Dealing With Depression

There have been a number of high-profile deaths in the past week. Among them were Britain’s former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, movie critic Roger Ebert, and original Mouseketeer Annette Funicello. But the death that has the Christian community abuzz was that of Matthew Warren, the 27-year-old son of Pastor Rick Warren.

warrenMatthew Warren took his own life late Friday at his Mission Viejo home. He had struggled with mental illness, deep depression, and suicidal thoughts throughout his life, Saddleback Valley Community Church said in a statement, after his body was found Friday night. “Despite the best health care available, this was an illness that was never fully controlled and the emotional pain resulted in his decision to take his life,” the church said. Tom Holladay, teaching pastor at Saddleback Church in Orange County, said Sunday the congregation would face the tragedy together, “as a church family.”

Rick Warren and his wife had enjoyed a fun Friday evening with their son. But their son then returned home to take his life in “a momentary wave of despair.” Warren posted a message on both Twitter and Facebook Sunday saying he was “overwhelmed” by the love and support the family had received after the apparent suicide of the youngest of his three children.

How do you help the sorrowful or depressed person? When was the last time you read Psalm 88? I’m telling you — that writer was a man who was really going through some rough water. I think you will agree that the psalmist suffered from mood swings.

From 5 to 12 percent of men suffer from clinical depression at some time in their lives, along with 10 to 25 percent of women. Those who do suffer depression will most likely not seek treatment, even though it is a treatable illness.

I have been, at one time or another, in that percentage of men who have suffered from depression. Many type-A personalities do. The sadness and darkness were miserable, and I have prayed for that veil of sadness to lift. I have carried on a schedule that was filled with smiles and joy on the outside while, on the inside, I was dying. When the veil lifted, it was wonderful.

As a pastor, you have probably counseled members of your congregation suffering from depression. My colleague, please do not overlook those under your care who live their lives in sadness.

But what about you? Are you floundering in the depths of depression? If so, what should you do?

The first steps to wellness are a physical examination by a physician, prayer with a colleague, and openness with your spouse. Don’t be too proud to admit that you need help and the support of others.

One of the most painful expressions from Scripture is found in Psalm 88:18: “The darkness is my closest friend.” I pray that never becomes your expression.

Here’s a list of scriptures that might help you yourself and/or other people touched by your ministry as you guide them back to wholeness:

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

‘‘A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair” (2 Corinthians 4:8).

“We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield” (Psalm 33:20).



©HB London. Originally posted March 8, 2013 on HB London’s, The Heart of a Pastor Blog.