Anti-depressants are now the most commonly prescribed drug in America. They are prescribed more than drugs to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, or headaches. Between 1998 and 2002, the use of antidepressants had risen 48%, and this trend has continued at an astounding rate. And this does not even include other similar forms of medicine that ward off anxiety, anger, and compulsive “disorders.”

Pretty soon, we are going to have a pill that will take care of every disorder and sin. Think about it. This is the way medicine is heading. And to be truthful, there is nothing more that I would like than a pill that would make me a better person. A better father, husband, and friend. Maybe a generosity pill. Yeah, that is it. Wake up each morning, take the pill, and, as a result, I am more kind, forgiving, and selfless…besides the fact that I am not depressed! Or how about one that suppresses antagonism and disbelief. It relaxes the part of the mind that has a tendency to be circumspect and critical. “Here, I am going to give you the Four Spiritual Laws, but take this pill first.” We could call it the “Billy Graham Pill.”

Wow! Complete sanctification, from beginning to end, in a bottle . . . literally.

Oh, and fellas, if there are problems in the romantic area and fulfilling 1 Cor. 7:3-5 (my all time favorite passage btw), we have the “little blue pill.” (Sorry women, no quick cure for you yet . . . Blast it!)

Wait…I am way ahead of myself. Slow down.

(NOTE TO SELF: Remember, Michael, this is a very sensitive subject. You are going to label yourself as a “Tom Cruise” right at the beginning. This is not where you are going. You are just trying to get a discussion started. Your end-game is unclear, even to yourself.)

Let me come clean. I don’t take any mood altering meds. I never have. I completely understand why people do. I am not against them (necessarily). So don’t go there . . . yet. My wife takes two types of pills for anxiety. They have helped. She is not so mean to me (!). My mother is on anti-depressants. Maybe that is why she does not recognize her pitiful condition and can smile from time to time. For this I am glad. My father takes them too. It may be the only reason he can face each day and not blame himself after losing his daughter and his wife. For this, as long as I don’t over think it, I am grateful.

Let me come cleaner. My sister Angie committed suicide after having been on Zoloft (and every other anti-depressant and anti-anxiety you can imagine).

There . . . Now let me continue with a story.

Kristie, my oldest sister (not my wife Kristie), has been experiencing depression off and on for the last few years (again, due to my other sister and mother). She went to her general practitioner (a Christian of the fundamentalist variety). During the check-up she told him that she had been experiencing some depression here and there and it was affecting her relationships with her husband and kids. Without any further consult, he arose and began to write out a prescription for Paxil saying, “Let’s make mommy happy.”

Alright. Lets get started…

Here is my initial proposition:

If Martin Luther had lived today, the Reformation may never have happened. Luther would have been diagnosed with four problems:

  1. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): For this he would have taken Paroxetine. This would have helped him as he was compulsively obsessed with theology.
  2. Oppositional Defiant Disorder (OCC): For this he would have taken Ritalin. This would control his rebellion and kept him more compliant with the institutionalized church of the day. The result of the night and day at the Reichstag zu Worms in 1521would have resulted in his compliance and recanting.
  3. Anxiety Disorder. For this he would have taken Xanax. This would take care of those sleepless nights of anfechtung(a nightmare of the soul) concerning God’s wrath. No more need for him to adjust his theology and understand and experience God’s grace.
  4. Clinical Depression. For this he would have taken Zoloft. This would have prevented the concern of John Staupitz, Luther’s superior in the Augustinian order, who sent Luther off to study the New Testament as a solution to Luther’s depression. This, in turn, would have prevented Luther from coming to his epiphany while depressed (“on the toilet”) concerning Romans 1:17 and salvation by faith alone.

There, now we have a sterile Luther. Now we have a “happy” Luther. Now we have a “normal” Luther. Yet, we don’t have Luther. Without him, we don’t have a Reformation.

(I know, nothing can ward of the hand of God, not even Zoloft—I am a Calvinist after all. But I am looking at this from a human perspective and assessing our need to be responsibly critical in an area that most are ignoring.)

Enough for now.

Final questions: Is it possible that depression is often something that accomplishes the will of God more than being “happy”? Is it possible that anxiety is a tool God uses to help us recognize our need for him.  Is it possible that giving kids meds to control their attention could be sterilizing their giftedness. Are we replacing the will, personal dedication, and comittment with  little blue pills of absolution. Are we taking a preimptive strike on a God sent “dark night of the soul.” Could it be that our obsession with “normality” is keeping us from representing the image of God? Is it possible that these mind altering drugs are causing much more harm than good? 

Wherever you are on the issue, it simply must be discussed. I believe it represents one of the greatest moral dilemmas that we are facing today, and, in my opinion, it is only going to get worse.

