A few months ago God had me minister on the topic of depression. Depression is not just a mental illness that affects society but the Pastorate. Over the past few days, a lot of news surrounding suicide has not just gripped the communities we live in but also the Pastorate. This article reminds us that we wrestle not against flesh and blood but power and principalities of darkness. The devil’s plan is to kill, steal and destroy. The devil realizes that sexual, financial, and immoral sins are not very prevalent among the Pastorate so he is using mental health issues.
You won’t find the term “depression” in the Bible, except in the New Living Translation. Instead, the Bible uses words such as downcast, sad, forlorn, discouraged, downhearted, mourning, troubled, miserable, despairing, and brokenhearted.
You will, however, find many Bible people that showed the symptoms of this disease: Hagar, Moses, Naomi, Hannah, Saul, David, Solomon, Elijah, Nehemiah, Job, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Judas Iscariot, and Paul.
No One Is Immune From Depression
The Bible shows that depression can strike anyone. Poor people like Naomi, the mother-in-law of Ruth, and very rich people, like King Solomon, suffered from depression. Young people, like David, and older people, like Job, were also afflicted. Depression strikes both women, like Hannah, who was barren, and men, like Jeremiah, the “weeping prophet.”
Many pastors struggle with depression. This is true today and it has been true throughout the history of the church.
When David and his men reached Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. (1 Samuel 30:3-4, NIV) (Amalekites)
Oddly, an emotional letdown can also come after a great victory. Elijah the prophet defeated the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel in a stunning display of God’s power (1 Kings 18:38). But instead of being encouraged, Elijah, fearing Jezebel’s revenge, was weary and afraid: He (Elijah) came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. (1 Kings 19:1-5, NIV)
Even Jesus Christ, who was like us in all things but sin, may have suffered depression. Messengers came to him, reporting that Herod Antipas had beheaded Jesus’ beloved friend John the Baptist: When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. (Matthew 14:13, NIV)
Members of Inland Hills Church in Chino, California, grappled with grief on August 25, 2018, after their lead pastor, Andrew Stoecklein, succumbed to self-inflicted injuries after a battle with depression and anxiety. He was only 30. News of Stoecklein’s death came shortly after the church revealed he had tried to take his own life and was on life support. He left behind his wife, Kayla, and three sons.
In another incident, Calvin Giddings, an aspiring Pastor who has been credited for his willingness to always offer advice and guidance to those in distress, sent shockwaves across the congregation of the church he attended after news broke out that the young and upcoming church leader killed himself. 25-year-old Giddings, who was also an Environmental Officer from Patentia on the West Bank of Demerara, Georgetown, Guyana, was described as a quiet and well-mannered Christian man. Shocked church members said Giddings was to be bestowed with a senior position at the church in the coming days. He left behind his wife and two children.
Most times, Pastors are oblivious until they are awakened to the reality of some of the dramatic consequences of depression. This includes broken marriage, sexual affairs, resignation from the ministry, and even suicide.
Causes of Depression
Discouragement and depression are normal parts of being human. They can be triggered by the death of a loved one, illness, loss of a job or status, divorce, leaving home, or many other traumatic events. There are five primary reasons many pastors identified as the reasons behind depression. Each reason is followed by a direct quote from pastors who shared their struggles.
1. Spiritual warfare
“I don’t mean this in a profane way, but there was a point in my ministry when all hell broke loose. I can’t explain the attacks in any way other than spiritual warfare. The enemy was intent on destroying my ministry, and I began to spiral downward emotionally.”
2. The surprising reality of pastoral leadership
“I wish someone had told me how tough it is to be a pastor. My single counsel was to preach the Word, and I understand the priority of preaching. But, after a year or so in my first pastorate at age 31, I saw the underbelly of local church life. I was just caught off guard. And it took me some time before I realized I was truly depressed.”
3. Sense of inadequacy
“My church is declining. While I don’t get hung up on numbers, my members started talking about the decline. And when we had to delete a position because we could no longer pay the person, I began to hit rock bottom. I felt like it was all my fault.”
4. Critics and bullies
“Pastoral leadership really can be death by a thousand cuts. It’s not any one person or criticism; it’s the constant and steady stream of criticisms. It wears on you. My depression came on gradually, so by the time I was in deep depression, I did not see it coming.”
“It’s really hard to find a true friend when you are a pastor. And when you have no one to talk to about your struggles and questions, life can get lonely.”
What Is The Solution For Depression?
1. Every Pastor needs a prayer team, a group of people who believe in you and the call of God on your life to pray for the Pastor, their family, and the vision God has given that ministry.
2. Every Pastor needs Pastor friends. Only a person who shares the same burdens as you will be able to fully relate to the unique challenges of this type of ministry.
3. Every Pastor needs non-Pastor friends. This will help you stay BALANCED.
4. Every Pastor needs friends in the church who know where to draw the line on familiarity. Isolation is a big issue for Pastors. Oftentimes, our hearts are wounded by those closest to us. Befriend people in the church who you feel can be trusted and people who won’t lose respect for you when they see your imperfections.
5. Every Pastor needs accountability. What has helped me win my bouts with depression is I’ve always had loving spiritual fathers and mothers in my life who remind me of my calling, pray for me, and are safe places.
6. Every Pastor needs a deep devotional life. If we disconnect from God in the name of ministry. It’s only a matter of time before we implode or explode!
7. Every Pastor needs a vacation/sabbatical. This is a dedicated time away to reflect, process, and hear from God. Mine is coming soon!
8. Every Pastor needs reliable members in the church. There are few things more demoralizing for a Pastor than trying to lead people who are inconsistent, unteachable, unwilling to serve, and who cannot be counted on. Make their job easier not harder!
9. Every Pastor needs a hobby… find something outside of church YOU enjoy… and make no apologies for it. It may be sports, working out, and so forth. Just find something unrelated to ministry to give space to your humanity.
10. Lastly, but certainly not least, every pastor needs a vision of eternity. The resilience, endurance, and hope that we must have as believers, especially as Pastors have to be rooted in the revelation that one day we will stand before God and give an account for our lives. What has kept me all of these years and I pray for years to come, is that humble realization that I will bow before the Judgement seat of Christ where all of my actions, motives, and words will be weighed and judged. I live in light of eternity, and every Pastor must never lose sight of Judgement day.
One of the great truths of the Bible is that God is our hope when we are in trouble, including depression.
The message is clear. When depression hits, fix your eyes on God, his power, and His love for you:
• The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deuteronomy 31:8, NIV)
• Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9, NIV)
• The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18, NIV)
• So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10, NIV)
• “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” (Jeremiah 29:11-12, NIV)
• And I will pray to the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; (John 14:16, KJV)
• (Jesus said) “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20, NIV)
• For we live by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians, 5:7, NIV)
If you are a pastor reading this post and you are struggling with depression, please get help. Too many pastors have been taught that depression is a sign of failure in ministry, that it is something that must be hidden from view. These are lies, blatant lies. Please get help. Now.
PRAY FOR YOUR PASTORS
Depression is real with pastors. It seems to be pervasive. May we who serve alongside them, staff and laity alike, take a few minutes a day to pray for our pastors.
Written by Apostle Cordel A. Joseph.