Formerly “Q&A,” this column is devoted to answering a broad range of questionsrelating to Christian faith and life. Please send your questions to FAQs at The Banner, 2850 Kalamazoo Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49560, or to firstname.lastname@example.org with “FAQs” in the subject line. We’ll keep them confidential and assign them to our panel.
HealthQ: Why should I take medication for depression?
A: Depression is an equal-opportunity disease crossing all barriers: race, religion, economic status, age, gender, and social status. It can affect many aspects of a person’s life, from physical health to personal relationships, financial security, spiritual well-being, and more.
The complications of untreated depression can be disastrous, yet very educated and reasonable people ask me if they should take medication for depression.
Most people agree that a person with diabetes should take insulin. The diabetic’s insulin system for dealing with sugar is out of whack. Similarly, a depressed person’s brain is not functioning correctly. Depression is a result of chemical changes in the brain. The brain pathways (neurons) are no longer appropriately responding to the brain messengers (neurotransmitters). The newer antidepressants reset the brain’s communication system so the brain can respond and function normally. Only then can a person healthfully work through the triggers of depression (stress, change, trauma, and genetics).
Unlike diabetes, depression may be corrected with short-term medication, but it may also require a lifetime of treatment. Medication enables the depressed person to lead a normal life. Chemical changes may be reversed in the brain through therapy or time, but medications are a safe and a relatively quick way to bring back normal brain function. Newer antidepressants have minimal to no side effects and begin working in about two weeks. You can talk to your doctor about what medication may be right for you.
Dr. Stacy Steen is part of a family medical practice in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Q: Should I see the movie The Da Vinci Code? I don’t want to support or endorse it because it’s blasphemous.
A: I share your dilemma. The film and book call into question some basic beliefs about God, Jesus and Christianity, Jesus’ divinity, and the reliability of the canon of the Old and New Testaments. It seems as if reading the book or seeing the movie condones those positions. It seems as if it’s better to ignore them completely, rather than pollute our minds.
However, two ideas keep coming to me. First, as committed Christians, it matters that we know what compelling counterarguments exist in the world. If we don’t read or see The Da Vinci Code, how can we know the evidence used to back up that story? If we don’t know the evidence, how can we respond with the truth? And second, our nonChristian friends are reading and wondering about Jesus and his nature. What a great entering wedge for conversation that could lead to conversion! It seems to me that we ignore these cultural moments at some peril to our work in God’s kingdom on earth..
Dr. Helen Sterk is chair of the communications arts and sciences department at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Q: How can I bring someone to Christ?
A: It’s really the Holy Spirit that “brings” a person to faith in Christ, but the Spirit often chooses to accomplish this extraordinary work through people just like you.
A person can come to faith in Christ through what he or she sees of Christlike behavior in Christians. People are attracted to honesty, kindness, fairness, patience, friendliness, compassion, peacefulness. I once heard somebody say, “People want to know how much you care before they care about how much you know.” I have certainly found this bit of wisdom true in my own experiences with others.
The Spirit also works through a clear and succinct presentation of what Jesus Christ has done to deliver us from sin and death. This is often done through preaching and teaching, but it can also be accomplished through informal conversations with unbelievers. I often recall the words of the apostle Peter: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15).
The Spirit also brings a person to faith in Christ through the worship and fellowship of a local church, including, I hope, your own.
And don’t forget prayer, for the Spirit brings people to faith in response to our fervent prayers for others.
Rev. Rick Williams is pastor of Pullman Christian Reformed Church, Chicago.