Clergy and Mental Health

Written by:  Dcs. Heidi Goehmann

Once upon a time, the world was perfect.  There was no sin, no evil, no disappointment, no sorrow.  That time, my friends, has been long gone.  I sat in my therapists office and let the question stuck in my throat for weeks on end, finally come tumbling out…

“But when will it get easier.  I keep waiting for life to be easier.”

I knew life wasn’t made for easy.  That even before sin in the world, easy wasn’t the goal.

So, why in the world was easy suddenly my goal?

Maybe because life had been hard, really hard. We had some junk.  We had marriage junk, mental health junk, kid behavior junk, family junk.  In fact, if there was a form of junk in existence, we probably had some connection with it.  Or at least that’s how it felt.

I was ashamed.  Deeply ashamed.  Pastors were not supposed to have junk.  Pastor’s wives were not supposed to have junk.  Deaconesses weren’t supposed to have junk.  Our families were not supposed to have junk spilling out our back pockets.  We were supposed to hold it all together so that we could help other people with their junk.  “Above reproach” in the depths of my mind, hidden from even myself, meant keeping it together, being above turmoil, above struggle…above the junk.

Then I opened my eyes.

This world-it’s been filled with junk since the tree in a garden and the fruit that changed everything.  I am a part of that world.  God, in fact, in John 17:15-17, asks me to hold on tight and walk fully immersed in this world bearing His Truth.  Bearing His salvation.

You see, your pastor has some stuff.  Every member of our church has some stuff.  This is the world we live in, far from perfection, never easy, but full of people walking around bearing His salvation.

webHeidifontcandy-(2)Above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2-6) isn’t in being the person without any junk, the pastor without any real life stuff to deal with, whether in himself, in his marriage, in his home, or in his family.  It is about how we deal with those things.  Do we ask for help?  Do we take the time we need to get help?  Do we avoid keeping secrets?  Are we willing to take the risk to help our marriages and our families and our ministries, by admitting we have some stuff?

The devil loves destruction.  Don’t for a minute pretend that he doesn’t want to eat us up and spit us out.  He would love nothing more than for a church work family or even a whole congregation to implode because he convinced us to let darkness reign over the struggles of our lives.

1 Timothy 3:5 tells us – “…if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?”

How does he manage?  By asking for help.  By admitting that he’s not perfect and making sure he gets the help he needs.

There are certainly instances in which someone can not be a pastor, it isn’t the best choice for him, or the church.  And we need to be honest when that is the case, but the majority of the time only good things come from church workers and their families seeing a counselor, getting needed medication, and placing boundaries around their time and energy.

Surprise – your pastor has some stuff, your deaconess has some stuff, your dce has some stuff, your children’s ministry person, your teachers, your youth director…all have stuff.

Let’s build one another up and normalize the act of getting of help, asking for what we need.  How much more likely are our parishioners to come for care, confession, and counseling if we, ourselves, utilize what’s available to us?

Life is full of junk – God promises to make all of it beautiful in His time.  He restores us with His salvation, not just for a place called heaven, but for His kingdom today.  Anything we have, Jesus Christ can handle.  Run to Him.  Ask Him for help.  Let the Church be the place that loves us unconditionally and helps us rise up from the ashes of whatever Satan throws at us.

Need resources or help with something?  Send me an email.  This is what I do and I’m happy to help.  Brothers and sisters, I’m praying as we minister and reach this fallen world together.

3 thoughts on “Clergy and Mental Health

  1. Pastor John Trewyn

    This was real good and very inspiring and reassuring. Thank you keep up the good work
    Gods blessings
    pastor John

  2. Pastor Tom Bartzsch

    One of the best things that’s happened here in my pastoral ministry was me going through depression/anxiety in my first year here, and then again last winter. It opens up others who suffer to talk about it. Many of their friends in evangelical circles would give them the impression that if they had enough faith, or trusted enough, or gave up some pet sin, they’d stop having to deal with their mental “junk.” Sometimes you wonder if these people have ever read the psalms.

    Our annual Spiritual Growth Seminar in February will be on “Caring for Mental Illness in the Church.” It’s such an important topic. Our people need to be able to ask for the help they need, spiritually, mentally, physically!!!

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