Confessions of a Depressed Pastor

zo One day a girl called me and asked, “You struggle with depression, right?”  Following her question was a great conversation that I was very thankful for.  To this girl,  being able to talk to a Pastor – some one she respected and viewed as “normal”, but was still able to relate to her depression – lifted her spirit.  Little did I know, at that very moment she was contemplating suicide; calling me was the last potential straw of hope for her.

I’ve never considered actually taking my own life, but I’ve definitely been so depressed that I have really wanted to die.  I’m a pastor and am perceived by hundreds as having my stuff together.  But there have been instances when my depression was noticeable, such as a time at a local beach pier when I was tear-stained, huddled to the ground, and perhaps somewhat awkward and sketchy looking to passers-by.  (“Martha, what’s that youngster doing with a winter hat on? It’s hot as hell out here!”)

I joke around with my wife that I’m going to get the little “Zoloft cloud” tattooed on my arm; he’s cute and Zoloft has been helpful to me. But I don’t think I let depression define me.  I trust in God and I know He loves me.  I don’t think it’s my fault that I struggle with depression.  I know scripture and take comfort in it, but sometimes, like that day at the beach, I am dying inside with my heart crying out to God for even the smallest hint of relief.

I’ve struggled with depression since before High School.  In college and through my first two years of marriage it was an every-day uphill battle.  Since then, and currently, I don’t consider myself a “depressed person,” rather, I’m  a dude who occasionally struggles with depression.  As a professing Christian—someone who is supposed to sing proudly, “victory in Jesus, my savior forever”—there’s certainly been some confusion for me through the years.  There’s also been clarification of things that I have personally settled on as truths.

Here are some of those things:

1.  God’s grace is sufficient.  I call out to Him and ask, “Will you take this away, please?”  He often replies with, “No,” but assures me that He’s enough.  Sounds like 2 Corinthians 12:9. Thanks for nothing, God.  Wait, you have actually been all I’ve ever needed.  My b, G.

2.  I can’t help it.  Please don’t tell me to “snap out of it.”  If so, I’ll probably tell you to “snap out of” having an ugly face.  Not really, but for someone whose brain chemicals are truly out-of-whack like mine get sometimes, this isn’t very helpful, nor is it encouraging to hear.

3.  God’s original plan was perfect and depression wasn’t a part of it.  Can you imagine God saying, “Here you go, Adam.  Here’s Eve, here’s sex, here’s chicken wings, here’s fun, and last, but not least, here’s something I’m going to call…DEPRESSION!”  Yeah, neither can I.
(For the girls, “Here you go, Eve.  Here’s Adam, here’s emotional connection, here’s communication, here’s hummus and vegetables, here’s Pinterest, here’s fun.”)

4.  There are crappy things in this world that people go through.  Is it God’s will for me to never struggle with depression on this earth?  Should I pray for myself to never struggle?  Absolutely.  Should I pray that God miraculously gives Nick Vujicic some new limbs?  I guess.  Maybe not?  Look at the glory God receives through his story and life.  Praying that God’s will be done, regardless of our own desires, is what it’s about.

5.  This life isn’t what I’m banking on.  As long as I’m alive I have Jesus.  That’s enough.  In heaven I’ll have Jesus AND my salvation will be complete.  No more depression, no more curse, no more death, no more Carolina Gamecock victories in any sport.  Perfect.

6.  I’m only responsible for one day at a time.  I can’t be concerned about tomorrow, I can only steward today.  And sometimes, my only option for “today” is holding Jesus’ hand just to get through it and get to bed.  Is that what the bible is referring to when it talks about “perseverance”?

I’d like to think I’m a strong person.  Sinfully, I realize that I sometimes even like to be perceived as a strong person outside of Christ’s strength.  Depression is a reminder to me that this just ain’t the case.  Do you have a reminder of your frailty?

In the meantime, as far as my perception of depression is concerned, I’m open to being wrong.  However, may I tell you that I’ve been seeking God’s will in my life for a couple of decades now, so maybe I haven’t settled my convictions about depression on a whim?  I’m a stronger person for having gone through this, and every time I struggle in this area it brings me back to Jesus and the sufficiency of His grace.

Whether I am right or wrong, I’ll concentrate on being a light for Jesus, point to His glory, talk openly about my personal battle with depression, and perhaps comfort those with the same comfort that I’ve received (2 Corinthians 1:4).

In this post I’ve purposely avoided a thorough dissection of how a Christian is to deal with depression because I don’t want to simplify this into a formula when everyone’s situation is complex and unique.  Plus, I simply don’t have all the answers.  The only truth that I am willing to represent is to say that Jesus is the answer for all depressed and non-depressed people, Christian and non-Christian.  I hope this post can bring comfort to some folks who struggle like I do.

Thanks for reading.

Mental illness is a poor term, sounding like ‘it’s just your mind.’ But a broken brain is as physical as a broken bone.” – Rick Warren

What do you think?

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