Thoughts of a Depressed Pastor: 4 Steps to Escaping Depression

My name is David. And I’m a pastor who deals with bouts of depression.

I don’t write as one who is specialized in the medical or psychological field, but as one who fights a personal battle while refusing to let others stand alone in theirs. My depression is considerably lower than others, and happens perhaps, less frequent as yours. I will not compare my pain to yours but would implore you from the beginning of this post:

You are not alone.
You have hope.
You can get help.

Out of all of my blogs, my last blog on depression from August 11, 2014 is, by far, the most read and shared article I’ve ever written. It tells me that there are thousands out there that have experienced this “darkness” and/or know someone who does. And lately, I’ve felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to write another blog on the “funk” that shows up periodically in my life.

My two goals in writing this: First, to help bring a bit of clarity to those who absolutely do not understand those of us who deal with this. If I can remove some ignorance to create compassion, then I see blog as a “win.” Second, to give a clear message of hope. I want to confront the feelings of hopelessness that you have with the truth of who Christ is. And the rule I live by: Truth always trumps feelings. My emotions and feelings will rise and fall, but truth remains solid. And the truth I remind myself is this:

Regardless of my emotions, I must purpose to fix my eyes on God (Psalm 42:5).
I have victory in Christ (Romans 8:37)  and nothing can separate me from His unconditional love (Romans 8:38-39).
Christ is with me regardless of whether my senses can detect Him (Isaiah 43:2Matthew 28:20).
Jesus is my light in the midst of my darkness (2 Samuel 22:29).

Often, when reading scripture, I come across scenarios that make me leap up and say, “That’s exactly how I feel.” And when I think about how to describe to people what I deal with, I think about a man named Bartimaeus.

And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside.  Mark 10:46

Two strong words jump out at me: “blind beggar.” Why? Because feeling “blind” and “begging for help” is what I personally experience physically, mentally, and emotionally. My senses are numbed and and cannot detect any direction to take.  I get this “feeling” of being immobilized and unable to move forward. Things that should make sense don’t. I feel like stationary while the rest of the world is passing by.

And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. – Mark 10:47

There are two crowds in this story. The obvious crowd tried to shut him up. Perhaps they’ve gotten so used to seeing him in his condition, that they had become calloused. I like to think they responded out of ignorance of not knowing what to say to Bartimaeus (I’m trying to give them the benefit of the doubt). But perhaps they were so busy about their day and/or they were so preoccupied with what THEY might receive from Jesus, they didn’t want Barimaeus to interrupt their experience.

Can I implore you of things to NOT say to someone dealing with depression? Things like:

  • “Cheer up.”
  • “Just don’t think about it.”
  • “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”
  • “There are a lot of people worse off than you?”
  • “Have you been praying/reading the Bible?”
  • “You’re just looking for attention.”
  • For an extensive list click here.

But there’s another crowd in this story. It is the people who let him know that Jesus was near. How do I know THAT crowd was there? Bartimaeus didn’t see Jesus passing by. He didn’t hear Jesus. Nothing about Bartimaeus’ senses detected Jesus himself. He leaned upon what others were telling him.

So many people think, because they’ve never dealt with this condition that someone is experiencing, there is nothing you can say or do. But note: not a single person in the crowd was blind. But their presence and their words helps Bartimaeus know how near Jesus was. This may be the most pivotal role that you can play in someone’s life who’s fighting this darkness. Your presence (personal interaction) and your words can help people to know that Jesus is near.

What can you say?

  • “I’m here. What can I do?”
  • “I don’t fully understand, but I’m not going anywhere.”
  • “You are loved.”
  • “Can I pray for you right now?”
  • “Can I call you later to check in on you?”
  • For an extensive list, click here.

And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” – Mark 10:47 

Don’t give up. Regardless of whatever voices in your head or in your life that keep telling you to give up, refuse to stop reaching out and crying out. Refuse to give up hope even when you cannot see it. Bartimaeus couldn’t sense how close or far Jesus was. His feelings didn’t dictate Jesus’ presence. Jesus was there. I’m reminded of the name the prophet Isaiah spoke of Jesus. He is “Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).” It doesn’t say “God used to be with us” or “God was with us.”

He is God with us now. He is God with us always.

And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” 50 And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way. – Mark 10:49-52

I love those three words. “And Jesus stopped.” You may feel like Jesus has passed you by. He hasn’t. You emotions will make you feel like you are forgotten. You are not. You may struggle with feeling loved (love by others or loved by yourself). Know that you are loved with an everlasting love. And there are four thoughts I want to give you.

