This past week, I asked the people in my small group to pray for me, because while most people see me and I appear to always be up and ready for anything, the reality is that I am sometimes facing and fighting depression! I have not been clinically diagnosed, but I know myself pretty well and I know the symptoms. Every person handles it differently and there are a lot more people suffering with depression than realize it and are willing to admit it.
This should not really be a surprise to anyone that knows anything about pastors that love God and love people. Our love drives us to the very edges and sometimes over the edge in an attempt to show and prove that love!
In the September/October 2000 edition of Physician Magazine, Dr. Walt Larimore, vice president of medical outreach at Focus on the Family, along with Rev. Bill Peel reported, “surveys indicate that 80 percent of pastors and 84 percent of their spouses are discouraged or are dealing with depression. In addition, more than 40 percent of pastors and 47 percent of their spouses report that they are suffering from burnout.”
The truth in my life is this: The only thing that keeps me going a lot of days is my relationship with God through Jesus Christ! I would have thrown my hands up and quit life a long time ago, if it wasn’t for the sustaining power and amazing grace of God that continually flows into and through my life.
Here are some steps that I am taking as I seek to allow God to heal me and give me victory:
1.) Admission is the first step to real healing! If you don’t admit and acknowledge that you have a challenge, then you cannot really overcome and experience victory! Just my getting it out, so that my family and friends know it and having the knowledge that they are praying for me, makes a huge difference! It is not the only thing, but it is a very important thing! It lets me and them know – I am not Jesus, just simply one of His servants and that’s okay!
2.) Unloading The Truck Is Important! When I talk with people who are living in frustration or depression, one of the things that I will encourage them to do is “unload their truck” by just getting out of their system and off their shoulders all that is bothering them! This is hard for ministers, because we can’t do this with just anyone. This is why it is very important to invest some time in building some trusting relationships with people who will allow you to unload your truck. This is hard work, but well worth the effort in the long run and it’s the long run that matters!
3.) Make time for physical exercise! Repeated studies have shown that cardiovascular exercise is very beneficial, because it boosts the level of serotonin, which is the neurotransmitter that regulates mood. Most of us do not think we have the time to exercise and if something has to be cut from the agenda, then this is usually what gets cut. We cannot minister effectively and powerfully, if we don’t take care of ourselves. Make the time even when you don’t see or feel the value. Physical exercise is working inside and out for your healing!
4.) Rest And Family Matter More Than You Realize! Most of us ministers do not know how to rest and relax. Our heart, spirit and mind tend to get stuck in the on position! Even when we are sitting in a chair or laying in bed, it does not mean that we are resting. And when we are spending a little time with family and should be relaxing, we are often doing everything, but relaxing! This is something that we have to retrain ourselves to do! When you are in a chair, in the bed or spending time with family, you have to make yourself think about doing it right and not on auto-pilot! God gave you rest and family, so that you could be replenished with the good stuff of relaxation and relationship. Don’t miss what God gave you!
5.) Spiritual Discipline Has To Be More Than The Motions! I saved this one for last, because this is one that we can fool ourselves into believing that we have taken care of! Just because you are going through the motions, does not mean that you are doing anything of significance for yourself or the Kingdom. Make sure that your devotion time with God is about your growing in relationship with Him. There is nothing that can give you what this gives you!
You may not consider yourself to be a minister, but these five steps will help you, if you take them. Let’s take these steps together and be amazed at where God takes us!