Some headlines grab your attention, but this one cut right through me: Pastor’s Suicide Leaves Many Heartbroken. While we had never met, I knew this pastor’s name and was aware of the friends and acquaintances we had in common. I’m sad whenever I hear of anyone taking their own life, but this news was devastating. I could only imagine the impact on this pastor’s wife and children, his church family, his friends and community.
Perhaps this loss hit home because I could identify with the intense pressure of juggling the many demands of leading a church and shepherding the people entrusted to your care. Usually we try to hide it from others, but the toll of being in full-time vocational ministry can leave a pastor weary and wounded, vulnerable to burnout and self-sabotage. As a pastor to other pastors, I also knew that even when you have the hope of heaven, the pain on earth can weigh too heavily. The darkness of depression is real even when you’re living in the light of God’s grace.
Pastors, along with all followers of Jesus, are not immune from depression.
I’ve experienced my own battles with depression, but news of this latest suicide prompted me to investigate further, to search for the latest findings on depression’s causes, and more importantly, to explore viable solutions. The prospect intimidated me because I’m a pastor, not a doctor. But I also knew this couldn’t keep happening. I had to do something. This latest pastor’s suicide opened my eyes. Depression seemed to be gaining ground, even among Christians, and it was time to fight back. Because I believe what Jesus said is true: “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness” (John 12:46).
As I began my research on depression, many sources confirmed the bad news: it has become the world’s number one health problem. Some sources report that depression causes more deaths than cancer each year and is the leading cause of disability. This escalation continues despite the fact that the use of anti-depressant medication is higher than it has ever been.
But there’s also good news: More and more research indicates we need to rethink some of our assumptions about depression. The latest studies reveal many of the daily choices we make may be setting us up to be depressed. We may have more control over variables leading to depression than we realize. There’s a strong chance that what we often call the symptoms of depression come from areas of our life in need of our attention rather than the disease itself. Conditioning from our culture and choices about how we live contribute to a host of symptoms, illnesses, and conditions falling under the mental health umbrella of depression.
Whatever the causes and contributing factors, one thing is certain: depression and anxiety spill into the lives of more people every year. You’ve probably already heard this news and, more likely, have met depression face-to-face. And if you haven’t squared off against depression personally, chances are you’ve seen it in the life of a loved one, family member, or close friend.
No matter who we are, where we live, or what we do for a living, no matter our level of education or income, our ethnicity or gender, it’s possible we’ll struggle with depression at some point. Depression doesn’t discriminate. Depression chokes us of pleasure, purpose, joy, peace, happiness, and contentment. It clouds our vision, sometimes quickly but often gradually, and prevents us from seeing ourselves, our lives, and God clearly.
In my own journey, I’ve struggled with several serious bouts of depression and anxiety. And just like so many other people, I’ve received medical advice and have been offered prescriptions from well-intentioned doctors focused on helping me cope. Their recommendations may have helped me in the short term, but I suspected that defeating depression in the long haul required more than just the benefits of medication.
Please understand that I’m not underestimating the difference the right prescription can make. But medication alone is not enough when it comes to depression. There is clearly a need for something else. We must have higher goals than just alleviating the pain. We receive treatments for one issue or another, often taking additional meds to address side effects of primary medications. Yet we still feel like our lives are falling apart and wonder:
- Why is this happening to us?
- Why do more and more of us find it harder to simply get through the day?
- How do we help other people battling depression?
- How do we face our own bouts with depression?
- Better yet, how do we win the battle and claim the victory we have in Christ?
The prophet Elijah offers us incredible insight as we answer these questions. He experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows—sometimes one right after the other. In fact, after one of his greatest spiritual victories, Elijah wanted to give up and take his own life. He ran away, isolated himself, and hid in a dark cave.
Can you relate?
But God met Elijah right where he was. Rather than rebuke the prophet, the Lord invited Elijah to step forward, leave his cave, and embark on a divinely appointed mission. With a renewed sense of purpose, the prophet then became a mentor for a younger man named Elisha, and together God used them to change the world.
In Elijah’s story, I found several causes for his depression that I recognized and found relatable. Even more exciting, I also discovered relevant and practical solutions to address the underlying spiritual issues so many of us struggle with while battling depression. I’m convinced tracing the prophet’s journey reveals a way forward and out of the cave of depression.
It’s time we shined God’s light on the darkness of depression.
WHY YOU NEED THIS RESOURCE
Depression and anxiety continue to sideline millions of people in our world today, including Christians. You may have battled depression yourself and wonder how to help those you serve based on your experience. And you have probably struggled to find biblically sound, comprehensively researched resources on the complex topic of depression—which is why you need Out of the Cave.
Chris Hodges, senior pastor of Church of the Highlands and bestselling author, shares a message of hope, encouragement, and inspiration that will bless and nourish you spiritually and become an indispensable, trustworthy resource you can confidently recommend to your team members, church leaders, and small groups. Based on the life of the prophet Elijah, the timeless power of God’s Word, and the latest medical and scientific findings, Out of the Cave addresses the truth about depression and clarifies its spiritual impact on our lives. In addition, a five-session Out of the Cave group study with video teaching and participants’ guide is also available.
Out of the Cave: Stepping into the Light when Depression Darkens What You See
Bestselling author and pastor Chris Hodges helps those struggling with depression find liberating solutions by drawing from the life of the prophet Elijah.