If depressed missionaries refuse to use meds and instead depend upon the resources of God’s Word, will they lose their calling? 

“It is possible to evade a multitude of sorrows by cultivation of an insignificant life. Indeed, if a man’s ambition is to avoid the troubles of life, the recipe is simple; shed your ambitions in every direction, cut the wings of every soaring purpose, and seek a life with the fewest contacts and relations. If you want to get through the world with the smallest trouble, you must reduce yourself to the smallest compass. Tiny souls can dodge through life; bigger souls are blocked on every side. As soon as a man begins to enlarge his life, his resistances are multiplied. Let a man remove his petty selfish purposes and enthrone Christ and his sufferings will be increased on every side.”   John Henry Jowlett

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.  John 15:5-7

There is nothing more dangerous than leaving all to follow Christ to the ends of the earth. There is nothing more glorious than leaving all to follow Christ to the ends of the earth. I have had the privilege of living with missionaries around the world. I have seen them without the normal conveniences we take for granted and under constant pressure. I have also seen them living and serving in the midst of that pressure with an uncommon pleasure. The presence of Christ and their faith in His promises were the only explanation I could think of for such an uncommon display of delight in the midst of such danger. Their faith and joy in the midst of such pressure radiate the glory of God in their lives! 

Of course, there are those who have times when they are almost ready to give up. Some of these precious missionaries become overwhelmed by their struggles. The fierceness of the battle, unfulfilled expectations, and feelings of loneliness give rise to thoughts of hopelessness and feelings of depression. Because these soldiers are often on the frontlines of spiritual battle, their marriage and their families pay a high price for the privilege of service to Christ and his world.

In our previous three papers, we discussed the issue of depression as it relates to believers and especially our missionaries. If you recall, we referred to a local school of missions where a psychologist admonished his missionary listeners to “use their meds or lose their calling.” It was his belief that depression was such an overwhelming danger to the health of the missionaries, that their only hope of getting through their episode was to take medications for their depression. He went on to claim that 20% of our deployed missionaries are on medications for emotional issues.

I found that statistic incredible! Are servants of the God of all creation to believe that medications are the only answer to emotional struggles? We claim to believe in the power of God. We claim to have the power of the Holy Spirit ruling in our lives. We quote from memory Jesus’ promise “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” [Matt. 28:20] Peter tells us to “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” [1 Peter 5:7]. Paul adds, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:6-7 Do these words mean anything at all?

I tried to show how dependence upon medications is unsafe, unproven and unnecessary. They may help us to “feel” better for a time, but they will not solve the problems which are not primarily physical. In this study, I will attempt to show from scripture why the quick and easy solution of meds is not a minor matter. It has to do with our fruitfulness and joy, our witness to the world and the glory of God and His Son.

In John 15, Jesus reveals the absolute necessity of our remaining in him. He is the vine and we are the branches. In verse 5, he says that if we remain in him and he remains in us we will bear much fruit. In order for us to be fruitful we must remain attached to Jesus and his purposes. In verse 7, Jesus says that if we remain in him and his words remain in us we may ask anything and it will be given to us. It appears from that verse that the way Jesus remains in us is by his words abiding in us. I take that to mean that we are to strive to know what Jesus has commanded us to do and so that we can make a conscious effort to apply those words to our lives at all times and in every situation. He goes on to say that when we remain in him and his words remain in us, our prayers will be answered. So, when his words rule in our lives we will ask what Jesus would ask and the Father always answers the requests of the Son. When we deliberately ask the kind of things Jesus desires, informed by his word, our prayers will be answered, we will be fruitful, the Father will be glorified and everyone will see that we are disciples of Jesus.

Here is why I believe the dependence upon meds for the relieving of our depressed feelings prevents us from being fruitful, keeps us from honoring God, and robs us of our joy.

First, our walk with God is personal. When we step out in faith we will encounter problems far greater than we imagined. Our feelings will be affected as will every area of our lives. But Christ lives within us and is the Lord and Savior over our whole being. He desires to show us his love and power in the midst of our struggles. Medications treat us as if we are machines rather than persons. A part of us is broken down, our brain, so we intake a medication which makes us feel better. The machine is then enabled to function. That is not what we are. We are the people of God, not machines. We are not made to merely function but to know and glorify God in every situation. We are made to find our joy in pointing to him. The Spirit of Christ dwells within us to love us and lead us into new discoveries of God’s grace. He wants us to grow in our knowledge of His love and mercy, personally. We are his friends and he wants to share with us his secrets. [15]

Second, our walk with God is moral. That is where his word comes in. Although we are new creatures in Christ, we still fight a sinful and selfish nature that is opposed to God and his purposes. God’s words and commands give us light. “The commandments of the Lord are radiant giving light to the eyes.” When we believed in Christ, we were saved from the guilt of sin. Now, through Christ working in us, we are being set free from the power of sin. In times of pressure, the power of sin is revealed as we seek the easy way out of our dilemma rather than to trust in the sovereign and gracious hand of the Lord working through our pain. Obedience to God’s commands and trusting in his promises keep us walking with Christ and in his holiness. “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” John 14:20-21

Third, our walk with God is spiritual. We really do walk by faith. We keep our eyes on what is not seen. We trust in God so that even though we are not feeling good, even though we cannot see His ultimate plans for us in this situation, we know that He is in charge and that he will work all things for our good. However, we do not sit passively in our pain. No, we cry out in prayer, we struggle for wisdom, we plead for deliverance with confidence, knowing that our lives and our welfare are in God’s loving hands.

We believe in a supernatural God who works his will in our history. In God’s own time and in His own surprising ways, He will bring us through this present struggle. Against our feelings we trust in God’s written promises. Our prayers will be answered. Our faith will become sight. Our Father will be glorified. The world will know that we follow Jesus. Our lives will be fruitful and joyful and all praise will go where it belongs. Soli Deo Gloria!
We change, he changes not;

“Our Christ can never die.
His love, not ours, the resting place,
His truth, not mine, the tie.”