Megachurch pastor Perry Noble recently posted “Should Christians Take Medication for Mental Illness?” on his blog, admitting that he initially believed—emphatically—that Christians should not. However, he bravely details his own experiences with anxiety and depression and explains that he has since changed his mind. He hopes his new book, Overwhelmed, to be released next week from Tyndale House, will help change the discussion among evangelicals concerning depression.
Many have responded to Noble’s admission with cheers and gratitude, saying they have waited a long time for a pastor who understands. Others have chastised Noble, insisting that his struggle with depression is a spiritual issue and should not be treated with medication.
According to the World Health Organization, over 350 million people in the world suffer from depression. Almost 10% of adults in the US battle with some kind of mood disorder (such as depression), and many of them live in the Southeastern United States (where Noble happens to pastor). The greatest percentage of the US population that is religiously affiliated is located in the South. This leads me to ask, with so many people of faith believing depression is merely a “spiritual” issue, why is the US region that is seemingly the most “churched” also apparently the most “depressed”?
Noble is not the first to speak out in terms of understanding that holistic ministry includes caring for the soul, the heart, the body, and the mind. It is clear that depression involves spiritual issues, but it is not limited to an exclusively spiritual solution. Taking an anti-depressant does not remove the authority of Christ from anyone’s life. Many people of faith—read this testimony from ESA Deputy Director Sarah Withrow King, and check out the website of To Write Love on Her Arms—have come forward to discuss their experience with a season of depression, or even a life-time battle with it. Bringing these conversations into the light allows an opportunity for shalom to come into our homes, our churches, and our world.