Depression, Suicide and Our Response

Are you living a life worth following? As a pastor in our community, I want to be known as someone who loves God with all of my heart, as someone who serves his family well and has never sacrificed them on the alter of ministry. And, I desire to be known – not for the things I am against, but rather for the things I am for: that all may come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord and be committed to a life of growing in Christ and in the knowledge of God’s Holy Word. 

However, I also know that there is a great problem amongst the believing world, and within the church. So then, in light of recent events (the suicide of a well known pastor this month), I want to share something with other Disciples of Christ: I am pastor who struggles with anxiety and anxiety based depression. I need to take medicine every day. Without it I struggle to process things correctly and this has an impact on many parts of my life.

As a pastor in my community, I deal with people that are battling addiction, in the midst of affairs, addressing anger, doubt, disbelief, and those who struggle with gossip, and grief – plus, many other things. The last thing that I would do is to tell them: “Just have more faith in God…” Yet, many call into question the faith of those pastors or believers who struggle with depression or anxiety. For some of us, we have chemical imbalances or we have deep life issues that, although we are committed to working on, require time and the right tools along the way to help us experience healing and to move forward, daily, by God’s grace.

I share this because there needs to be an awareness that this is a very real thing in ministry, in the church, and in our communities. This is something that a lot of us fight every day, and many ministry leaders battle each weekend when we step down from the pulpit and seek to live out Biblical truth.

So in light of recent events like that pastor’s struggle with depression and his suicide this month, and with October being called “Pastor Appreciation Month” – I ask you to be the people of God who make sure their pastor knows you are praying for them. And, be the people of God who will, with authenticity, help those struggling with issues of the heart and mental health issues as well. Don’t stay silent. Pray. Encourage. Invest in real relationships that speak louder than the gauntlet of depressing and doubt-filled thoughts. I spend a lot of time with other pastors in my community and I can say this of most of them: they are on their knees in prayer – praying for you and this community, daily investing in Kingdom minded work that often times takes years to bear fruit. At every turn along the way, there will still be elements of discouragement. There are constantly people walking away from the church, angry without cause, silently critical, yet your pastor still prays for these people with a heart that, often times, is broken and hurt and confused.

I say all of this from personal experience. Never think that a short but genuine word of encouragement, or a simple email or note is going to cause anyone to get a huge head. If anything, it might be exactly what we need at that moment, so let the Holy Spirit use you to encourage those who are broken and hurting, including your pastor. 

69743655_10157347863161698_3867204925733732352_oFor those struggling with anxiety, depression and other aspects of mental health – there is hope. His name is Jesus. Cling to Him. Run to His Holy Word and rest in His promises for your life, for all of our lives. Don’t give up. We are not weak. We are not weak in faith. We are like everyone else: sinners in need of grace, mercy and encouragement from God the Father and from God’s people. If you need help, reach out. Tell someone. As something Pastor Jarrid Wilson often said: “Hope Gets the Last Word!”

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with suicidal thoughts, reach out for help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at tel:1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Here is some of the Scriptures I have used, and encourage you to use, to regain your focus on God, His TRUTH and the HOPE we have in knowing Him and His promises…

Zephaniah 3:17 – “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

Psalm 107:14 – “He led them from the darkness and deepest gloom; he snapped their chains.”

Psalm 30:5 – “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

1 Peter 4:12-13 – Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.”

Psalm 37:23-24 –The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.”

Isaiah 41:10 – “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

2 Timothy 1:7 – “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

Psalm 42:5-6 – “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you…”

John 16:33 – “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

(Adapted, originally written for the “Nevada Appeal” and their Faith & Insight Article, Sept. 21, 2019)

conquering fear

My children just completed their second week of swim lessons. We did a two-week class last year and saw first-hand how they learned to not fear water (pools & lakes) as much anymore. This year we hoped to build on this and what I witnessed in my kids made me so proud.


On the last day in this two-week class, all of the kids in their groups are taken to the diving board and the water slide. Those who are willing to climb up on the board are able to jump off. (Now one of the swim teachers walks out with them and another teach is already in the water.)

