I felt like I was drowning. No matter how hard I struggled to keep my head above water, waves of despair kept crashing down, pushing me into darkness.
When my husband gently suggested I might be struggling with postpartum depression, I was taken aback. But then came the recognition that he was right. Along with it, I had an odd sense of relief. Relief that what I was experiencing wasn’t inherent to motherhood. It didn’t have to be this way. There was hope.
We reached out to family, friends, and church family for prayer, encouragement, and practical support. And I reached out to my doctor. My path to healing from postpartum depression was multifaceted, and one of those facets was medication.
My path to healing from postpartum depression was multifaceted, and one of those facets was medication.
While there is growing support within the evangelical church for anti-depressants and other psychoactive medications, many Christians have been discouraged from using them. Some believers have concerns these medications are an “easy out” that may prevent us from fully learning from and submitting to the suffering that God has ordained for us. Some consider depression and anxiety primarily spiritual conditions that make medication unnecessary. Others deem medication acceptable only in the most severe cases of mental illness.
Thoughtful people who love the Lord and seek to live by his Word hold a variety of opinions on this issue. It’s an area that requires wisdom.
So where does that leave a woman struggling with postpartum depression? While there’s no definitive position in Scripture for or against the use of medication to treat depression, I think several biblical principles indicate we have freedom to use it.
1. Every good gift is from God.
By common grace, God has given innumerable gifts to mankind, including modern medicine. He has ordained all sorts of treatments and medications to give healing and ease suffering.
When someone is diagnosed with diabetes, we thank the Lord for his provision of insulin to regulate their body. When someone is diagnosed with cancer, we thank the Lord for his provision of chemotherapy to fight the disease.
So why is it that when believers are diagnosed with depression and take medication, they often feel as much shame as gratitude? Medication can regulate blood pressure, and medication can regulate the neurotransmitters in our brains that affect emotions.
Of course, just because a medication exists doesn’t mean we should take it. Not every case of diabetes or high blood pressure requires medication, nor does every case of depression. Under the care of a licensed medical professional, you can ask questions to determine if medication is right for you. But just because some people may not need medication to treat depression, doesn’t mean no one should use it.
Just because some people may not need medication to treat depression, doesn’t mean no one should use it.
And we need not feel shame if we do. Anti-depressants and other psychoactive medications are a good gift the Lord has given, and we can use them with gratitude and freedom.
2. God’s redemptive plan includes both the spiritual and the physical.
In some mysterious way, our bodies and souls intertwine. Anxiety and depression affect us spiritually and physically. And God cares about both.
When we look at God’s redemptive plan in Scripture, we see the spiritual and the physical woven together. God created man with a spirit and a body. Both our bodies and our souls bear the effects of sin now, and, in the final consummation, God will not only give us perfected spirits, but glorified bodies.
Jesus came and took on a human body, and he cared for the physical and spiritual needs of others. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, and bodily raised the dead. He died a physical death to give us spiritual life. God is interested in both our physical and spiritual wellness.
While medication can only address the physical origins of depression, it can be a significant help in healing.
While medication can only address the physical origins of depression, it can be a significant help in healing. Since postpartum depression is caused, at least in part, by hormonal changes, medication is a reasonable treatment option.
3. Physical healing and spiritual growth are not mutually exclusive.
While it’s good and right to submit to the Lord’s work in our lives by whatever means he ordains (including suffering), we need not be concerned that taking medication to treat postpartum depression will somehow circumvent God’s plans for our sanctification. First, Scripture is clear that God is sovereign, and his plans cannot be thwarted (Job 42:2). But there are also multiple examples of Jesus physically healing someone followed by people professing belief in Christ and giving glory to God (e.g., John 4:46–53; Luke 7:11–16; Matt. 9:1–8). Healing and spiritual growth aren’t mutually exclusive—God can use them in tandem.
If my postpartum depression was like drowning, then anti-depressant medication was like a life vest. Medication wasn’t a rescue boat that pulled me out of the water and delivered me promptly to shore. But it did reduce my struggle and support me so I could swim. It allowed my head to stay above water so I could breathe and catch sight of land.
And at that point, I was better able to benefit from the ministry of the Word and prayer, to hear wise counsel and apply it, to seek the Lord and be strengthened in him. Treating the physical origins of my depression helped me engage in the spiritual work God was doing.
Treating the physical origins of my depression helped me engage in the spiritual work God was doing.
Medication for postpartum depression is a treatment—it is not our hope, and it is not our ultimate source of healing. When our hope is in the Lord, and we understand that the deepest healing we need is found only in him, we can take medication with freedom and gratitude trusting God to work in us, both body and soul.
Moms with postpartum depression, Paul’s blessing to the Thessalonian church is my prayer for you: “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thess. 5:23–24).