Mailbag – Will you write about the differences between the secular view and biblical view of ADHD and depression? I would like to know if there are ever times when treating with medications are appropriate. I have multiple friends dealing with these issues. Thank you so much for your ministry. It has been helpful and edifying.
You may want to read:
- The Perfect Self-Help Book that Will Change Your Life
- How to Counsel Non-Christians with God’s Word
- Post-Traumatic Stress Is Not a Disorder
Reader Warning – What I am addressing here is not the problem that ADHD points to but how the secular worldview collides with the biblical worldview. Both perspectives say that there is a problem, but how we diagnose the problem and offer solutions are antithetical. Nobody is saying the problem does not exist but there are dramatic differences in how we think about the issue called ADHD and remedy it.
I have struggled with headaches for years. I have a box of Goody powders in my bedside drawer, in my office drawer, and the side pocket of my car. The maxim is true: I never leave home without them—my Goody powders. They bring almost instantaneous relief to my aching head or as the Goody company says, “There is fast, and there is Goody fast.”
I probably do not use my “trusty powders” more than once or twice a month now. Years ago, I used them nearly every day. Through a process of elimination and lifestyle changes, I have almost figured out the causes of my headaches.
- Sweet candies can give me an immediate headache.
- Going without food for more than a day can also cause a headache.
- Watching TV with my neck bent from resting awkwardly on a pillow can cause a headache.
These are three of the most common causes of my head pain. If I do not do these things, I can go for weeks without dipping into my supply of Goody powders. My point here is I do not take an anti-medication posture. I think that is unwise.
Some biblical counselors rule out medication as a solution for all things. I do not. This perspective is an untenable position since they, like us, use drugs for certain things that ail them. Many secularists rule out a biblical approach to problems. I do not, as this, too, is an untenable position since the Lord God Almighty created us and has final say over how things will be in our lives.
There is a fine line between our spiritual selves and our physical selves, and that line is at a different place for every person. God did not create us equally. This worldview means when there are medical issues that each person must come under the scrutiny of God’s Word and the wise use of God’s common grace through the medical community.
When I get a headache, I am thankful for the common grace given to the people who invented Goody powders. There is fast, and there is Goody fast. I like “Goody fast” because I am a “wus” when it comes to pain.
Weed, Acid, and Prescription Drugs
I have always been a proponent of drugs. In the early seventies, I smoked marijuana and went on quite a few “trips” through the means of acid. Prescription drugs were not in vogue then. We were coming out of the hippie generation where illegal drugs were plenteous, and self-control was virtually non-existent.
The purposes of illegal drugs and prescription drugs are similar: to bring alteration to a person’s mind or body. When we took “trips” through the means of acid, it was for the intended purpose of altering our mental state, usually because we were not content with our normal state. Drugs were our way of momentarily escaping what we did not like about ourselves, about others, or the world.
The use of legal drugs is similar. A person does not like what is going on with them, so they go to a psychiatrist to get a diagnosis and a prescription. They then receive their meds, with the hope it will alter their current condition to something more acceptable. This process is not necessarily bad or wrong, as long as you do these two things:
- Be honest about what you are doing: you do not like what is happening to you, and you want to change it. No problem. I am like you.
- Use biblical wisdom about what you are doing and how you think about what you are doing.
Wisdom and Medication
I will not elaborate on point number one. It is straightforward: you do not like what has been happening to you, so you seek to change it through the means of meds. You possibly look for other methods too, but the point is you want to change.
I do not fault you for looking into medication as an answer. I have done this many times. We live in a remarkable age where we can access this means of “modern common grace.”
The problem happens when we do not use biblical wisdom to factor in what sin does to us. It does not matter what you do, sin will always be present in our lives. Not until the good Lord comes back to remove the curse will we be free from its darkening effects (Ephesians 4:17-18).
- Love is good, but we turn it into illicit sex.
- Eating is good, but we turn it into over-eating and even gluttony.
- Communication is excellent, but we tell lies and say unkind things.
- Money is good, but we become greedy.
- Sleep is good, but we use it to escape life.
- Work is good, but we use work as a means to find our identity and sense of worth.
- Marriage is good, but we refuse to reflect Christ and the church, choosing to indulge what we want selfishly.
It does not matter what the thing is, if the doctrine of sin is not factored in, we will abuse that thing. Do you think the doctrine of sin effects how you think about and use medications?
- What is your doctrine of medications?
- How do you think about, partake in, and teach others regarding medications?
- How does the doctrine of sin influence your doctrine of medication?
Speaking Honestly about ADHD
There is no objective diagnosis for the made-up disorder of ADHD. Every psychiatrist knows this, though this is not the biggest problem with ADHD. The biggest problem is how we came to the place of having such a diagnosis, which is even more alarming when considering how Christians so quickly and without challenge buy-into the ADHD analysis.
The way ADHD came about is a group of people came up with eighteen undesirable behaviors of children, and if a child presented on at least six of these undesirables, the child was given the made-up label of ADHD. Do you find this remarkable? Here is a simple process for creating scientific reality:
- Find one thousand children (arbitrary number).
- Watch them for an agreed amount of time (also arbitrary).
- List their undesirable behaviors. (arbitrary.)
- Group the unwanted collective actions into different subgroups (arbitrary).
- Give each subgroup a label like ADHD (arbitrary).
- Submit it as science and place it in the DSM-5.
- You have a disorder.
In time, the disorder will become part of common parlance, and nobody will question it. This process is what we have with ADHD. It is not science at all. It is the ability to observe human behavior and determine what is desirable and undesirable. Then the common undesirables were grouped into a contrived diagnosis called ADHD.