Let’s talk.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    64 replies to ""Let's Make Mommy Happy" or Martin Luther on Zoloft"

    • Pauline

      As Elizabeth pointed out, an antidepressant isn’t a shortcut to happiness, as so many people seem to be worrying. I think some of the older antidepressants did tend to numb the emotions – I tried one just one time (it had been given to me as a sleep aid) and refused to take any more. I don’t want to walk around feeling numb.

      I refused to get medical treatment for depression for two decades, because I had been taught that it was a spiritual problem and I didn’t want to just drug myself into a good mood. But finally, a year after the birth of our second son, my husband urged me more strongly to see the doctor, and I agreed. She both prescribed antidepressants and to see a psychologist.

      I still don’t feel “happy” much of the time. The medicine doesn’t work that way. But it gets me far enough out of despair to work at dealing with problems, and interacting with people instead of avoiding them (I can tell when I’m feeling worse because I start avoiding eye contact). I honestly don’t feel much different, but my husband can see the difference. Now I laugh sometimes.

      If the choice were between letting God work through the mental anguish, or removing the pain through chemicals, I’d have to say forego the drugs. But that’s not the choice, and God still can work through people’s depression or other mental illness, while using medicine to aid in the healing.

    • C Michael Patton

      I think we are getting away from some of what I wanted to focus on.

      How do we define “normal”? Not depressed?

      Isn’t the suffering of the cross normal for Christians? Isn’t the dark night of the soul something we should not be too quick to avoid or prescribe meds for? Isn’t it often good to be depressed?

    • Drew K

      Don’t know if anyone mentioned this but here is a good resource on this topic.

    • J.R.

      CMP wrote:

      How do we define “normal”? Not depressed?

      Isn’t the suffering of the cross normal for Christians? Isn’t the dark night of the soul something we should not be too quick to avoid or prescribe meds for? Isn’t it often good to be depressed?

      I don’t believe “normal” as far as people go, can be defined.

      But, concerning the suffering of the cross, Christians should consider it normal to suffer and to be depressed for that cause from time to time. I see all types of suffering and probably depression throughout the NT for the cross, but there again I see great joy in them through their suffering as well. 1 Thess. 2:17-3:9.

      How would you Michael, counsel someone who has lost a husband through suicide because of financial misfortune as that being a suffering of the cross?

    • Michael L

      At this rate, this blog entry is going to make the top 20 soon 😉


      Isn’t the suffering of the cross normal for Christians? Isn’t the dark night of the soul something we should not be too quick to avoid or prescribe meds for? Isn’t it often good to be depressed?

      True. We have had a lot of family troubles / sufferings for the last 10 years. And as we overcame each and every challenge, we realized in hindsight how God sustained us through them and how we are now able to share our experiences with others. Recently we’ve even been able to counsel another Church family on what to do, where to go and what resources are available out there. And Mary (my spouse) and I smiled at each other and went… “There is some good that can come out of the suffering we went through”. Even if it is just to be able to spare some others the same suffering.

      But I can also tell you that without the tremendous support and prayers of body of believers we wouldn’t have made it. We still wouldn’t make it with the current challenges. And perhaps that’s lacking here and there. And perhaps that’s a reason why people grab for the easy fix.

      A burden shared is a burden less heavy.

      So yes, we overprescribe, yes we can philosophize over it, but what can you or I do to help others so perhaps the need for the medications can be balanced out.

      I’m sure Paul was a way stronger Christian and prayer warrior than I will even be or even can aspire to be. Yet I also do know he was not alone during his imprisonment. God works and very often he uses us as a vessel.

      Hope this can help
      In Him

    • George C

      My only credentials are that right now one of my best friends and my wife have been on anti-depressants for years. My friend ‘s diagnosis has been changed to bipolar so his meds have changed.
      Years ago I lived with three different people who have been institutionalized at different points.

      The first error in your thinking is that people taking meds are made happy by taking them. They are not. At best the overwhelming effects of depression or whatever are curbed.

      Having said that, we all medicate in some way. Coffee, exercise, sex, sunlight, alcohol, music, massage, ect. It is a question of are we crossing a line in our choice of medication.

      In my opinion, if you are more likely to be a jerk to your spouse when you don’t drink a cup of coffee in the morning, then maybe you are sinning by not medicating.

      If your mood offends thee……

      Doctors are often way too quick to parcel out drug and experiment with people too lightly, but that is a seperate issue.

    • Beth

      Question: Is it possible that depression is often something that accomplishes the will of God more than being “happy”?

      My humble answer: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. And thank you for asking it. How prone we are to cheap substitutions for Joy.

      Psalm 42

    • Allan

      Michael Patton, I am one of those who posted on the Phoenix Preacher regarding your article. I was one who was angered by what I read. The owner of the blog did post and told us to ramp it down as he explained where you were coming from. PP is a good place but can get “cranky” at times.

