That’s a sentence that might cause us to look twice.
We don’t expect pastors to take their own lives. They help people with their lives.
They talk about new life. They don’t end their own.
And yet another tragedy happened. Yet another well-known pastor—Jarrid Wilson—died by suicide.
Perhaps it should. Perhaps in some ways it brings us back to the reality of who pastors are and what they do. Perhaps the tragedy is compounded even more by the fact that so many of us are hearing about it on World Suicide Prevention Day.
Let me first say that many people have written many helpful things about suicide today, and they’re worthy of our reading and our attention. Some of them are by Christian leaders, and I often look to Rick and Kay Warren for what they might share. (See their comments here.)
Regrettably, one of the realities of the evangelical community is our hesitancy to look outside of our community for help. But truth be told—and I can attest from this very reality in my own extended family—these are important resources that can help us as we deal with the growing issue of mental health. Notably, it is important that all of us know the number of the suicide prevention hotline, for at some point we may need to use it. (That number is 1-800-273-8255, by the way.)
We must recognize this is a very real issue for all of us, including us pastors. Pastors, after all, are people too. And sometimes there are unique reasons pastors struggle with depression (and other issues). Let me share some of those reasons.
First, I think many times people in the church are unaware of what happens behind the curtain. The reality is that pastors struggle psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. They struggle sometimes with physiological realities in and around depression, and becoming a follower of Jesus and becoming a pastor does not necessarily make those things disappear. Charles Spurgeon was well known for his deep bouts with suffering and depression. Wheaton College president, Philip Ryken, transparently shared about his own struggle with depression.
But the reality is, it’s hard for us to look behind the curtain. I will tell you that most Sundays I can get up in front of a group of people and speak “my best life.” But there are also Mondays and Fridays where my best life is far from my concern, and so it is with many of us.