People Thinking Outloud

A Chemical Hope

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Written by Drew
What hope do we have in life if depression, anxiety, and the like are just chemical?

Scenario: say you have a friend or coworker who’s working through some kind of addiction. As you learn about how she’s doing with rehab and finding wholeness apart from the drugs, she shares that she’s been prescribed a medication to help with the anxiety they think is causing her thirst for the next fix. The meds help, but at the end of the day, they’re not enough and she can’t seem to kick the want, the need, to go back to her addiction.

All of us probably have someone around us going through a similar struggle. It’s great to hear your friend is doing better and found a medication that can help level things out. You see their life stabilizing and you can finally see a brighter path for them going ahead. But, you might wonder: are they truly free? Has the hurt and/or confusion really been healed? I don’t want to decry the value of good, appropriate meds by any means, but especially in scenarios like hers, I have a hard time feeling like she’s really landed on solid ground.

If we were all honest, we would admit that we can’t stomach the idea of our identity and our self being purely chemical (to be sure, some issues that plague mankind are heavily impacted by physical/chemical defect, sometimes entirely so). We’ve all been hurt, rejected, and experienced loss in some way. We carry these things with us, looking for empathy and restoration/vindication. And in the deepest moments of pain and fear, the world shows up with a solution: a nice little pill that can make it all go away, no matter what the pain, no matter what the hurt.

Victor Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, a memoir of his experiences in a concentration camp, said “a human being is not one in pursuit of happiness, but rather in search of a reason to become happy…” To medicate a feeling of happiness and wholeness is one thing. To find happiness, to be made whole, in the deepest, realest sense is another thing entirely.

What hope do we have for healing in the deepest part of our selves? What do we do if we find ourselves in a situation where a pill helps but can only go so far? Where can we turn when our culture tells us that our hurts are ultimately just basic, everyday chemical reactions? That a pharmacist or a back-alley dealer can always make it all better? Where can we find peace and fullness of life if our identities are just a pile of cells and atoms?

Do you believe there’s more to us than all of that? Do you think there’s some part of you that a drug just can’t fix – a part of you that lives and breathes beyond a prescription’s reach? If so, where do you find hope for that truest, final healing? What do you do when hope seems far off? How do you push forward even when it seems God is silent and healing feels delayed?

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