With so many stories lately of famous people committing suicide (Chris Cornell from Soundgarden, Chester Bennington from Linkin Park) and hundreds more with no fame at all, I thought it was important to share some of my journey with depression with you.
When I say depression, I’m not talking about down days but weeks and months of down days. I have struggled with depression on and off for about 12 years and regardless of your beliefs about depression, as a Christian, I can tell you it is a real thing and a real pain in the butt to deal with. Let me also say, I am not clinically depressed or been diagnosed in any way, but I know myself better than anyone else, it’s something I am aware of and I monitor it, pray about it, cry about it, plead the blood of Jesus over it, and then I move on. It’s what most Christians who struggle with depression do and it’s what most Christians in the church try to hide from others.
I know what you’re saying, “But Paul, you are always a (semi) happy person. You like to make others laugh, you like to help and serve other people.”All of these things were said about Robin Williams, and then bam!
Now, I am not writing this on the ledge of tall building but I am also not writing this from the top of a mountain either. It’s where most depressed believers live. There are good days and bad days, as with all things, but it’s the weight of inner thoughts that is so exhausting to carry.
I don’t usually share my condition for fear I will be scrutinized, judged, guilted, and even scriptured into even deeper darker places. To help those who serve the church, in a public capacity and to otherwise avoid these deeper, darker places.
Leaders in the church experience burn out, fall into tail spins and hit funks more than we care to admit. Here is a Google search I did about pastors and suicide ” Pastor commits suicide outside church”. It seems incredible that lovers and servants of Jesus would do such a thing but they do and we are left wondering why.
Pastors, Youth Pastors, anyone in the church who has to get up in front of an audience and teach, preach, or train is a public figure. This public life can take a toll on us and our families. We live our successes and failures in public ways in front of a small audience called the Church. Every event, message, and outreach is scrutinized, commented on (personally and publicly), and in some cases, dismantled and demonized. How important is it for the church to understand or change the way they understand the pressure, pains, and problems of those who lead them? Let me offer a few thoughts.
“But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” I Thessalonians 5:12, 13
We must remember that Paul wrote these words from a prison cell. He had been through a lot at the hands of mostly religious people. It’s no wonder that he was encouraging the body of Christ to treat those that led them (the Thessalonians) better than he had been treated. He asks that we esteem those in leadership and appreciate them.
Here are 5 ways you can encourage others and promote emotional health.
- Tell them privately or publicly (online) you were blessed by something they said or did.
- Tell them you are praying for them (and then pray for or with them).
- Tell them you are here to listen if they need someone to talk to, and do it without having a quick solution to offer.
- If you need to criticize, do it constructively, privately, with love, and with a willingness to be a part of the solution.
- Bless them with the gift of time off to recoup, be restored, and get emotionally healthy.
In the end, our hope is firmly planted our identity in Christ and not in the praises of others, although they don’t hurt either. I know that He who is in me is great than he who is in the world and that is enough for me.
Things have gotten better because of medication, prayer, and a few close friends. The when the shadow of depression looms large, I remember that I am not alone and wanted you to know that you aren’t either.
I went first. I shared my story. I’d love to hear yours. Tell me:
Are you a Christian who serves publicly and deals with depression?
How are you coping with the down days?
What do you wish people understood about you?
What do you wish you could share publicly with those you serve with?
How can I pray for you?