Serving the “undesirables.” This is the topic of a message I am preaching this week in preparation for the following week when Dr. Christopher Yuan will be in our church speaking on topics related to sexuality and the Bible. As I was preparing for this message, it occurred to me that in some ways I could also be considered an “undesirable” because I have been public about my fight with depression at certain points in my life.

The first time I ever mentioned from the pulpit that I have had bouts of depression, I had grown men come to me crying and saying thanks that I had the courage to admit it. When I said that I took medication for it, a guy in his forties told me it was the first time in his life he ever heard a pastor say that taking medication for that was not a sign of a spiritual problem. He felt that a huge burden was lifted off his shoulders and he could now let his “secret” out.

I have lived long enough to know that very little in the observable world is known for certain. This is especially true in the field of scientific studies. As Richard Feynman, a scientist himself, says, “A scientist is never certain.”

This may not be very comforting for those of us who are used to live in a world of dogmatic theology where black and white may be the only admissible colors. I am not a scientist but I would venture to say that mental illnesses have often to do with brain composition and brain function (wild guess). Add to that social experiences and family dynamics and you have a recipe for disaster.

Surely, when Jesus Christ comes into our lives, we become a new person (2 Corinthians 5:17), but that new person still carries that old brain with all of its tendencies and imperfections. If, at the moment of salvation, we instantly became all that we will ever become, then there would be no need for a “glorified body” which we will receive after the resurrection. A glorified body will include a fully reassembled and re-wired brain, free from the chemical combinations that can lead it to self-destructive behaviors. I look forward to getting a new brain and my math teacher in High School will be happy too!

All this to say that I believe there is some kind of “divine interplay” between the spiritual and the material, Bible and medicine, preaching and therapy, if you will. Where one starts and where one ends, I cannot tell you, but I know in my own life God has used both spheres to bring me a comfortable level of healing until I get out of that waiting list for a new brain…

Obviously, therapy and medicine without the foundation of Biblical truth will never work. By the same token, people with mental disorders who are given Bible verses to think on and told to come back after a week of prayer may be a danger to themselves and others. If God can use the marvels of modern medicine to relieve someone from the ills of cancer, how could He not do the same with those who are afflicted with mental illnesses?

And please hear me: I am not at all making little of God’s power to heal without medicine. I have two friends who knelt down before God asking Him to release them from their addiction to cocaine and in both cases God took the desire away completely after 10+ years of use. But that is a miracle. More often than not, people with this sort of addiction must slay a giant a day just to stay sober. I know because I have buried people who could not overcome their habit and just last night I had to go out and rescue a friend from church who was disoriented after using (he’s now in a hospital, trying to keep himself from himself).

In my own case, depression medicine has helped bring some balance to the chemicals in my brain.  Though I am not “cured” — I am convinced that mental illness runs in my family — I am able to function at a higher capacity than I could before. It is amazing what 10 milligrams of therapeutic medicine can do to your brain! I am not ashamed to say I am thankful to God that I live in a country that affords me access to some of the best medicine money can buy.

As you hear me speak this Sunday, please remember the words inscribed on a famous bench in Lititz: “Please be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a battle.”

“Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” (Romans 2:4).

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

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