. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for years, but I was taught (and believed) that I was just clinging to my sins, that knowing Jesus would cure most people in mental institutions. Psychiatric medication was for people who weren’t trusting Jesus enough.
    Then, last fall, I plunged into a 5 month long depressive episode that had me suicidal and unable to feel anything. It took a counselor, a psychiatrist, and Cymbalta to help me climb back on my feet – as well as finally opening up about my struggles to other people (who were surprisingly encouraging).
    Though I hope to get off the medication in a year or so, if I don’t? Oh well. Needing help doesn’t make me less of a Christian … in fact, I’m pretty sure Jesus said the opposite.

    • Miriam Gaenicke

      omg! That’s some twisted theology. God wants us to make rational and healthy decisions, which his WHY he gave us a BRAIN TO USE!!! Thank you for sharing. Now, pls GO FIND A CHURCH WHO DOES NOT PREACH THIS CRAP! :) Hugs to you.

      • http://adelasteria.blogspot.com/ K. Elizabeth Danahy

        And back to you. :D Hugs, that is.

      • Theodore A. Jones

        Impossible to find one that doesn’t.

    • Pixie5

      As a therapist once told me, there is no shame in using crutches if you have a broken leg. And as far as staying on meds? There is still no shame if you have lost your leg entirely.
      Rather covering up your problems with “happy pills” (which they are not) medication helps you to get to the point of being able to have a clear enough mind to work on your problems. That has been my experience and the experience of people I know. Only people who are completely ignorant as to how these medications work would consider these pills “happy pills” like street drugs. Anti-depressants have literally NO street value.
      Unfortunately much of the Christian community is literally damning people to hell on earth by treating the mentally ill like they are drug addicts. They are also contributing to suicides as well. And a good deal of those that come to their “soup kitchens” are the homeless mentally ill. But telling them to just trust God they are ensuring that they will never get off the streets at all.
      For anyone who is interested in support for the mentally ill, including programs to help the homeless get off the streets go to:
      http://www.mha.net (Mental Health America)

      • MarcusRegulus

        I know of a person whose “psychiatrist” actually told her she need to “wean off” medication for bipolar schizophrenia! (I wonder if that “MD” would also have told a diabetic to get off insulin?) When relating this story to my daughter, who was in our the State University studying psychology, she asked for the name of this idiot. I was shocked to learn that person was teaching a course in Abnormal Psychology. It isn’t just ignorant people, some professionals are also messed up.

        • Pixie5

          Which is why people need to learn, learn, learn about their illness! It is important to take your care into your own hands as much as possible. The doc should be a partner, not a dictator.

          Sometimes it may be appropriate to reduce medication but it sounds like your friend has a serious enough illness that he/she should not be off medication entirely.

          Actually I know of someone who commited suicide because his doc took him off his meds. He hung himself in the stairwell of the office building where the doctor had his office. Obviously it was a very pointed message to the doc, but I wish he had gone to the hospital instead.

  • Margie Coger

    Amen! I’m right there with you.

  • JohnH2

    I would think that Evangelicals would consider Paul to be pretty decent Christian, and he was given infirmities that he asked God to remove, but was not removed. So having infirmities is not a measure of who is or isn’t a good Christian.

    As Paul says Christ’s grace is sufficient for us when we are humbled by our infirmities, and when we are weak and suffering, that can also be the times when rather than being furtherest from God we are actually the strongest and the power of Christ rests upon us, not to take away our problems but lead us towards perfection in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:6-10).

    As Job was taught sometimes it is when we have nothing and are at our lowest that we see the face of God and experience moments of transcendent relief.

  • MarcusRegulus

    Yup. As a chronic depressee (is that the right word), my “high” is what most people call “normal”. I gave a name to my pain and called it “Nietzsche” (Inside joke here.)

    Many years back, our family went to a concert by Degarmo and Key. Part of their act was one of them telling how he found Christ. and immediately went to find his friend. He told the other one that if he became a Christian, everything would be all right, and there would never be any problems again. He then acknowledged he had only been a Christian for a half-hour at that point.

    Job is in the Bible for a reason. Ditto Ecclesiastes.

    • Pixie5

      Psalms as well.

  • Theodore A. Jones

    The cross is an offense of the law. It is not a direct benefit. But by a change of the law the murder of Jesus Christ became an accountable sin and that is the grace of God.

  • http://jwayneferguson.wordpress.com/ Wayne Ferguson

    Perhaps we should be reluctant to make any overly generalized claims in this regard. Perhaps some people do experience a degree of peace and satisfaction– even in the midst of difficulties –that may seem impossible to others. Perhaps there is a measure of sanctification that simply is not (or is very rarely) experienced by young people.

