But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22-24 ESV)
As a father, God calls me to avoid provoking my children because it will discourage them (Colossians 3:21) and not to sin in anger (Ephesians 4:26). I am also to avoid being anxious (Matthew 6:25). These things are hard. But I have found that my antidepressant medication makes them much less hard than they were.
We cannot know what is ‘normal’ parental grumpiness, or internal anger or anxiety — there are not reliable ways to measure such things. It may be that what I experience on a bad day is mild compared to most and that I am just weak and indulgent. I also do not think that it would be right to take a pill in to be sanctified. And yet, in pondering this I find myself wondering, “what is the difference from praying and asking God for grace?” In praying I am asking God to do what I cannot do — change my heart.
So I am in the curious situation in which taking a pill makes it appear as though I am exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). A naturalistic worldview would argue that the drug is the real causative agent and the fruit of the Spirit is a psychological concept to explain a physiological phenomenon. It is difficult to distinguish where the physiological effect ends and the spiritual one begins. But I am convinced that the fruit of the Spirit is the result of God-wrought changes in the heart of a person by grace. It is not affective changes due to mood, emotions or physiology. Physiology may facilitate the fruit (i.e., the manifestation of grace) but is not the origin of it.
What cause do I have for such a conviction? Paul tells us that God has put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit (2 Corinthians 1:21-22) and His Spirit within us cries out to our Father (Galatians 4:5-6). This is the same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11). So sanctification comes only by the Spirit, regardless of superficial means I may use to mask the overflow of my heart (Mark 7:21).
Is the medication opposed to God’s Spirit? No, I am using it to moderate something which is causing problems. The effects of medication may not reflect a true heart change wrought by God, it reduces the negative effects of a disordered state, making life better for people around me.
In this is grace, showing me that a different state is possible. Making me aware that the depressed state is destructive, so I can begin along a path of submitting to the Spirit of God to put in order the chaos of my heart.