What is a Christian view of ADHD/ADD?Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD/ADD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder in certain areas of the brain that causes inappropriate levels of inattention, impulsivity, and/or hyperactivity. ADHD/ADD affects the brain's executive function. Executive function is the brain's ability to prioritize and manage thoughts and actions thus enabling a person to consider long-term consequences and guide his behavior across time effectively. Because ADHD/ADD affects this function, individuals with the condition struggle to complete tasks and often forget important things. This disorder causes difficulty in school, work, emotional regulation, relationships, and finances when not controlled well.
As a biological disorder, Christians should view ADHD/ADD the way we view any medical condition—as an unfortunate consequence of sin's entry into the world. Before Adam and Eve rebelled against God by eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, there existed no illness, disease, disorder, or deformity. All of the things that cause pain and difficulty or lead to death are part of the curse that sin brought into the world. Revelation 22:3 assures us that when God renews heaven and earth, "No longer will there be anything accursed." Revelation 21:4 states, "He [God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." God did not desire for His people to live with disorders or diseases, and He will one day make His people whole and healed. In the meantime, we can mourn for the fallen state in which we find ourselves, like Jesus mourned Lazarus's death even while knowing He was about to raise him from the dead (John 11:33–35). After facing the pain and grief of a disappointing diagnosis, knowing that God mourns this suffering with us (Psalm 56:8), we can look toward ways of ameliorating our situation. Both medical and non-medical interventions can be effective ways of treating symptoms of ADHD/ADD.
For ADHD/ADD, tactics like dietary changes, regular exercise, satisfactory sleep, talk and/or behavioral therapy, and an unchanging routine can help manage symptoms. Tricks like using sticky note reminders, setting timers and alarms, and eliminating audio/visual distractions can also help. And, of course, medication can be another effective and sometimes necessary way to treat symptoms. Sometimes modifying expectations in the classroom or the workplace is required to allow a person with ADHD/ADD to succeed. As Christians, we should approach ADHD/ADD with compassion and mercy.
Of course, ADHD/ADD should never be used as an excuse to allow or promote sinful behavior or attitudes like selfishness, laziness, sexual immorality, fits of anger, or addiction (Galatians 5:19–21). Every human has a sin nature and no biological disorder or life circumstance is an excuse for any of us to indulge that sinful nature. That being said, it is important that those in a role of authority over a person with ADHD/ADD pray for discernment to determine whether that person's behavior is a result of sin or whether it is an involuntary outplay of a poorly controlled disorder. When ADHD/ADD is well-controlled and symptoms are managed effectively, those with the disorder can lead successful lives that bring glory and honor to the Lord. All who are in Christ, regardless of the obstacles their life circumstances may present, can allow the Holy Spirit to work in them to bring them to spiritual maturity, bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23).
In fact, it is important to consider the unique strengths and gifts those with ADHD/ADD have to offer in service to the body of Christ. Many with ADHD/ADD tend to be outside-the-box thinkers with creative solutions. They make great artists, musicians, designers, and inventors. Those with hyperactivity have ample energy that can be used to serve others. They make great firefighters, paramedics, and police officers. And those with impulsivity have a burden to get things done and try new things. They make great salespeople, soldiers, and public relations professionals. Each believer, even those with disorders or diseases, has an important role in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:11–26).
As Christians, we should "stir up one another to love and good works" (Hebrews 10:24). Understanding the ways ADHD/ADD can be managed helps us equip those with the disorder to follow godly standards. Knowing our own reliance on God's mercy for our own sinful tendencies gives us grace for those suffering from ADHD/ADD. Living a godly life is not easy for any of us; we are all reliant upon His grace and mercy. Recognizing our limitations—whether the general limitation of our sinful nature or a medical limitation adversely affecting our brain or an emotional wound impeding our ability to relate—helps us be more aware of our weaknesses and more attuned to the ways in which God can show Himself strong in that area (2 Corinthians 12:9–10). So while it is true that ADHD/ADD is a disorder God did not desire for His people, it is an opportunity for Him to be glorified. God is glorified when Christians act with compassion and encouragement toward those with the disorder. And He is glorified when those with the disorder allow Him to overcome the sinful nature through the work of the Holy Spirit and employ the strengths of ADHD/ADD to benefit His church and the world at large.
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