    Perhaps Zoloft is the right choice for you at this juncture in your life. But with regard to “depression”, I would caution people about buying too quickly into the therapeutic culture promulgated by the pharmaceutical industry. Here is a different approach from someone who has a lot of first-hand exposure to a whole range of psychiatric phenomena and the many, many ways that people react and respond to them–again, one size doesn’t fit everyone. But perhaps the term “depression” itself is worth calling into question:

    “Call depression what it really is: Despair, loneliness, helplessness, melancholy, pain, anguish, discouragement, misery, sorrow, wretchedness, shame… The term depression obfuscates and distances…it’s meaningless” ~ Monica Cassani

    Peace!

    http://beyondmeds.com/2014/08/12/depression-what-it-really-is/

  • R Vogel

    Luckily, Jesus doesn’t want to, just some of his less informed followers. Blessings and thanks for sharing your story.

  • http://www.prophecysociety.org/ Dan Bruce

    Healing is a lifelong journey that begins with salvation and is completed when we arrive in eternity to be One with God. Our infirmities daily remind us that we are on that journey.

  • Guest

    Pathetic. Glaring cynicism. All the quotes make it obvious. Time to let Jesus deal with that bitterness. I don’t believe depression makes you a second-class Christian, but I will say I have been healed and delivered from more things physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually in the last twenty years since I began my journey with Jesus. You’ve believed in a powerless Jesus! My Jesus came to release the captives, heal the sick and blind, and set free the oppressed. You have believed the wrong Gospel, friend.

    • Levedi

      If you’re healed, why did you start your post with an un-Christlike insult? I’ve experienced miracles of healing too. I fully believe that Jesus can and will heal any illness he chooses. I’ve also observed that Jesus has chosen not to heal the chemical imbalance that sends me on a depressive spiral if I don’t take my medication. AND I’ve observed that Jesus is present in my suffering and has used that suffering to increase the fruits of the Spirit in my life and to make me more loving toward others in need. When I say “his grace is sufficient for me” I don’t mean “he took away all my problems” but “he sustains me through life’s storms.” That’s not lack of faith or a false gospel.

      Since this is such serious topic, let me tell a joke. There was a massive flood, let’s say Katrina. A man was trapped on his roof, surrounded by rising flood waters. So he prayed, “Save me God! I believe you will save me.” A boat full of his neighbors came by and offered him a seat. “No,” he said. “I have faith God will save me.” A Navy helicopter came by. “No,” he said. “I have faith God will save me.” A raft came by full of volunteer rescuers. “No,” he said. “I have faith God will save me.” Pretty soon he drowned. When he got to heaven, he said “Lord I had total faith in you and you let me drown! Why?” God said, “Let you drown?! I sent you a boat, a helicopter, and a raft. Ten people did my will and risked their own lives to save you and you blame me for your drowning? You trusted your faith, not my providence. Your lack of humility caused you to drown.”

      Sometimes God works by miracles. Sometimes God works by more mundane means. It’s not faith, but arrogance to reject the means by which God sends us relief. It’s not very glorious feeling to take a simple pill every day, is it? But if that’s the means by which God works in my life on this particular issue, who am I to reject His will?

      • Pixie5

        Very good! I have heard that “joke” before (actually it is more on the level of a parable) and it is good to be reminded of it. Beyond that I have noticed that some of these people who claim to be “healed” really are not. They are in denial. I can’t speak about “Guest” but I have interacted with people online who claim it is a matter of faith and yet when I read a number of their posts it is obvious that they are mentally ill. One man started talking about how cell phone towers are being used for mind control! That sounds amusing but having worked in mental health I find it very sad.

        Many years ago before I knew anything about mental illness I casually knew someone who I am certain had bipolar disorder. He was part of a Christian young adult group. When he was manic he was on fire for the Lord and could not stop rapidly talking about his “insights” He also claimed to be healed as well. When he was down he was suicidal. The last I heard of him he told my sister that God had told him not to talk to anyone.

        He is most likely a casualty of the well-meaning but badly misguided notion that taking medication or even being depressed is a ‘sin”. I seem to remember a lot of Psalms in the Bible where David poured out his depressive thoughts to God and they were not pretty. He lamented the day he was born, which is close to suicidal ideation. Did God condemn him? Not that I know of!

        I think that the notion that God will make you happy is just one of the recent fads of the 20th and 21st centuries. And of course it is a selling point for the born-again crowd. How many new converts have become disillusioned and left because of this wacky notion?

    • Pixie5

      When is the last time you heard of someone who is blind regaining their sight without surgery? How about NEVER.

      I somehow doubt that you never see a doctor. But if you don’t then it is still likely that you eventually will see one when you have a heart attack and the paramedics take you to the hospital. Are you going to refuse treatment? I doubt it!

