Thursday, May 05, 2011

Pill Popping and Prayer - do they Mix?

In an age of drug addiction and the abuse of chemicals it is small wonder that  Christians find themselves bothered when asked by their doctors to take certain medications to control their illnesses.  Among the many different kinds of drugs that are particularly hard to swallow if you are a committed follower of Christ are anti-depressants, tranquillizers and opiates. I have used all three at various times in the long battle with pancreatitis, cholangitis and the emotional fallout of chronic ill health.  Just at the moment I really thank God that I am doing better, especially with regard to pain, and so I am weening myself off morphine after a long period of using it in large doses daily in order to cope with excessive pain.  Cutting down and coming off these kinds of drugs is a tough and testing process and is taking much longer than I would like, but if you lower the doses slowly in line with medical advice, this can minimise the awful effects of withdrawal.

Despite their place in medicine, I hate taking drugs.  In fact, I have so resisted taking medication that I have suffered far more over the years than I need have done, not only from physical symptoms that could have been relieved, but also from emotions like shame, embarrassment, fear and guilt.  I remember how sad and ashamed I was to be receiving shots of morphine when in severe pain in a London hospital, especially when the nurse giving me the jabs told me she was a Pentecostal Christian and, like me, believed in Divine healing!  It is also so hard to keep taking antidepressants when you are supposed to have 'a joy that the world cannot give' - and you have but it does not meet your immediate medical and emotional needs.

Through all this foolish shame and guilt, I have learned important lessons.  Firstly, like sex, these drugs were created by God for the benefit of mankind.  Also like sex they have been abused and subverted to serve selfish and evil purposes, but this does not take away their usefulness in medicine, nor their appropriateness for Christians as well as anybody else to take.  Secondly, like food, if these substances have been given to man by God, they are to be received with thanksgiving.  In fact, the next time you take your pain-killers or your anti-depressant or your HRT or your insulin, it might help to bow your head and say grace!  'Thank you Lord for these little pills that are helping me today.  Amen'  Thirdly, we have no right to criticise or condemn others who may need medication to get them through a short term crisis or attack of disease. Even though we believe in God's healing power, we don't have to flush the pills away unless we are very sure that it is the right thing to do - right before God and those who are caring for us in His name.  We are not against doctors and nurses, after all, we are against suffering and disease!

Let me know if you have struggled with this issue and would like to chat about it.  Don't be embarrassed or ashamed, but trust God for healing and recovery in due course, and His love and presence in the meantime.