When prescriptions make you sick

Prescriptive ministryThere’s a story of a man who didn’t quite feel well. He couldn’t put his finger on it exactly, but on occasion his heart would race, he’d begin to sweat, and he would feel anxious. It didn’t happen all the time but when it did, it scared him and he felt like he was going to die. He researched his plight online and visited websites of professionals to see who could help him. He also read many articles by experts and health professionals. The first professional described his symptoms exactly. He looked at the professional’s website and saw this expert was speaking at a conference in a nearby city. So he signed up. He went to the conference and attended the experts seminar.

Again, the expert described the symptoms the man was having. Rapid heart rate, sweating, and anxiety. Then the expert surprised everyone with something profound. He wrote out prescriptions for everyone in the room. “This drug will cure you,” the expert said. “At last,” though the man with the symptoms.

He began to take the prescription and over time he noticed that his heart rate was decreased. This improvement made the man feel hopeful that the rest of his symptoms would subside as well. Unfortunately, they didn’t go away, but he did notice that he’d developed a tremor in his left hand.

The man went to the web again. This time with a new list of symptoms. What might be the cure for sweating, anxiety and a tremor in the left hand?

Again the man found an expert who described his situation perfectly. He looked to see if the man would be attending a convention nearby, but he wasn’t. The expert, however, was a published author by a reputable publishing house.

The man quickly bought the book and anxiously read it. When he reached the end, to his astonishment the expert had included a prescription for a medication he could tear out of the book and redeem. So he did.

The man’s sweating immediately went away. “Progress!” he thought. But soon after taking the new medication the man noticed he was getting tremendous headaches on a weekly basis.

He went to the web again. He looked up his symptoms. Headaches, tremors in the left hand, and anxiety. He found yet another expert, who had a prescription on his website! He printed it out and began taking the new medication along with his other meds. The tremors and the anxiety went away almost immediately after taking the new meds, but the entire right side of his body went numb.

A good friend had been watching the man for months and was concerned for his well being. He asked the man, how he felt. The numb, trembling man answered with his headache, “Things are going great. I’ve made tremendous progress. I no longer have anxiety, sweats, or rapid heart rate.”

The friend noticed the confidence the man had in the solutions and felt it would be best to speak directly.

“Why would you ever take a prescription from someone who’s never met you, doesn’t know your story or context or your situation?”

The man replied, “I read these experts books. I attended their seminars. I visited their websites. I know them and I know their story is the same as mine.”

To which the friend responded, “The more prescriptions you take from people who don’t know you the more sick you will become.”



Posted on July 14, 2011

  • I think this is good to think through!

    The assumption seems to be that prescriptions always have negative side-effects, which I'm not sure they do. In ministry, however, there's always a side-effect to what we do, whether for good or bad. I'm not sure that listening to the advice of those who have been through what we've been through before is a bad thing. I think copying their "solutions" (if they offer them) into our ministry is definitely bad, but hearing stories, experiences, and lessons others have learned can definitely be beneficial to us and our ministries as long as we contextualize it.

  • billnance79

    I feel conflicted…advice from an expert saying not to take advice from experts? Its like dividing by zero…

    In all seriousness though, this is a great thought. The benefit of living in our information age is that we can instantly access the combined wisdom of anyone in our field. The downside is that we are often missing the context of both our problems and their solutions. Our problems weren't created in a vacuum, and neither were their solutions. It requires much more diligence and foresight when we apply anyone's advice to our issues.

  • natural remedies that go to the root cause are usually the best solutions and only happen when someone's been on the scene for quite some time…

  • revtnt

    I touched on something similar to this several weeks ago, but landed on healthy "precriptions" and "descriptions" that can be shared. Oddly enough, the problems that I often see inherent in administering "spiritual remedies" are twofold.

    The first is when we offer some biblical, theological "prescription" that is perhaps related to symptoms of the "spiritual disease" that we believe we are treating but does not take into account the root cause(s) of the sickness itself. It's the often well intended, but seldom helpful, broad brushed, trite "drive by fruitings". We don't take the time to discover how the Holy Spirit has been at work making room for an edifying, healing, hopeful word to be administered in a way that is received more readily. A word that addresses the question of the one seeking to be well. In many ways these drive by fruitings may not been harmful, but certainly cause problems when the word administered is skewed in a way that does not "rightly divide" God's word – or in other language, where God's word is not taught in purity.

    The second problem, however, is in related to the first as it ends in the same tendency to prescribe the wrong treatment. This occurs when our attempt at offering a healing word is rooted in "prima" experience or "sola" experience. In these situations we think that our experience gives us a "truer" sense of what is at the heart of the disease, and we prescribe a treatment based upon that experience.

    I guess what I'm saying is that someone can be far away and unknown to us and offer a word that is more likely to bring about healing because it is rooted in God's unfailing word for us…whereas our best friend in the world, who knows us more intimately than we even know ourselves may know all the symptoms but not understand the nature or the root of the sickness.

    So, in some ways I think the analogy in the parable breaks down. There are many times when people closest to us know little to nothing about the problem or sickness that we are facing. They know we are in pain, and will do all that they can to support us or even try and "fix us", but they may not have the knowledge or understanding to help us. However, they can sit with us, love us, be compassionate to us, pray for us, and yearn for us as we lean into the moments when what was far away is brought near to us by someone right next to us or by someone who is far removed from our immediate context by intimately joined to us in the Body of Christ.

    • Revtnt – help me understand… are you suggesting that God's word isn't contextual… and that by being acontextual it means that the parable isn't applicable to the pure word of God?

      If you're saying that, we'd probably disagree. Scripture is always contextual. It was written in a specific context to a particular context for a reason. It was always contextual and should always be understood as such. When we receive God's word it's always in a particular context and when we teach God's word it is always from our context, to a context…

      in other words… context matters it seems equally on all matters of reality.
      Am I understanding you? help me understand?

  • it's really interesting to see the ads above this post….
    is that ironic? or just funny?

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