Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The tragedies of Suicide keep coming:


 The news was released today of Megachurch pastor Jarrid Wilson, known for his mental health advocacy, dies by suicide. (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/megachurch-pastor-jarrid-wilson-known-his-mental-health-advocacy-dies-n1052301)
This heart-breaking story coming as we are in the mist of National Suicide Prevention week (September 8th – 14th, 2019).

I’m always amazed how many people believe that pastors don’t struggle with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. The reality is that pastors, their wives, and children are more likely to struggle than the average church member (that is not based on any scientific research, simply my observation).

I believe that there are three key reason pastors, and their families struggle with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, and that suicide becomes a means to cope with the pain.

  1. Isolation … To many pastors today are separated from people that should be giving them support and encouragement. Over the years I have watched pastors who claim to have best friends. However, have never shared with them their personal struggles of depression, anxiety, and other personal issues due to the fact they did not want to look weak in their faith, or fearful of being judged as not faithful enough to do their job.
  2. Ego … (Get over it) Yes, I’m talking to pastors, I have been in pastoral ministry for 40 years and I’m guilty of this as well. I can’t share with the congregation what is happening in my life because I need to be strong for them. I was recently with a pastor that had been going through a crisis in his personal life (his brother had recently passed), outside of a Facebook post to the church about the funeral he never shared anything with his church about the events leading up to the death, in which his brother had been in hospice for 5 weeks. Ironically, this same pastor had recently got on a church member for not calling him when the individual’s mom was in the hospital. 
  3. Failure to get into God’s word … When I was in Bible college a dear professor shared (not sure if this a director quote, but close) "You will never be able to take on the challenges of life, if this book (Bible) is simply a Text Book, and not your Life-Giving Book." I have found myself too many times looking for a sermon, an outline for a class, or reading for the next assignment and not reflecting on the passage that is helping me personally deal with life issues in front of me.

So how do we change this …

  1. We find a minimum of 5 people that we can talk to about what is going on in our lives and we get honest. (Bold statement here … Only one of these should be a pastor). Individuals (we should also limit the amount of people on this that are family), that will not only pray with us but will go with us to get help if we need it, will stand with us when there seems to be no hope. Yes, even will go to the medical professional and hold us accountable for the medication that is prescribed.
  2. We learn about our illness and how its effects our thinking … When I was diagnosis with Attention Deficit Disorder at age 47, (yes we all knew something was going on long before that) I spent a lot of time attempting to understand how my thinking was different from others, and what I could do to off-set the rapid thoughts that got me in so much trouble way too many times, or inability to sit still and focus. I learned to work with my wife, children, best-friend, and pastor to find skills that allow me to accomplish the task assigned as well as not getting caught up in the negative thinking that often comes. In learning about ADD/ADHD I was able to better understand how it was treated and skills to cope.

Number Three is for the Church … Get off your high horse and come down to reality. If we prayed for, encouraged people, walked with people, and supported people with mental illness the same way we did someone with cancer, heart disease, knee pain, etc. We would not see the crisis that we are currently seeing. I know individuals that are scared to death to mention they have depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, or another mental health illness because of being judged as weak, having lack of faith, or in some cases even being demon possessed. Please stop the madness and provide the support to help people heal and recover from these illnesses and be an active productive member of our churches.

Friends, I don’t know what Pastor Jarrid Wilson was thinking the day he chooses to step in to eternity. However, God knows the pain that he was feeling emotionally that drove him to this decision, and where his relationship was at with HIM (God) at the time. The question I have is who else knew and who is accountable within the church for failing to be the friend, pastor, and prayer warrior that should have provided a safe place to talk and find help.

The reality is with over 45,000 suicides nationwide, this is happening way too much, and it’s time for the church to step up and help focus as a non-judgmental place of support, encouragement, prayer, and friendship.



 
 

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