Fred Antonelli on Depression and the Dark Corner of the Church

From young Christian pastors and church leaders disposing of their faith like Josh Harris and others, to now tragic young pastoral suicides like Jarrid Wilson of Harvest Christian Fellowship and Andrew Stoecklein, former lead pastor of Inland Hills Church who took his life last August. These events are terrible, confusing and even alarming. And you know what? They should be because there’s a full-frontal attack by Satan on the church today and this time, he’s ambushing our “emotional stability” …and I might add with some real success.

In my 23 years as a former Sr. pastor and 24 years as a licensed mental health professional, I’ve not seen such an onslaught of emotional dysfunction within church leadership as I have today, in particular, within younger church leaders.

Look, the days of theologically naïve notions of not mixing mental wellness with your Christian faith-walk are over. As sure as there’s the, “…peace of God that surpasses all understanding…” there’s also the, “…walk[ing] through the valley of the shadow of death…” and if you’ve never experienced that yet…stay tuned, you will.

Martin Luther, the great Reformer himself suffered from depression, perhaps a major mood disorder, possibly even Bipolar. Luther described his feelings as: “melancholy, heaviness, depression, dejection of spirit; downcast, sad and downhearted.” He struggled with these issues much of his life and often spoke about them in his writings. The poor guy agonized so often that he ended up self-medicating on way more beer and wine than he ever should have! Listen to his declaration of emotional pain;

I spent more than a week in death and hell. My entire body was in pain, and I still tremble. Completely abandoned by Christ, I labored under the vacillations and storms of desperation and blasphemy against God.”

Here was a gigantic man of God, the “founder” of the entire Protestant Movement crying out in an emotionally painful and honest proclamation. Kind of like him saying…“I’m hurting here! Can you hear me? I both love God and at the same time the enemy is bombarding my mind with lie after lie that seems to be driving me mad!” Yes, Luther, the great Reformation designer struggled with depression. It was real in his life, and plagued him throughout his ministry.

Let’s take another man of God, King David. Listen to him as he emotionally laments and cries out to God in desperation…

Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God.” -Psa. 69:1-3

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” -Psa. 13:1-2

At times when listening to David in scripture, you would think that he was a candidate for Prozac (fluoxetine). Well, in my opinion, if Prozac had been available back then, he should have been on 50 mg a day at the least. I mean the guy was clearly depressed, and yes, perhaps even suffered with Bipolar 1 (elevated moods with high energy accompanied by abnormal behavior that disrupts life with episodes of depression).

Let me just say here that sadness is a very normal emotion that everyone of us experience from time to time. It could be the loss of a job, the end of a relationship, or the death of a loved one. Where sadness is usually caused by a specific situation, person, or event, depression on the other hand doesn’t necessarily have to be triggered by any of those things. A person suffering from depression feels sad or hopeless about almost everything. This person may have every reason in the world to be happy and yet they lose the ability to experience joy or pleasure.

Listen, whether you’re a follower of Jesus or not, depression is real in 3-D form throughout society and it can make you feel emotionally despairing, debilitating and even hopeless. And if you have a “Major depressive disorder”, like Jarrid Wilson and Andrew Stoecklein had, then this type of disorder has a high mortality rate, yes, like suicide.

We in the church, and particularly we in the ministry, have to start pulling our heads out of the sand and realize that mental health disorders exist everywhere, in every place there are people…and that means in THE CHURCH as well!

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Fred Antonelli