Should A Christian Go To The Doctor? Does This Show A Lack of Faith?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

If we go to the doctor or take medicine, does this show a lack of faith?  Do we display that our faith is weak when we seek medical attention?

What is Faith?

A biblical definition of faith is a great starting point in regards to asking the question if we show a lack of faith if we go to the doctor, take medicine, or seek the advice of medical professionals.  Hebrews 11:1 is the biblical definition of faith and it says in verse one that, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”(KJV)  The Greek word for substance is “hupostasis” and generally refers to “what stands under anything.”  This term is reflective of a house’s foundation.  It is something that you can put great weight on.  It could mean something solid to stand on, even an agreement, a contract or a promise.  The obvious meaning in this sentence is that faith (hupostasis) is something that you can rely on and build on.  This is like the solid faith that we place in Jesus Christ.  That’s likely what the writer of Hebrews intended for it to mean because he goes on to say that it is “evidence of things not seen.”  Just like we can not see all or any of the foundation of a building, we have confidence that it will hold us up when we enter it.

The Hall of Faith

In Hebrews chapter 11, in what is commonly called “The Hall of Faith”, you can see that Abraham stood firm in his belief by faith, Noah felt certain that a great flood was coming so he built the great Ark.  The Roman soldier knew that Jesus need only say the word and his servant would be healed.  That is what faith is all about. We have faith the sun will rise tomorrow, that taxes and death are certain, and that God can not lie.  So what does a lack of faith have to do with going to the doctor or taking medicine?

Are Mental Health Problems a Moral or Character Weakness?

It grieves me to even ask this question in this subheading, but sadly, it does come up.  As a former Mental Health Case Manager, I understood that mental problems in people are due to simple brain chemical disturbances where chemicals are out of balance in the brain due to genetics or inherited brain tendencies. Some brains simply do not receive the proper amounts of hormonal chemicals or there may be problems with the spinal cords or there may have been injuries to the brain stem at birth or from a childhood accident. Synaptic vesicles surround the brain and they typically cluster below membranes of the brain.  They release neurotransmitters called endogenous chemicals that are designed to transmit signals between neutron and other brain cells. Since this is an exceedingly complex system, sometimes there is an imbalance, and this results in a variety of mental disorders – none of which are the fault of the person affected.

Christians go to DoctorOne of my friends takes anti-depressants for a condition that prevents her from suffering from severe and debilitating depression.  She has been diagnosed, due to a chemical brain imbalance, as clinically depressed and one of our former church members said that she doesn’t have enough faith in God because she is depending on medicine and her doctor instead of God to make her better.  I was flabbergasted when she told me this and my friend was very hurt by it.  What this lady should have realized is that it has nothing to do with my friend’s lack of faith. In fact, my friend shows common sense to have her depression treated.  I am not ruling out praying to God of course.  One of the greatest evangelists and preachers of the 19th Century, Charles Spurgeon, suffered from depression and there was not adequate treatment for his condition at that time.  Would anyone accuse one of the greatest soul winners in history of lacking faith or having a weak moral attitude or of having a character weakness?  Anyone that says that going to a mental health specialist or having to take medicine for a mental health problem is a lack of faith simply does not know what they are taking about.  It actually reveals a self-righteous attitude in the accuser and shows a lack of common sense that if someone is sick, you go to a doctor and get medicine for it and have it treated.  This lady’s husband has to take medicine for high blood pressure.  Why doesn’t she believe that her husband is showing a lack of faith for his taking medicine that can save his life?  If she had a broken bone, would she not go to the hospital to have it set?  There is no difference in reality. Both of these are medical conditions.

Luke the Beloved Physician and the Great Physician

I don’t believe it is an accident that one of the disciples was a medical doctor. That would be Luke.  When you read the Gospel of Luke, you can tell that it was written by a man that had medical experience.  Jesus acknowledged the need for a physician when he said in Luke 5:31, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” This is repeated in Matthew 9:12 and in Mark 2:17.  Here we see that Jesus believed in doctors and that he said that it is the sick who need a doctor.  How much plainer can that statement be?  He did not specify which sicknesses were involved, but we can not presume that He excluded mental illness when He said that the sick need a doctor and not the healthy.

Several parents who refused to seek medical attention for their children and whose children later died faced prosecution for criminal negligence.  I am not saying that God will not heal the sick and by the prayers or anointing of oil, God can and sometimes chooses to heal the sick but he also expects us to use the provisions that He has in His sovereignty provided for us to use.  There are no Scriptures and there are no New Testament church verses where we are told to not seek medical attention when necessary.  When Paul told Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach illness, would we accuse Timothy of having a lack of faith (1 Tim 5:23)?  Paul prayed three times to the Lord to remove his “thorn in the flesh” and would you say that Paul lacked faith (2 Cor 12:7-1)?  I would hope not.  God is the one that heals and it is He alone Who heals and sometimes in His divine providence, He chooses not to because He can be shown strong in our weaknesses and afflictions (2 Cor 12:9).  But this does not mean that God would expect us to do nothing.

Conclusion

So does going to the doctor mean you or someone else you know doesn’t have enough faith in God?   And does taking medicine mean that you or someone else you know doesn’t have enough faith in God?   In the first place, only God can look into the human heart and discern the intent and the amount of faith that a person has.  No human is qualified to make such a judgment.  If they have a cold and take cold medicine, does this mean that they lack faith in God just because they want relief from their symptoms?  I would say not.  And to make such a presumptuous statement or endanger someone by telling them that they just need to have faith and avoid medical treatment is nothing short of negligence.

Mental illness has a physical cause just like having the flu does.  Neither of these patients is less spiritual for seeking assistance.  If your baby or someone else’s baby was sick, would you say that the parents or the baby’s faith is weak?  I would hope not.  Take Jesus at His word, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”  The sick need a doctor.  Jesus didn’t accuse the sick of lacking faith.  He said they need a doctor, not those who are healthy.  It is just plain common sense to go see a doctor when you are sick … whatever that sickness is.  It is not a lack of morals, not a character flaw, nor is it a lack of faith.  The sick need a doctor … not more faith.  Jesus said that and that’s good enough for me.

Resources:

The Holy Bible, King James Version

New International Version Bible (NIV)
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

Interested in similar type articles? Here are some articles that you might also enjoy reading:

Hebrews 11: Bible Study on Faith David Peach offers some great information in this Bible study all about faith.

Can a Christian Be Angry and Not Sin? Now that’s a good question and Jack Wellman does well to answer it from a biblical perspective.

Are Faith Healers Real? Pastor Jack tackles yet another controversial issue among believers and non-believers; don’t miss this one!




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