Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Isolation vs. Connection

This week I read a statistic that said that 70% of pastors fight depression constantly. For full disclosure, I should note that while I do not fight it constantly, I do have my seasons of depression. Thankfully, running is often an extremely effective “medication” for this.  When I heard this statistic, I shared it on Facebook, and I got some interesting responses.

Among the responses were lack of privacy, politics (on local church levels as well as district and conference levels), poor time management skills, poor boundaries and/or the inability to say no, and an ability to hide depression well. One of the big problems for pastors is one of isolation; we are often held to an impossible standard, all the while being subject to unreasonable scrutiny and criticism for everything conceivable under the sun. If you add to that a tendency toward perfectionism (at least this is something I deal with; believe me – I am way harder on myself than any of you are on me).

As I was thinking about this, I realized that isolation is increasingly problematic for many people, not just pastors, but that’s why God organized us into the church! For me, I have found wonderful respite in my “clergy cluster” – a community group made up of fellow pastors who support each other, encourage one another, and even collaborate on sermon series. I have found a renewed sense of United Methodist connectionalism, but even moreso, I have experienced the love and support of my colleagues, and I no longer feel isolated. I believe God has made that kind of connection available for all of us, and He called that connection “Church.” We do not have to be isolated! God is so good!

No Christian needs to spend their time depressed and isolated. Jesus Himself calls us to “Come unto me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” And many times, Jesus takes the form of fellow Christians who come alongside and share the burden.  

The best thing for pastors (and everyone else!) to remember is that Jesus will carry our burdens. When things are at their most difficult, seek Jesus. The Bible tells us that God rewards those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews 11:6b). That is my prayer for all of us.

If you suffer from clinical depression, there is no shame whatsoever in receiving treatment. But for the daily malaise that many people experience, there is nothing like experiencing God’s Goodness to bring you through. I have found that when I spend my time communing with the Lord, things fall into perspective. There are times when I find myself in need of Truth, God’s Truth, which counteracts and nullifies the world’s lies. When you encounter those lies, speak God’s Truth – speak it aloud (there is power in the spoken word; after all; God made us in His image, and God spoke the world into existence). When I am reminded of how much God loves me, I am humbled and blessed. When I think about the fact that I am a vessel of the Holy Spirit, that God Himself has chosen to live in me, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

Another thing that I have found helpful when I’m down in the dumps is service. When I am serving someone else, I usually find myself being the one who gets uplifted. And it’s no wonder; Jesus says that when we serve “the least of these,” we are, in fact, serving Him. So we find ourselves in the immediate presence of Jesus Christ. How can we be anything but filled with joy?

Remember if you are one who struggles with depression that you are not alone. Tell someone who loves you and who you can trust to uplift you. Allow your church family to pray for you. And receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is a Spirit of Power, a power greater than everything we face on this earth!

1 comment:

Chad said...

Wow, Brian, thank you for this, I am really honored to read your thoughts on this. most of my friends are pastors. I love them. I love the church. BUT, I find that I get frustrated with their role at times. Too high of standards as you say, on themselves. I would almost go out there and say, to the point of sin, in that there are mus-construed imagery that is being displayed of what a human is, they are not perfect, not able to be the whole church, not that indispensable. One the flip side, the congregation I have seen at certain times, do the same thing, exalting a person over what God intended them to be.
I hope for transformation of the church, of our pastors. They are precious kids. Mental health is so important. Should care is included in that, I love what you describe there as helpful in battling being down. Connection is huge. Without it, we see the danger of sexual sin, the misfired desire for connection, take over and destroy. God help us.