Alright, we have come to the end of the list. We have looked at the burden of expectation, the effect of negative responses, family realities, battles with temptation, financial struggles, weariness and now:
7. Preachers can go beyond weary to places of personal coldness, doubt, and depression.
I was at a conference recently where I spoke with several people who had all suffered various forms of burnout in the past months. For some, the manifestation was physical: symptoms like chest pains and sleeplessness. For some, the manifestation was emotional with a sudden inability to function as they had before. For some, the struggle became much more spiritual, with even the smallest aspect of Christian living becoming a big ordeal.
While the manifestations of burnout, breakdown or depression were different, the stories were similar in regards to the lead-up. A very heavy emotional load. Perhaps complex church discipline issues. Perhaps heavy relational meltdown. Perhaps unrelenting criticism. Perhaps lies being spread about them. Then came the interrupted sleep, the feeling of being overwhelmed and the eventual inability to function.
Irrespective of whether a preacher suffers from clinical depression, burnout, or whatever we might call a specific case, the reality we have to face is that we are not immune to such struggles. We can go through seasons of spiritual dryness, even coldness. We can struggle with a sudden onslaught of doubt. And it is more than possible for a preacher to suffer from some kind of depression at some point or other, perhaps for years on end.
We simply cannot pretend that all is well when it isn’t. We need to be honest with someone we trust and we need to get the help that we would advise anyone else to be getting. Going it alone is not an option.