1 – Find a trusted soul to be your eyes. It says in verse 49, “Take heart. Get up; He’s calling you.” Jesus didn’t pass him by. And again, Bartimaeus couldn’t detect that Jesus had stopped to help him. But those around him encouraged him with seven simple words. You need to find trusted people in you life that love you where you are at and love you enough to speak the truth in love to you. This person (or these people) needs to be someone who knows the hope in Christ and can direct your mind’s eye to that hope. The enemy works in isolation; God works in community. Get one person; get a couple of people. Allow those who love Jesus, and love you, help you know Jesus is near.

2 – Reject what the darkness is telling you. Darkness cannot compete with the light. So the only way to keep you in darkness is to contain you in it. Verse 50 says, “And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.” There is that cognitive decision (a personal decision) to reject what the darkness has been telling you. I love that he didn’t have to see his miracle before he decided to “throw it off.” Darkness will lie to you. Darkness will try to distort your senses. But the more you reject what it tells you and the more you remind yourself of the truth, the greater strength you will have to “spring up” and come to Jesus.

3 – Tell Jesus what you need. I don’t think Jesus was ignorant to Bartimaeus. But verse 51 is such a powerful transition. It says, “…I want to recover.” He confronted his “condition” that claimed his identity. He was ready to move forward from it.  Even with those in the crowd willing to help him, he still needed to make that personal decision to confront his darkness and bring it to Jesus.

4 – Keep following Jesus. Verse 52 says that he “recovered” and “followed him (Jesus) on the way.” Following Christ doesn’t mean I don’t have struggles. Even David remarked “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.” It’s not a question of “if” but “when.” We all face tough times. But what I learn from following Jesus consistently helps me in the times of struggle. I lean in the darkness what I learned in the light.  And the more I walk with Christ, the greater foundation I have and the deeper the well I have to draw from.

I don’t know who you are or where you find yourself. But I remind you of what I said earlier:

You are not alone.
You have hope.
You can get help.

I love you. I’m praying for you today. There are those around you that can help.

And most importantly, regardless of your senses, Jesus is here. And he’s with you.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: This is the song on repeat during the ENTIRE time I’ve written this blog

 

14 comments

  • Thank you for that! I battle PTSD with my demons too. I live with people whom believe this is fake or attention getter. How do you fight this? What do you do when talking, books or self help yet still does not listen. I feel lost and falling further away.

    • That is a huge struggle. When people are acting out of ignorance and don’t fully understand the depth of what PTSD really does. You almost have to approach their comments in a way that sees it through a lens of ignorance while knowing that you’ve got to make the health decisions that you know your mind and body needs.

  • I’ve battled depression for 10 years. I also pastor and many days I feel so alone and misunderstood. Thanks for your words of encouragement.

    • Thanks for reading it. I’m hoping that we can encourage more pastors to not show us feel the freedom to admit it but also give some tools to help.

  • Thank you for your openness, especially today! I am a 70 year old born again and Spiritfilled woman who has fought with severe depression for 58 years! The episode I am dealing with now started in October. I am the cheerleader for Jesus, head of innercessory prayer team (former) and group leader and teacher on “Hearing God’s voice”. I say all this because for years I have struggled with pastors who have insisted that depression is a demon
    And I need deliverance not medication! Oh If only that were true
    I would of been healed years ago, when for 3 hours a dear pastor bound, rebuked and commanded this spirit to leave. I finally faked like it had come out so he could rest and I could leave. On the way home I seriously fought driving into a tree and ending it all! I have spent much time in helping pastors understand the dangers of mishandling mental illness with their congregation! I am so thankful for your understanding and the progress you have made 🙏
    My psychiatrist of 15 years moved
    To California and I have been with out
    Therapy ( my GP has prescribed and tried to help, but I need a phychiatrist
    That is a Christian if there is one. Could you recommend ?

    • That breaks my heart that emotion issues are placed in the “demonic” category. I’m so sorry that you’ve had to endure those things.

      I love doctors and nurses. I am in no way against medications. I think all of them are a tool that God can used BUT believe the He provides the healing.

      I’ve got connections to both Karen Weeks at Desert Streams and Barry Bringham at Cornerstone Counseling. Please feel free to contact them and let them know I connected you (it doesn’t benefit me at all but will help them know how they got connected to you).

  • Dave, This spoke to me so much. I don’t deal with depression but instead chronic stomach issues that at times leave me feeling overwhelmed and I can’t see the Lord near me. I will be reading this over and over. Blessings

    • This made my morning. Thanks so much for reading. Will be continuing to pray over you and these chronic stomach issues

  • Great post, Dave. Praying that many hurting folks will come upon it.
    Praying others who have been mis- informed will also read it.

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