Central Baptist Church of Southington Connecticut


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Discouragement and Depression

  • Jim Townsley
  • Nov 20, 2018
Church planting is difficult and not surprisingly every church plant is not successful. Over a twenty-five year period fifty-one preachers came and left church plants in Massachusetts. I realize New England is a difficult place to start churches but every one of these preachers intended to start and build a church. I don’t know all the reasons for each man leaving but I suspect discouragement and perhaps even depression played a major role. Preachers, just like every human being, can become discouraged or depressed. However pastors often find it hard to share their emotional and physical struggle. Hiding their true feelings and trying to be brave can progress from discouragement to serious depression. It is not considered manly to be depressed or discouraged and a preacher who admits discouragement believes he is exhibiting weakness. No man wants to be so vulnerable as to admit he is discouraged.  However to ignore its reality is to allow oneself to be overcome by it.
Discouragement and depression are not the same. We all have days when we feel gloomy, down, bored or wiped out. We may call this feeling a mild form of depression, but discouragement is perhaps a better term. There are many events that can be discouraging to us. People may leave the church, attendance can be low, finances may be short and gossip can bring division in the church. To expect to live in this world without occasional discouragement is unrealistic, especially in the ministry. Virtually every major person in Scripture had down, unhappy or sad days. Psalms, Jeremiah and Ecclesiastes all remind us that there is much about life that is depressing yet God uses these very things to mature us into the image of His Son. “ My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”--James 1:2-4 
Severe depression is a different problem than discouragement. Depression has been defined as: “That debilitating mood, feeling or air of hopelessness which results in a ceasing of the handling of life.” Such a person will at least partially shut down and cease to function in many areas. A depressed person may want to sleep all the time or he may have difficulty sleeping. He may cry easily; he may stop going to work or doing necessary tasks around the house; he may stop eating; he will feel that life is hopeless. He may have trouble breathing and begin to hyperventilate and fear he is dying. The old counseling books describe it as a feeling of looking at life from outside of reality. This disorder was often labeled as manic depression and today it is called a bipolar disease but most people would consider it a nervous breakdown. I can assure you that preachers are not exempt from this condition. In fact, church planters are especially vulnerable to it.
If a preacher doesn’t understand that this is a health issue that must be addressed it can end his ministry. It is more than a feeling of discouragement; it is a physiological illness that affects the mind and the body. Preachers are especially vulnerable by working night and day and when they face severe disappointments. Most people would be surprised to know there are many well-known preachers that have experienced a total nervous breakdown.
There is hope and this condition is curable. Recovery is possible. The body can cure itself if given the opportunity. The solution is to slow down and take a break for a few months. As corny as it sounds eating well balanced meals, getting moderate exercise and getting a proper amount of sleep are all important for a full recovery. In addition, the process of recovery may involve several months of reduced activity. Removing the stress is essential. There is nothing to be ashamed about if this happens to you. The most important thing you can do is get help and give yourself time to recover. There is hope of a full recovery. One of the wisest decisions you can make is to seek help. If I can help further please feel free to contact me or another qualified pastor.