On Why I’m No Longer Pastoring

“I can’t handle this anymore. Suicide has become a daily, hourly consideration for me. I can’t keep going. I will kill myself.”

I don’t remember if those were the exact words, but it was something like that when I broke down with Hannah, my wife, in August 2017.

Granted, I had been struggling for some time, but it got to the point where I could not continue going as we were.

We had moved to Louisville in 2010 with a call and a vision to plant a church (start a church) in the Highlands neighborhood.

Jesus brought some great people to come along side us, as well as faithful supporters that enabled us to accomplish the task.

God moved. God provided. And so, Destiny Church was born.

I stayed bi-vocational during the 7 years of being a part of leading Destiny. Which, had its pros and cons.

All in all, it became too much for me to carry.

Depression and anxiety set in. Suicide became an option. Actually, it seemed like the only option.

I did everything I was supposed to do: Prayer. Fasting. Bible study. Conferences. Time off. It only got worse.

So, I had to be done. For the sake of my marriage. For the sake of my family. For the sake of my relationship with God. For the sake of me. I had to be done.

It’s been a year now since that happened.

I’m in a much better place, but still struggle occasionally. Depression and anxiety take a toll and the wounds last for a while.

Whether I’ll ever step into pastoral ministry again is up to Jesus. Though, I don’t foresee it happening anytime soon, if ever.

At times I’ve had more questions than answers.

But one thing I do know is this: Jesus is faithful.  And His grace is sufficient.

Side note:

My experience isn’t unique.

There are many pastors who struggle with mental health. For many, they are afraid to talk about it due to the fact that mental health is taboo still in many Christian circles. Or, they don’t talk about it because it can be seen as a weakness.

And then, to top it off, it’s often oversimplified or written off as simply spiritual warfare. While I believe spiritual warfare is real, and pastors are often big targets, mental health is more than just a demon playing mind games. There is a real biological component.

If you are part of a church, pray for your pastor(s). They need it. Also, serve them. Babysit their kids. Make them dinner. Send them on a weekend getaway. Give them a sabbatical. Pay for therapy for them.

And if they need to be done, give them that grace to be done.

Pastors need help and they need a break. And some times they have to be done, like me.

Let’s Talk About Depression

Depression: I’m not referring to the temporary state of sadness that we all experience. Rather, I’m talking about a mental illness that affects people and nothing that’s done or said can snap them out of it. It can last for days, weeks, months or even longer.

It causes you to want to escape life, eat a lot or not at all, sleep a lot or not sleep at all, avoid loved ones, abuse things like drugs or alcohol and it possibly even leads to wanting to end it all.

Depression is serious and shouldn’t be discounted or laughed at.

I used to be a discounter. I used to not believe people when they blamed depression. I used to roll my eyes and think, “yeah, whatever… they just need to get over it.”

Until it happened to me.

And then suddenly I realized, they weren’t making this up and that depression isn’t something that one can just “get over”.

Sure, people can fake it… that can happen with anything. And sure, people are looking for something else to blame.

But when it’s all said and done, depression is real and we need to understand that fact.

Especially in the Church.

Of all people who have been charged to love without pretense… why is mental illness still taboo?

I do believe aspects of illness and disease (whether physical or mental) can be spiritually induced. But there’s also just the simple fact that we live in a broken world and our bodies are affected by that brokenness. We’re prone to disease, and that includes imbalances in our brains.

So what do we do?

If you are the friend or family member who knows someone that struggles with depression: love them. Listen to them. Understand the struggle is real. Don’t excuse it away. Take it seriously if they say they’re struggling. At the same time, you don’t have to have the answers, they just need to know you care. And if they’re talking ending it, encourage them to get medical help. Now.

If you are the one that’s struggling, know you’re not alone. Figure out what may be a trigger. For me, it’s sugar. I can’t have much sugar, otherwise, it will leave me seriously depressed for days. Sugar is a real trigger for me. So, I have to stay away from it. It sucks, but it’s a reality. So, figure out if you have a trigger. And if you do, figure out a plan to avoid it.

Also, find someone who will listen. Having a fellow human that cares is worth a ton. And I promise you’ll feel better after talking it through. It won’t solve the problem but it will help.

And know that God has not forgotten you. Depression is a real experience, even for followers of Christ. Jesus hasn’t left you, nor have you failed Him. A lie the enemy will tell you is that God doesn’t love you anymore and/or you’ve somehow offended God and He’s punishing you. That’s just not true. There is *no* condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Period.

Jesus does care and you can cast your burden on Him. Pour out your heart to Him. Know He listens and know He cares.

I do believe it’s possible to be supernaturally healed of depression, however, if for whatever reason that doesn’t happen instantly, it’s important to do what you can to help, while still looking to Jesus.

Depression is real and people need our help. This isn’t a one-time conversation, but a discussion about a real disease that needs to keep happening as long as people struggle. They need it and I need it… and one day, you may need it as well.

Fear

Fear is such a nasty foe. It always seems to find its way into our lives.

As a Christian, I’m encouraged not to fear, specifically because as Christians we trust God will take care of us.

But it’s not easy to trust and to not be fearful.

It’s hard not to be fearful when you wake up to discover your newly elected president is appointing an anti-Semitic, white nationalist to his staff. The unknown ramifications of this can quickly and easily bring fear.

It’s hard not to be fearful when your friends message you and say “pray, because gun shots have become a regular, nightly occurrence on our street.” The possibility of a bullet hitting their house, or one of their family members is all too real.

It’s hard not to be fearful when everything you thought you knew about something or someone is turned upside down, thus altering the course of your life.

So many unknowns. 

Yet, I must take solace in this…

I lift up my eyes to the hills.

    From where does my help come?

My help comes from the Lord,

    who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;

    he who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, he who keeps Israel

    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;

    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day,

    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;

    he will keep your life.

The Lord will keep

    your going out and your coming in

    from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 121