CONFESSIONS OF A DEPRESSED PASTOR

Struggling with depression does not make you a bad Christian. In fact, even your own pastor may struggle with it. In this post, Joey opens up about his own battle with chronic depression as a way to bring this topic to light. He's battled with it since high school, but in the highs and lows, he describes how the struggle has strengthened his relationship with Christ. Make sure to look out for an upcoming podcast about this topic in 2 weeks!

“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.”

One day, a girl called me and asked, “You struggle with depression, right?” Following her question was a great conversation that I was thankful for. To this girl, just being able to talk to a pastor–someone she respected and looked up to–and yet one who was 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 life. I’ve definitely been so depressed that I’ve really wanted to die. I’m a pastor and am perceived by hundreds as having my stuff together. There have been instances, such as a time at a local beach pier when I was tear-stained, huddled to the ground and perhaps somewhat awkward/sketchy 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 because 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. My heart cries out to God for just a hint of relief.

I’ve struggled with depression since before high school. In college and through my first 2 years of marriage, it was an everyday uphill battle. Since then, I don’t consider myself a “depressed person,” but rather a dude that 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’ve personally settled on as truth. Here are some of those things:

1. God’s grace is sufficient. I call out to Him and ask, “Take this away, please.” He often says “no,” but assures me that He’s enough. Sounds like 2 Corinthians 12:9. Thanks for nothing, God. But wait, you actually have been all I’ve needed.

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, this is neither helpful nor 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!”

(For the girls, “Here you go, Eve. Here’s Adam, here’s emotional connecting/talking, here’s humus, here’s fun”)

4. There’s 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? Sure. 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.

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 to just get through it and get to bed. Is that what the Bible is referring to when it talks “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 is not 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 and 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 simplicity 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 that 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.