      The only people who think that everything can be healed by prayer are the Christian Scientists. At least they are the ones that make the headlines. I doubt you are one. Other Christians often give lip service to this flawed ideology usually do not forgo medical help when it is absolutely necessary.

      You say that you do not think Christians who take meds are second-class, but at the same time you say this:

      “Pathetic. Glaring cynicism… Time to let Jesus deal with that bitterness…You have believed the wrong Gospel, friend.”

      You are the one that sounds bitter, my friend. And yes it appears that you do not consider him a second-class Christian. Actually you do not consider him a Christian at all, per that last quote.

    • notmike64

      you need to be healed from hubris and minding your own p and qs

  • http://brandanrobertson.com/ Brandan Robertson

    Guest-
    If you’re representing “Jesus” then calling me pathetic makes me thing you’re following the wrong Jesus. Whoever calls a brother “fool” is in danger of hell.

    I believe Jesus heals. I actually believe Jesus want’s us to have our best and abundant life now. But I also don’t deny the reality that 99% of all Christians who struggle with depression will ALWAYS struggle with depression. They need to find solace, hope. and abundance in the midst of infirmity.

    Did Paul ever have his thorn taken away? No. Yet Paul said he was content. That’s what I am saying. Learning to live in abundance while suffering is the key. That’s the way of Jesus.

  • DeAnna

    Dear Brandan, That is one of the most beautiful posts I’ve ever read. Thank you for sharing your heart. You would like the stuff at http://truefaced.com/. I have learned a great deal about being exactly where I am, meds and all. Does God choose to heal some completely? Absolutely. But there is something in the suffering. My husband deals with Type 1 Diabetes on a daily basis and I think people feel similarly to his physical healing. I commend you in your awareness of walking this journey with Jesus. Blessings friend!

  • Matean Oghbergutean

    What you’re writing about sounds like actual honest-to-goodness Christianity, which is refreshing, in contrast to those preaching the gospel of happiness, who sound very alien to me. Though I would add that following Christ through my own brokenness is only a starting place — there is a world of broken people around me. By turning my attention to them and considering my own state less significant, it ceases to be so important whether I am fulfilled feeling or empty feeling, this only matters insofar as it inhibits me from serving them.

    As far as the attitude of people who expect a miracle following some conversion experience and see it as a character defect if one fails to experience it . . . perhaps it is also worth recalling that Jesus, though he lived on earth 33 years, healed only a handful of the sick and distraught. Was this because his compassion was limited? Was this because his power was limited? Hardly. Rather, the miraculous healings are meant to be the exception, a sign of a future coming kingdom, not a normal way of life to be expected. Rather a life sharing in the sickness and brokenness of the world around us, like Jesus did, and redeeming it not by changing the circumstances but by investing it with meaning, as an act done for God’s glory, this seems more like what a normal human life is meant to involve.

  • Brandon Roberts

    i agree with you. the bible says nothing against receiving medical help. and i think god is perfectly fine with it.

  • Agni Ashwin

    “For the first few months it worked. I didn’t have any panic attacks, my suicidal thoughts went away, and my depression vanished. It was a miracle!”

    What do you think was happening in the first few months, that stopped happening afterwards?

    • Gwen Filipski

      I’ve experienced the same thing, too. I think that it’s the psychological high that comes from experiencing newness. It happens to me whenever I start a new job, move somewhere new, or even get a haircut. But I know that that newness will wear off. It might be something as simple as distraction.

  • Edmund T. Dean

    Superb article. Absolutely superb. Thank you!

  • Charles Miller

    Good thoughts here and I can relate to this malady. If one thinks that God is some provider of goodies (as some supposed “God Interpreters” say), then we have a rather childish view toward ourselves and the cosmos. There is ever abundant data that shows that good people can suffer horribly. It rankles me that “God Interpreters” play the judgement game that only serves to boost that preacher’s ego. There are no promises in life. We must work hard to find truth. As a friend of mine (who has had more than his share of tragedy) has said, “look how hard we worked in college… to expect more profound answers without doing the commensurate work seems unreasonable”.

  • http://sukofamily.org/ Caleb

    Brandon, you have some powerful words here. Thanks for sharing and thanks for being open about your condition.

    The problem in much of N. America is that we have run far to quickly to treat all our problems with narcotics. I admit there are real problems in the mind that can helped with the aid of drugs. However, for the most part our culture looks to pharmaceuticals as the only or best treatment for the slightest problem with depression, anxiety or hyper activity. Do you agree?

    So here’s my question; Where is the line? How do we differentiate between what is just a pattern of wrong thinking and lack of trust in Jesus and what is a physical problem that require treatment with a pill?

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on this as you obviously have personal experience and I bet you have an opinion or at least can help point others in the right direction.


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