Influence

 the shape of leadership

Silent Night

Opening up about mental health issues

News of Andrew Stoecklein’s suicide last August made headlines across the country. The 30-year-old left behind a wife, three young children — and the evangelical megachurch he pastored in Chino, California.

It’s a shocking story. But perhaps it shouldn’t be. After all, we live in a fallen world, where even church leaders are vulnerable to human struggles, both physical and mental. Battles of the soul are nothing new. Men and women in Scripture, from Elijah and Jeremiah to Naomi and David, suffered intense inner turmoil.

Emotional pain is common to the human experience. So, why do we often avert our eyes when the pain becomes deep, prolonged, disruptive and inexplicable?

Jesus penetrates the darkness of silent nights with good news for all people.

At any given time, about 8 percent of Americans aged 20 and older suffer from major depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet a majority of adolescents and adults with severe symptoms don’t seek professional help. Nearly half of pastors have struggled with depression while in ministry, Barna reports. Nevertheless, churches are often silent on mental health issues.

It’s time to end the stigma. In this season of joyous celebration, some in your congregation are likely hurting. Perhaps you are struggling, or you know someone who is. Don’t put off seeking help, or having difficult conversations with those who may need intervention. Maybe you’ve walked that dark road in the past. Don’t shy away from sharing your testimony.

The Incarnation reminds us that Jesus came not only to give eternal life, but to “bind up the brokenhearted” and lift the “spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:1,3). He penetrates the darkness of silent nights with good news for all people. So let us speak up, reach out, bear one another’s burdens, and declare the name of the One who heals and restores.  

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2018 edition of Influence magazine.

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