With a 3 year old and a 5 year old, the teachers are very hands on. Both of our kids in the class climbed up on the diving board. I could see in the younger one the fear as she gripped the side-rails and wouldn’t walk forward. I yelled at the top of my lungs: I believe in you; you can do this – be my brave girl! Both kids, with the help of their teachers, made it off the diving board and into the water below.

Then out at the slide the oldest one had already gone and she loved it. Last year she cried so hard at the top of the slide that her teacher had to carry her down the stairs. This year she climbed those same stairs and slide down the slide that she feared so much. Afterwards she told us that this was funnest thing she had ever done. I watched her swim in the pool after with more confidence and more happiness now then ever before. Funny how facing a fear and conquering can bring so much joy and courage.

As the younger one went out to the slide with her class you could see how scared she was and she was saying how she didn’t want to slide down the water slide. Yet, she did and as she came down the slide her whole family cheered her on as loud as possible. Everyone there saw her whole family join in the excitement and joy of her facing her fears.

As a father, nothing makes me prouder than to see my children face their fears and then, to have victory over those things that they are fearful of. And yet, I can only imagine that what I experience as a parent with my own children is just a small fraction in comparison to the joy our Heavenly Father has when we, as His beloved, face our fears and then gain victory over what holds us captive and fearful.

What fear needs to be faced and conquered in your life? Is it with something like honesty? Have you failed to be honest about something or with someone over a specific issue? Or is fear keeping you from making a change that you know you need to make? Has fear held you captive from the joy that freedom over fear brings?

Psalm 23 is a very popular section of Scripture. Verse 4 is a vital part of the amazing promise God has for those who trust in Him. It says:Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” In God’s presence, we lack nothing! No matter what fear we face, when we abide in Christ and He and in us – then we can take comfort in knowing God is with us even in that moment or season of fear that we face. 

Max Lucado, in his book “Fearless” asks the question in chapter 1 – “Why are we afraid?” (Click here to read chapter 1) In this chapter he not only answers this question but he goes on to say that: “Christ-followers contract malaria, bury children, and battle addictions, and, as a result, face fears. It’s not the absence of storms that sets us apart. It’s whom we discover in the storm: an unstirred Christ.” In this life we all have to face our fears. Would you rather live life a slave to your fear or in freedom and joy over your fear? The choice is yours and the Lord is willing to fill you with His strength and courage to help face and conquer your fears. He is also right there, cheering you on and interceding on your behalf for He longs for you to be free from the fears that pull on you and control you.

Isaiah 41 is powerful chapter in the Bible on encouragement. In verse 13 we are specifically encouraged by a promise straight from God: “For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, do not fear, I will help you.” Often times we struggle with trust – especially with God. We struggle trusting that God will provide and transform. We struggle in our faith and in our belief that the Lord is truly there to help us.

Yet, in an interview with Dr. David Jeremiah, he says: “Christians are not immune to fear. It isn’t sinful to fear; Christians experience fear. Fear isn’t necessarily an evil thing; it’s what fear does to us, when we allow it to take over in our lives.” His book on fear looks at a “Top 10 List” of fear and then goes to God’s Word for the answers. Our faith and God’s Word can help us conquer the fears we face – we just have to trust and believe in God’s Word and then seek His Word out for our source of deliverance. When we truly do this, God’s Holy Word transforms us and equips us to be successful in conquering the fears that we face.

God longs for each of us to know Him personally and to know who we are in Him. This moves us beyond a head knowledge about Him or even the Bible, to a deeper encounter of intimacy with the Lord and His Holy Word that daily changes us and stretches us. 2 Timothy 1:7 says: “For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline.” Are you truly walking in who God has called you to be – fearless? Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

May you turn and face those things you fear the most. May you do so centered on the truth that God loves you and that He wants you to encounter an “unstirred Christ” as you face those fears. And may you long more for the peace of Christ then the pain of fear and thus be so compelled to stop at nothing less than to seek the joy of the Lord as you breakthrough those barriers of sin and self and conquer those fears that are holding you back.