I talked to a friend a few days ago, and our conversation turned toward his pastor. His pastor is a mess, and not your typical everyone’s a sinner mess, but a dangerous mess. I immediately thought of Andrew Stocklein, the California pastor who took his life a few weeks ago.
Two years ago, I struggled through a bout of situational depression. I didn’t want to get out of bed, and I wasn’t excited about anything. I remember feeling like everyone would be better off if I just left. There were some other mitigating factors to this season of my life, but after several visits to the therapist, his diagnosis was situational depression.
Situational depression, as it was explained to me, is not like chronic depression. Chronic depression can last for years, even decades. Situational depression is sometimes diagnosed as a case of the blues, or a sad season in life. Situational depression is just as dangerous as the more familiar chronic depression, and if left untreated can cause just as much damage. Situational depression is not just a case of the blues. A case of the blues resolves itself within hours or days, or maybe a week. Situational depression brings on the same symptoms as chronic depression.
I think many pastors suffer from situational depression. What did I do?
- I sought help–I did not want to talk to anyone. My wife made me see a Biblical counselor. If you are suffering from either type of depression, you need to seek help. There are gifted Biblical counselors who will help. Many of them will give you a discount for their services because they are former pastors. My counselor was a former pastor and he has a heart for helping other pastors.
- I remembered that church is just church–In the course of my counseling, one of the brought up was me tying my self worth to church growth. He told me, “Tony, it’s just church.” What does that mean? Here’s what I came up with: God knows who will and who will not be saved. He even knows how His children will be saved. God knows who’s church will grow and who’s church will decline. My obedience or disobedience will not doom someone to hell, or send my church to its demise. It’s just church and when my life is over, the most important legacy I will leave behind are the relationships I’ve invested in, not the church I’ve served in. My counselor meant for me not to take church so seriously.
- It’s all about relationships–This goes with point number 2. The most important relationship is with God, and then with my family. 100 years from now, no one is going to care that I was the pastor of First Baptist Rich Hill, but some great great grandchild, during his baptism, will be thankful for his heritage of faith. He probably won’t know my name, but just the thought of investing in future generations of my family puts an extra bounce in my step.
- I bought into Financial Peace University–Did you know the number one cause of divorce in America is financial troubles? There are so many pastors who have made poor financial decisions, and those decisions lead to worry, anxiety, and situational depression. Pastor, if you are under mountains of debt, go to Dave Ramsey’s website and get Financial Peace University. It will make a world of difference.
- I stopped weighing my deeds–We tend to life with a scales mentality. We measure our good works verses our bad works, and if we’ve done enough good for the day, then we proclaim the day good. I looked at my day, some the good works I had done, and I said it was good, and there was morning and evening on the 28th of May. There are no scales in heaven. There is no system of weights and measure. There’s only grace, God’s abundant grace, poured out on us every day. Our Heaven;y Father is our biggest fan. He doesn’t hold a set of scales in His hand waiting for your bad works to outweigh your good works so He can zap you. I’ll write a full post on this in the future.
I’m still processing how God led me though that very dark time in my life. I don’t want to go back there ever again. It was scary. I may write a part 2 to this post, but for now, if you are struggling with any kind of depression, anxiety, stress, or nervousness that’s beyond the scope of everyday life, please reach out to someone.