One Pastor’s Struggle with Depression

Struggling with depression as a Christian

I understand your difficulty and suffering as you struggle against depression. I too have gone through the darkness of depression. I struggled once with depression because of antibiotics prescribed to treat double pneumonia, which I contracted five years ago. That was when I first experienced the strange condition called depression, but it came and went after I stopped taking the antibiotics. However, a few years ago, I had an intense battle with the “black dog” that lasted about 4 months after having contracted Covid and Encephalitis in July of 2020, which caused a descent into a long period of horribly dark days of depression. Encephalitis, which I contracted from Covid, caused great emotional difficulties, which I have never experienced before. The encephalitis virus did much damage to my brain’s emotive lobe, which caused pendulum-like emotional swings. This further exacerbated my battle against depression, and intensified my struggle in running the race Christ has set before me.

And even though I am currently not in a state of depression, I still have days when a strange funk comes over me. And I will say, since I walked through those difficult months of depression, many things in my life are just not the same. It seems that my joy has been sapped and I often struggle to laugh and enjoy the little things of life. Some things I used to enjoy have become more of a burden rather than a delight, and it’s difficult for me to understand and explain. I have always loved serving the Lord and His church as a pastor, but it is much harder after the battle with depression and the subsequent emotional struggles I experience from day to day. When the strange funk comes upon me, I feel saddened, unproductive, unprofitable, useless, and I just want to disappear. When days get dark, I begin questioning whether I should continue in pastoral ministry as it is extremely hard to care for Christ’s congregation when I am broken and in need of help, strength, support, and encouragement. It’s during those difficult days that I begin convincing myself that I ought to go and do something else and retire altogether from pastoral ministry.

If you have walked through depression, I know you understand what I am saying, but it’s extremely difficult to tell people who have not experienced the darkness of depression. You quickly learn not to tell too many people because they think you are out of your mind, and they simply don’t understand you or what you’re experiencing. Some laugh, some are condescending, some look confused, some are unconcerned and disinterested in your problem, and some are extremely careless with their words. Too many professing Christians simply don’t know how to help or respond, which brings further depression as you continue to walk alone (humanly speaking) in the darkness. Telling a depressed person to “just suck it up” or “just get over it” is not encouraging nor helpful. This is hard because the Lord created us with a need for human companionship. “It’s not good that man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). During the dark days is when we especially need someone to walk with us because we can often think irrationally and allow our emotions to run wild. Yes, the Lord Jesus is always with us, and He will never depart from us, but we still have a need for human companionship. People that are left alone in the darkness of depression long enough often walk down the path to suicide, and there’s no one there to help restrain them from such desperate measures.

In my own experience, it was during these dark days that the blessed Holy Spirit brought a text of Scripture to my mind from 2 Corinthians 12. This is where the Apostle Paul struggled with the “thorn in the flesh,” which kept him walking in humility. It would be easy to get puffed up if one received an “abundance of revelations” from the Lord as did the Apostle Paul. So, the Lord sent him a humbling device. Paul said, “a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.” The Apostle Paul dealt with this perpetual “thorn in the flesh” in this way: “Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (vv. 8-10). After three seasons of prayer to the Lord to remove the “messenger of Satan,” Jesus said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, Paul resolved to submit to the Word of Christ, who said He was using Paul’s weakness as an occasion to bring glory to God. This was a delight to the Apostle Paul and therefore he resolved to take pleasure in his difficulties and infirmities so that Christ might be exalted through him. It was simply a matter of perspective. Paul chose to see and understand all these difficult things through the lens of Scripture, which transformed his mind and perspective toward suffering.

Sometimes the Lord keeps us lingering in difficult days to cause us to grow further in sanctification. He causes us to realize more and more that the help of man is futile, not unnecessary, but futile unless they guide us to Jesus. The Lord alone can lift us out of the pit of depression, despair, and anxiety. Proverbs 12:25, “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.” The only human helpers that are profitable are those that walk with us and point us to Jesus. Like the lame, sick, depressed, and demon-possessed people in the Gospels, godly friends would always bring them to Jesus for healing. Godly friends don’t let us stray, but keep turning our eyes back to the Savior, they keep bringing us to the Wonderful Counsellor! Jesus alone is our Hope! He is our Shield! He is our Protector! He is our Joy and Peace! He is our Good Shepherd! He is our Comforter! He is our All in All!

Psalm 94:19, “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.” So, it is imperative to find godly counsellors that keep directing our path back to the Christ of Scripture and prayer, which are the means of grace by which God sanctifies and strengthens His people. It’s also imperative that godly counselors are aware of fellow believers who may be struggling with depression. They need to seek them out and help them with their struggles, so they are not left alone to fall through the cracks! Godly counselors speak words in due season by applying God’s Word to our situation or circumstance. Words spoken in due season are the encouraging words that are like apples of gold in settings of silver. Proverbs 25:11-13, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear. Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest is a faithful messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the soul of his masters.” All believers ought to be equipped with the Word of God in order to help a fellow believer who is struggling with depression since the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 15:14, “Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” The English word “admonish” is translated from the Greek word “noutheteo”, which means “put to mind.” And what we are putting to mind to fellow struggling believers is the promises, principles, and precepts of God’s Word. This is the healing balm that the Holy Spirit applies to the wounded heart of the child of God to lift them from the darkness of depression to life-giving, life-reviving, life-altering Hope, which is Christ! As the writer to the Hebrews tells us, hope in the promises of God is “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil” (Heb. 6:19).

So, discouraged, depressed, downcast Christian, do as the Psalmist did in Psalm 42 & 43, and speak the Word of God to your own heart. Don’t let your heart speak but speak the Word of God to your heart. This is one means, the chief means, that the Lord uses to strengthen our heart as we battle against depression, hopelessness, anxiety, and loneliness.  Pray and acknowledge your depression. Ask the Lord for help. Ask Him to prepare you to be a help to others. Speak the promises of God to your heart. Sing Psalms. Listen to prayers. Listen to godly music. Go for a walk in the sunshine. But don’t walk through the darkness of depression alone because you are not alone. The Lord is always with you, I am here for you, and there are many godly Christians ready and willing to help you as well. Remember, the Church is a body with many members! When you struggle with the difficult days of depression, reach out to a fellow believer who is mature in the faith and can daily walk with you and bring you, again and again, to the Wonderful Counselor, the Savior Jesus Christ. He, my suffering friend, is the Lover of our soul and He cares for His sheep with an infinite love. Keep running to Him, keep calling upon Him, for He will, in His perfect time, bring you into the Light, which will cause the darkness to flee, and this will cause you to, “Rejoice in the LORD and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name” (Psalm 97:12) 

Rev. Scott Henry

The Son of God is not Forsaken

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