The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead.
So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed.
The issues of depression, burnout and suicide have become a serious topic in recent months. During a recent OMN Presbyters’ Meeting, we discussed the issues facing those in ministry today at great length and again reaffirmed our desire to provide the best encouragement we can as a fellowship for all our ministers.
According to a recent Christianity Today article, more than 10% of the American population deals with depression and burnout. It is reported that nearly 38,000 take their lives in our country each year. No doubt, there are people sitting in your church struggling with depression and burnout. They have felt like failures, have been overwhelmed with the stresses and pressures of disappointment, discouragement and defeat.
Since the beginning of this year, we have been hit with the grieving news that several high-profile ministers found themselves in such despair and darkness that they ended their lives. One of these ministers was a dear friend.
As a young minister, I had a personal bout with what the Psalmist describes in Psalm 143, “…my spirit grows faint…my heart within me is dismayed.” I had slowly allowed my faith to be overtaken by fear as a result of an unexpected and distressing medical issue. At the time I did not realize the impact the issue would have, but over time I allowed it to pull me into a defeated, distressed and depressed state. It was a dark time and the joy was squeezed right out of me. The enemy took advantage of this dark time and made every effort to crush me as described by the psalmist. Perhaps you can relate.
The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that you might have life, and have it to the full.
Although I was not clinically diagnosed, I can assure you it was a debilitating season of time. There are four actions that greatly helped me.
- I Admitted I Needed Help. This was not an easy step for me. My self-sufficient personality at first said, “I can handle this!” However, over time I realized I needed the encouragement and prayers of others.
- My Spouse Encouraged Me. Joy spoke into my life with encouragement and helpful honesty. Her daily prayers and words of affirmation were huge.
- The Word of God. Reading and confessing scripture sustained me. I found the light of scripture dispelled the darkness and countered the enemy’s lies.
- Physical Exercise. Taking care of my body with proper eating, activity and sleep contributed to a better state of my soul.
- Staying Connected with Supportive Friends. The temptation of isolation is strong in times like this. I found staying engaged with others brought me help and hope. In fact, it was the prayer of a dear friend that gave me a significant breakthrough.
Ultimately, I gained new victory, vitality and vision for my life. It has been 40 years since I walked through that dark season. Any time I feel the pull of discouragement, distress or depression, I remember the actions that helped me.
The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?
Truths to Remember
- Jesus loves you, and if he is for you, no one can stand against you.
- Your life matters to others far more than you will ever know.
- Even when you feel isolated, you’re never really alone.
- It is wise and healthy to seek out counseling.
- Oregon Ministry Network Pastoral Care – Larry Steller: 503-393-4411/425-478-1786
- AG Help Line: 800-867-4011
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255 (24 hours, every day)