As a former full-time pastor whose work now often focuses on pastors, I understand the calls in the midst of the struggle, but often I feel ill-equipped to deal with the calls that surround issues of mental illness or suicidal ideation. Like you, I partner with agencies and entities in my community that can offer pastors the help that they need. And hopefully, most communities where pastors serve have such services available.
Yet, I sometimes get calls from pastors a thousand miles away who have nobody—it seems—to help them. I wonder how this has happened. I also wonder about those who are ministry leaders who don’t make the call, who suffer in silence, afraid to reach out.
This is, in part, because pastors are often seen as those who do not need help. They’re the ones who provide the help, not the ones who need it. Yet the harsh reality is that behind that curtain are pastors who are struggling and don’t know where to turn.
Finally, in part this is a misunderstanding of the gospel and the filling of the Holy Spirit. There is a perception, and a deeply dangerous one at that, that teaches that once we’ve been born again or are walking in the fullness of the Holy Spirit, the very real challenges of depression, of psychological struggle, of spiritual difficulty, of mental illness, cease.
This is a lie. And when we believe this, we make dangerous assumptions. We believe pastors, having become helpers themselves, do not themselves need help. At the same times, pastors often feel that if they let on they are struggling that their churches will think less of them and their ministry may become less effective. Indeed, there remains a stigma, one I’ve written on many times, but that is often forgotten.
After I tweeted about Jarrid, I received the below question, which is often asked concerning this issue: “If a minister confides to leaders in his church that they are contemplating suicide, do you think their ministry is over?”
Jarrid Wilson was not just a pastor, but he was actually an advocate in and around issues of mental health. Often, those who advocate have struggled themselves. That’s not always the case, but hurt often gives us a compassion and an empathy for those who struggle with similar issues.
私は、ジャリッドが思いやりを持ち、他の人たちに手を差し伸べてきたことに深く感謝している。私たちはライフウェイ・リサーチでの仕事などで、メンタルヘルスについて、また彼自身が持っていた願いについて話し合う機会があった。その願いとは、「牧師や教会リーダーが日々の生活の苦しみを乗り切ることができるように助けたい」という願いだ。彼は「Anthem of Hope（希望の賛歌）」という非営利団体を設立していた。
I’m deeply thankful for Jarrid’s compassion, and that he reached out to others. We talked on several occasions in and around our work at LifeWay Research about mental health and his own desire to help pastors and leaders make it through the struggles of day-to-day life. He founded a non-profit, the logo of which I used as the header for this article, called Anthem of Hope.
Yesterday, Jarrid ended his own life.
Jarrid would have told himself that suicide was never the right call. It leaves many behind. But I don’t write to say what Jarrid did was wrong. I write to say we need to do what Jarrid told us to do on his best days.
On his site right now, it says,
September is #SuicidePrevention month, and we want everyone to know that #YourLifeMatters!… We want everyone to know that God loves you, life matters, and you have a purpose in this world. Hope is here!
He is right.
First, we can grieve, and we do. Second, we can help his family, and we should. Third, we must aware of the struggles of mental illness that exist among pastors, clergy, church leaders, and many in our churches.
Fourth, for those who struggle, let’s seek help and be unashamed and unembarrassed to seek out that help. Let’s not let despair take ahold of us, but instead, may we—even in the midst of our pain and hurt—find the strength for one day at a time to trust God that he might use us to help others.
Fifth, let’s continue what Jarrid began . Jarrid will be missed, but his legacy will continue. We, the church, must speak more clearly about the fact that pastors are imperfect behind the curtain (and that’s okay), that there are places and ministries where we can turn, and that we must ultimately overcome the misunderstanding that an authentic Christian life somehow frees one from depression, mental illness, and struggle.
Wouldn’t it be great if a church could tell a minister coming onto a staff or a long time minister, “This is how we promise to care for you if you are in trouble, because you are caring for our people.”