So the prophecy of Isaiah applies to them: “This people will listen and listen, but not understand; they will look and look, but not see, because their minds are dull, and they have stopped up their ears and have closed their eyes. Otherwise, their eyes would see, their ears would hear, their minds would understand, and they would turn to me, says God, and I would heal them.”
As for you, how fortunate you are! Your eyes see and your ears hear. I assure you that many prophets and many of God’s people wanted very much to see what you see, but they could not, and to hear what you hear, but they did not.
When I look at the words of Jesus as he quotes the prophet Isaiah, I think we might be in trouble. What jumps out at me is the part about our minds being dull. I think about how we sit around mindlessly watching our TVs and computers to wind down from a stressful day at work. We are numbed to violence and the suffering of others because of the news and entertainment industries. I think about how we are quick to accept anything that political leaders, celebrities, pundits, dooms-dayers, religious leaders, newscasters, and media detractors tell us. Most of all I think about all of the mind-numbing substances people are ingesting to deliver them from their troubles.
We numb our minds with alcohol. We numb our minds with illegal drugs. And then there are all legal the mind-numbing drugs that are being prescribed to people by their doctors. Dangerous mind-numbing drugs are passed out like candy to keep us all docile and productive.
Psychologist David Healy has written a book called Pharmageddon which describes our societal drug dependence. On his web site he writes:
In 1962 a sleeping pill called thalidomide caused a horrific drug disaster whose emblematic images of limbless and handicapped babies born to distraught mothers linger to this day. The United States Congress swung into action. They wanted to prevent such a tragedy happening again. They were also determined to rein in the marketing excesses of the pharmaceutical industry.It looked like these steps would make for safer and more effective drugs and ultimately reduced healthcare costs. On the 50th anniversary of the 1962 FDA bill enacted by Congress, Pharmageddon shows how these very arrangements have led to an escalating number of drug induced death and injury, how in some areas of medicine drug induced death is the commonest form of death, and how the costs of treating these problems exceed the costs of the entire drugs budget. Pharmageddon also shows how these same changes have turbo-charged pharmaceutical industry marketing.
The horrors are best caught by the example of the increasing numbers of pregnant women who religiously steer clear of alcohol, tobacco, soft cheeses, or anything that might harm their unborn child, but who are nonetheless being urged by their doctors to take drugs like the antidepressants — now the most commonly prescribed drugs in pregnancy — even as the evidence accumulates that these drugs cause birth defects, double the rate of miscarriages, and cause mental handicap in children born to mothers who have been taking them.
This example of a shepherding of innocents into pharmaceutical killing fields is not an isolated incident. Life expectancy in the US, the country that consumes most of the latest life-saving drugs is falling rapidly compared to the rest of the world. For diseases like schizophrenia, we are now doing 10 times worse in terms of life expectancy than we were 100 years ago.
Drug companies are not in the business of serving the public good. They are in the business of making as much money as possible. Think about it. Most of the kinds of things they develop nowadays, like Viagara or cholesterol-lowering drugs, must be taken for the rest of one’s life. They only want to develop what I call “lifestyle drugs” that must be taken forever to be effective. Those kinds of drugs are the ones that make the most money. Quick, easy cures aren’t profitable.
People have also contributed to the situation. Basically they don’t want to deal with their problems. They don’t want to admit that they are sick or over-stressed or over-worked or hurting inside. They just want someone to give them a pill to make them all better. And a pill will usually do that for a little while. Taking pills to mask symptoms is promoted by employers, pharmaceutical companies, and doctors alike. Pills are a quick fix – but often our symptoms are the result of underlying problems that go unaddressed. We numb ourselves with pills when we really should be seeking real healing and a real resolution to our problems.
I remember when I was a little girl you didn’t get a lot of pills when you went to the doctor. There was a joke about doctors where a man says, “Doctor, it hurts when I do this,” so the doctor replies, “Well don’t to that.” Today the doctor says, “I have a pill for that.”
I also remember when it started to change in the 1970s. It was the same time that young people started migrating from drunkenness to recreational drugs. I went to a doctor on campus because I had a painful shoulder. He said it was stress related so he gave me valium. A little later I started getting headaches. Again, the diagnosis was stress so he gave me more valium. Later, back spasms. More valium. Whatever the problem – valium. The recommendation should have been to reduce my stress level. Maybe going to college full time was too much for me. Maybe I needed more sleep. I didn’t get that advice. I didn’t get, “Well don’t do that.” Instead I got a highly addictive drug that really brought out the worst in me. And I was subjected to the danger of addiction. I eventually came to the conclusion that it wasn’t a good idea to go to the doctor for those kinds of things. It was easier to just drink or get high on things that were less addictive and dangerous.
I eventually decided I didn’t want to go around with a numbed mind. I wanted to get to the root of my problems. I knew that alcohol and illegal drugs and legal pharmaceuticals were not the answer for me. I started to strictly avoid anything that might numb my mind or make me high. I figured it was better to be awake and alert and in pain. When my mind cleared I went back to church. I knew I had problems and I needed real answers, not just mind-numbing pills and temporary fixes. It has been a long process with many fits and starts but God has brought peace and healing into my life just like today’s scripture promises.
Are all pills bad? Of course not! Like Dr. Healy says, many of them are life-savers. I certainly couldn’t have worked all those years without my medication for panic attacks. But in his books he stresses that they are over-prescribed and the risks aren’t properly assessed or communicated to patients. Lifestyle changes should always be the first option, not pills, when it comes to many of the problems we suffer from. We often don’t want to admit that we have limitations, and it ultimately shows up in our bodies. We need rest, peace, love, acceptance, fresh air, fun, healthy food, exercise, harmony, and spirituality in our lives. Sometimes the lifestyles we choose don’t facilitate these things, and no amount of pills will help in the long run.
Also, while the pills seem to make people well, for some it’s just their faith in the pills that actually does the trick. See Day 82 where I discuss how Jesus says it’s our faith that makes us well and how this relates to scientific evidence of the placebo effect. If we accept that a lot of our healing is the result of our attitude, expectations, and faith then we may be able to avoid a lot of unpleasant side effects that pharmaceuticals expose us to.
Finally, Jesus impresses on his disciples how privileged they are to be seeing so many miracles and hearing all of the exciting new revelations about God and his will for humankind. We all need to have appreciation for these things as they continue to occur in our day. We need to keep our eyes and ears open for all of the ways that God’s Kingdom is breaking out. We need to stay alert so we can discern God’s will for our lives. We need to keep our hands on the wheel and our eyes on the road as we journey down life’s road. If we need help, we should ask for it. We should ask God, ask our friends. We need to listen to our bodies and recognize our limitations. And we need to keep the pill-taking to a minimum, along with drinking, illegal drugs, and other of the other mind-numbing substances and behaviors. That’s my advice, for whatever it’s worth. Lean a little harder on God, listen to his advice, and he will see you through. No pill, no drink, can ever do what God can do.
What does this scripture say to you?