Dear Leader, part 10 (Biblical Honesty About Ministerial Depression)

This exercise is a continuation of a series we started at Grace with our leadership while I served as interim there. For those who are not pastors or deacons, but who lead in some capacity in any arena of life, these books are a tremendous resource in Scripture. I encourage all of those who would be called leaders or who oversee to take advantage of these notes geared specifically toward leadership or roles with much responsibility.

2 Timothy 1

v. 1-2

Paul wrote a second letter to Timothy, his student and one of the young men he mentored and was mentoring in the faith and the positions they held. He clarifies that he is an apostle by God’s will and states that the purpose of this letter is for the sake of the promise of life in Christ Jesus. Paul puts all of the focus, again, on Jesus, and writes another letter in keeping his own instruction to Timothy in the first letter to further God’s administration by faith.

As we lead, disciple, mentor, and fulfill the callings that God has placed on our lives, Christ is the central focus. We are what we are by God’s will to further His administration for the sake of the promise of life in Christ Jesus. Our concern is sharing the promise of life that is found in Jesus. So many times, we are distracted by other momentary things.

v. 3-5

Paul thanked God for Timothy and prayed for him, sharing that fact to encourage him. Timothy had been distracted by momentary hardship. Because of his position and his sincere faith, he shed many tears. We don’t know exactly what Timothy was enduring, but his sorrow was so deep that Paul needed to encourage him in a letter. We can see the encouragement. It would sound something like this as I write to you, brothers and sisters, “Your faith is sincere. I am convinced that you are doing well in Christ. Don’t be overcome by your sorrow in ministry.” No one told us that serving the Lord in this manner was accompanied by such a deep, depressed feeling. God is honest with us in His word. He has given words through Paul’s hand to encourage us in the midst of ministerial depression.

v. 6-7

Because of Timothy’s tears, and presumably the onset of ministerial depression, Paul reminds Timothy to rekindle the gift of God that is in him. It was Paul who first recognized that Timothy had the gifting to serve in the capacity he did. It was Paul who sought out and recruited Timothy (Acts 16:3), asking Timothy to go with him. When we read verse seven, we notice that the gift Paul is referring to is the gift of the Spirit.

When we find ourselves in an emotional circumstance like Timothy did, experiencing ministerial depression, we battle that depression by rekindling the gift of God that is in us. It is guaranteed that we will experience depression or sadness like this on this earth. In these seasons, which may or may not be frequent, we are reminded to rekindle the gift of God that is in us.

How does one rekindle the gift of the Spirit (either the regenerate heart or the abiding Holy Spirit) that God has given? Verse seven states that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. Paul reminded Timothy of who the Spirit is and of who God is. The first thing we do, instead of getting caught up or losing ourselves in our work, is remind ourselves not of the importance of the work we do, but of who God is and who the Spirit is that God has so graciously given to His people.

When we get lost in our work or think that somehow the kingdom of God will suffer because we take some personal time to rekindle our own relationships with God and rekindle the faith that He has given in both the regeneration of our hearts and in the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, we have thought too highly of ourselves. The first thing we need to do is rekindle. There is an importance, here, of the minister’s (anyone who serves others) relationship with God. It is the most important factor regarding his or her spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical health. Whether we take a day (and taking at least one day every week is important) or whether we need to take a sabbatical or simply utilize vacation time, we need time to be reminded of who God is and of the Spirit that He has given us both in regeneration and in the giving of the Holy Spirit. We need to be reminded regularly of God’s amazing grace.

If we are unable to do this because of external expectations or personal reasons, stepping down, finding a different church to serve, or leaving the ministry for a time are options. If we are not able to rest first in Christ, we will never be able to lead others to rest in Christ.

This will be the nature of our work before God forevermore. It will come out of our relationship with Christ. Paul will spend the remainder of his second letter to Timothy applying this truth, and instructing Timothy through Timothy’s ministerial depression.

We are not what we do. We do what we do because Christ is our rest and our peace and has given a spirit of power, love, and sound judgment. We will forever be reminded of who God is and of the Spirit that He has given us. We will forever be constantly rekindled. On this earth, we need to take the time to renew the faith that God has so graciously given. Our work is not the most important thing. It doesn’t depend on us anyway. God will accomplish everything that He has set forth to accomplish. Isn’t it great that we get to be a part of that!

In the remainder of this section, we will have the same purpose that Paul did in this letter: reminding ourselves of the promise of life in Christ Jesus, rekindling our faith as leaders, and addressing honestly ministerial depression on this earth.

 

*Please take time to pray for the families of the rising number of pastors who have committed suicide due to ministerial depression. The enemy is at work, and he is at work especially against those who do genuine, Gospel-centered ministry. Rekindle.

*please note, if you experience depression because of a mental illness or because of a chemical imbalance, please seek medical help. If depression is constant, please seek the help of a good psychologist. Circumstantial depression (which I am addressing here) is not the same as clinical depression.

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