Depression and the Ministry
- Thursday, April 10, 2014
A Common Scenario
Pastor Bill and his wife Lisa had a growing church and a good marriage, but something was wrong. For over six months Bill felt tired much of the time. He found himself snapping at his kids and growing more distant from his loving wife. His sermon preparation was arduous and he had lost the passion in the pulpit he once had. He was beginning to dread Sundays because he had to face his flock and deliver a message. He stopped doing the things he loved—riding his bike with a friend and even playing golf. He was eating more and exercising less.
Bill had lost his 1st wife years before, but had handled the loss amazingly well. He continued to preach and serve others with only a short period of grieving. Two years later he remarried a godly woman who had been friends with his wife. Other than his recent struggle with “motivation,” Bill and his new wife and family were doing great. Now his wife and the elders were concerned with what appeared to be burn-out. Was he having some type of mid-life crisis, was he in a spiritual slump, or did he have a physical issue going on that was sapping his energy? Bill couldn’t figure it out. He was spiritually dry, could not concentrate in prayer, and woke up many nights with anxiety. He came to counseling wondering what was going on and just wanted life to go back to normal.
Causes of Depression
Depression certainly can emerge from unconfessed sin as we see in Psalm 51 with King David, but depression can also be a part of suffering loss or being soul weary. There can also be complicating factors like a thyroid disorder, sleep apnea, or diabetes that may bring on depressive symptoms. It is important to do a thorough assessment and rule out physical factors before focusing on the heart.
The symptoms of depression can be like a dummy light on the dashboard, but, if ignored, they are more like a seized engine. Here are some common symptoms—see if you can identify these in Bill’s life or if you have any of them present in your own life.
Symptoms of Depression
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
Depression varies and is best thought of on a continuum from mild to severe. Mild depression might only include a few of these symptoms like fatigue, increased or decreased appetite, insomnia, periods of feeling down or sad, trouble concentrating, and/or loss of motivation. With youth, irritability and restlessness may be more predominant.
Moderate depression might also include periods of hopelessness, nagging physical issues, feeling alone, a loss of pleasure in most things that were once of high interest.
Severe depression is likely to include guilt, feeling of worthlessness, times of uncontrolled weeping and isolation, trouble functioning at work or even taking care of one’s basic needs, exhaustion and physical lethargy. If left unchecked it can lead to thoughts of suicide or suicidal behavior.
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