This process is not arguable. It is what the secular community did. In a sense, it is what I did in the seventies. I was part of a group of teens who did not like their lives. We chose to use medication (illegal drugs) to alter ourselves into something more preferred.
Today, drugs are not illegal. It is big business. Billions of dollars are transacted each year in the pharmaceutical industry, and parents are happy if, through the experimentation of these drugs, there is an alteration of their children’s behaviors to something they prefer.
I would not necessarily have a problem with this if the Bible was part of the process regarding diagnosis and solution. But rarely does anyone involve a biblical worldview in this process.
Through a Bible Lens
Here are at least six things that the secular community will not factor into the process. There are other aspects of the biblical worldview that needs consideration, but for brevity, I am only giving you these six.
Thorn – There are times when the Lord places a divine thorn in our flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7). He does this because of our propensity to be proud. These are unchangeable conditions given to us from the Lord.
Sometimes there is no way to know if your thorn was given to you by the Lord or if it is His will to remove it. The main point for us to consider is how much effort do we put into finding contentment through unchangeable conditions (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)?
Grace – We cannot gloss over the potential reality of a thorn, by jumping too quickly for a medicated solution. No matter what we are going through, there is grace to go through our struggles.
I am not suggesting you do nothing. I am appealing for you to heartily pursue God, in addition to seeking an end to your suffering. To not pursue God as a means to find hope through our trouble is an insult to the Almighty (2 Corinthians 1:8-9, 4:7; Philippians 4:11-13).
Imperfection – There is no doubt we are uncomfortable with our flaws. Since Adam, no human other than Jesus has been comfortable in his skin. We are a sad and broken bunch. Any wrinkle in our humanity, no matter how small it may be, disrupts our shalom.
Weakness, a lack of competitive edge, and imperfection are labeled anathema to the human psyche. Our Adamic worldview motivates us to strive for godlikeness, which is measured by perfection.
Self-reliance – Tied to this worldview of perfectionism is self-reliance. We want to conquer, and we will seek nearly any means to come out on top. This temptation is the competitive edge mindset we all possess.
The opposite of self-reliance is to be weak and inferior—a condition our egos will not allow. If our children or we do not have the advantages of others, we are considered to have a disorder.
Parental Shame – In connection with these temptations is the parent’s ego regarding their children. We do not want underachieving children. Any child who cannot be the image we constructed in our minds must have a disorder.
The child needs medication so he can be on the same rung of the ladder as the other kids. I mean, after all, our children are a reflection of us and if they do not succeed, according to a presumed cultural standard, he needs medical assistance.
Education Gods – This self-reliance temptation is particularly acute among the “educational gods” who have duped the Christian public into believing the most important thing for their child is the college they attend, as though higher education is the portal to greatness.
If you define true greatness by something other than Christlike character, you will succumb to the temptation of medicating your children so they will become the top level of social acceptance.
Fair and Balanced
I have used illegal drugs and legal drugs. I am not against the legal and proper use of drugs. What I am against is “group think” that does not embrace a biblical worldview. I have given you biblical points to consider when thinking about the use of medication.
I have also criticized the abuse and misuse of medication as it pertains to the unbiblical analysis and unscientific approach to a child’s behavior. Our culture does not know how to view human behavior through a biblical lens. They reject God, so how could they?
It is not “within their wheelhouse” to think about the human condition from the Bible’s view. Thinking about people is a grade level above them because of their overt rejection of God. The sad news is when the Christian community throws the Bible out with the analysis. This reaction should alarm any Christian.
As for your question about depression, here are a few things to consider. First of all, nobody, Christian or non-Christian, can fully understand depression. There is a “mysterious triangulated mix” of the body (organic), the soul (non-organic), and sin involved with depression.
Secondly, you must be honest with the diagnosis. You cannot make up stuff like the ADHD label. Do not call it science when it is not science, and if you are a Christian, the call for honesty is even more critical. If you do not know, say you do not know. We should not claim to know the origins and causes of depression like the scientists do.
Thirdly, be sure to interact with biblical categories like the six I listed for you. Have an honest conversation about the whole matter. Our culture can only give you their perspective, which will not include God’s thoughts. We are the ones with the advantage.
Medication may be the right answer for you. Maybe not. Regardless, the grace of God is always the correct answer. Your goal is to make sure you are not short-changing what God has for you by medicating your problems.
10 Tips Before You Jump on the Med-Wagon
Examine your lifestyle. How do you rate regarding these ten things?
- Are you eating healthy? Describe your eating habits and the things you eat.
- Are you exercising at least three times a week at 20 minutes per session?
- Do you smoke? If so, what is your plan to stop smoking?
- Do you drink alcohol? If so, is it moderate?
- What is your weight? Are you maintaining a proper weight?
- Also, you should have good sleeping habits: sleeping long enough and going to bed and getting up at the best times.
- You should also have a thriving relationship with the Lord. He should be your animating center. Medicating a person who does not have a vibrant relationship with the Lord is how our world operates.
- Ascertain honest third-party counsel from your pastor or trusted spiritual leader. I would not recommend jumping wholeheartedly in the secularist bed when the diagnosis is not objective, and you have not seriously addressed these ten things.
- Could it be the Lord wants to show His power through your weakness? There may be more the Lord desires to write into your story. You do not want to miss what He may be up to in your life. What is He up to in your life? Talk to someone about this.
- How much time do you spend binging on TV, social media, or tech devices? Do you need to change any bad tech habits you may have? Consider the times in which you’re on technology, particularly late in the evening when your body is trying to shut down.
- Bonus—Read and pray through these passages 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, 4:7-18, 12:7-10; Philippians 4:11-13