      I want to offer you a direct apology for any part I played in causing you any type of distress or whatever emotion you experienced reading the comments.

      This is a topic that I don’t see ever being settled to the satisfaction of everyone. The topic can be very polarizing. I would like to share about myself a little and where I fit into all of this.

      I am a believer who suffers with Agoraphobia and Panic Disorder. As a result of this I have suffered a few major bouts of depression. I have been told by a former Pastor that I was in sin. I had a person try to cast demons out of me. I have been told to trust God and lean on His promises. That hurts.

      I have suffered panic attacks so terrorizing I thought I was going insane or would die on the spot. I almost became home bound and am on Social Security because I can’t hold a job. But God is working in a very personal way in my life and things are improving.

      I started a blog maybe 18 months ago. My goal is to reach out to believers who are suffering with a mental illness by offering a safe place to visit, articles to read, and various resources for them to go through.

      In the midst of these conversations it’s easy to lose track of the scores of believers who suffer in silence because they feel second class or even complete failures as Christians. They are too ashamed to share their pain because so many will tell them they are the problem in one fashion or the other.

      These believers need hope. They need understanding. They need to feel safe among their brothers and sisters.

      Some of these people may need professional counseling and others may need medication. At the same time some simply need a friend they can feel safe with to pour their heart out to and then to be accepted and encouraged. Others may need Pastoral counseling. Some may need to repent of sin in their lives.

      This won’t happen if they are too afraid to share with other believers. Many have done so and have been hurt terribly. Their open wound had salt poured into it by well meaning folks and some who just won’t consider the reality of mental illness.

      If we speak of depression then we also must speak of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, Bi-Polar Disorder, Schizophrenia, OCD, anxiety, and so on.

      I have seen Godly men and women filled with the love of God who suffer with Bi-Polar for example. I have watched vibrant, loving, knowledgeable believers reach the point that they actually consider suicide as their only way out. That type of pain is beyond words. We as a body have failed so many innocent victims with our judgmental attitudes and indifference.

      There is balance to be found. I’m sorry for the…

    • Allan

      Final sentence… “I’m sorry for the pain you have experienced.”

    • C Michael Patton

      Allan, thanks so much. No worries on my end. I knew it was a difficult issues and that there would be much disagreement. Michael is great and I am always pleased with what is going on over there at PP.

      Got to have thick skin to be in this buisness!


    • Judy

      This is an issue that I have very strong feelings about and I’m glad to see the subject addressed.

      I think that in America we have bought the lie that anything negative in our lives is bad. Problem is, a lot of the negative stuff in our lives is brought about by our actions, attitudes, and response to life. Life is hard. Sometimes it gets us down. Sometimes it gets us really down.

      It’s easier to take a pill than it is to seek the Lord and ask Him to search our heart and help us through. It’s easier to take a pill than it is to learn to pray through a problem until you can stand up and shout, “It is done!” because you’ve finally found the strength to grab your answer by faith. It’s easier to take a pill than to search out the word and see what God says about the feelings we’ve experiencing or the problem we’re having.

      The American church seems to have abandoned God in this area, seeking simpler solutions to tough problems and looking for pills to make us feel better. I once had a psychotic breakdown. I also suffered deep depression and anxiety. I took psychotropics and they turned me into a zombie. So, I gave that all up and began to seek God and I found that He had answers to all my questions and that by faith I could take hold of God and He would pull me out of the pit. I’ve been in the pit many times and every time, God has pulled me out.

      Someone should be shouting from the pulpit that GOD IS GREATER than anything we suffer, experience, or feel. God is greater. He is able. What’s impossible with men is possible with God. Faith is what pleases him, so if you want him to answer your prayers, you have to grab a hold of faith, even if it’s just the size of a mustard seed. While there may be a time when someone has to take a pill, I can assure you that it is more worthwhile to grab a hold of God and cry out to him and search his Word until He answers and lifts your heart.

      We spend so much time in Egypt. What a waste!

    • Joe

      By the way: no one can fully diagnose you, just by reading your blog; go to a professional for a serious diagnosis. Anything else constitutes professional psychiatric malpractice.

    • […] thought provoking piece from Michael Patton on anti-depressants. Make sure you read down to the bit where he ponders what Luther would have been diagnosed […]

    • stephen homotoff

      first i don’t think martin luther could have accomplished
      everything he did, without God’s anointing. there is unlimited
      power when you understand scripture and are annoited
      by the Holy Spirit. martin luther was driven to exposing
      the hypocrisy of the papacy and could not stop. i have
      read some of his statements, they are from someone
      who had to be moved by someone from an higher
      order. basically he spoke fearlessly.
      normal no
      he lived in a far different world than we do.
      ignorance and fear and a total lack of knowledge
      even among the papacy.
      today we have 3 bibles , michael patton,
      reclaiming the mind
      and not to much talk of demons

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