Andrew Stoecklein looked like the poster boy for the next generation of pastor. Relevant, filled with potential, and enjoying an idyllic life, he was young, vibrant, and leading a successful and growing church that his father had founded years earlier. Andrew was in the prime of life, married, with three young boys. The church was doing well financially and growing numerically, reaching a new generation and looking forward to unprecedented growth. Yet underneath the golden exterior lay a dark struggle. The heartbreaking story of the suicide of Andrew Stoecklein, lead pastor of Inland Hills Church in Chino, California, has probably been on many of the newsfeeds of Christian circles. Drew acknowledged his struggle with depression and anxiety in a message to the church on Aug. 12, having returned to the pulpit after a nearly four month “summer sabbatical.” It was only about two weeks later that he would attempt suicide and enter Glory on Aug. 25. The 30-year-old pastor left behind a wife and three boys, but he also left behind a church and numerous others asking why.
Some would be quick to point out that the early death of his father from leukemia rocked his world, and even his own blog posts admitted his struggle. Then there was the physical trial of health issues requiring surgery. Could this have contributed to his depression? In his Aug. 12, 2018, message he spoke of debilitating anxiety, panic attacks, and stress that would leave him curled in a ball on the floor or unable to get out of bed.
Stoecklein’s struggle brings to the forefront the struggle with depression among clergy. This issue is uncomfortable but very real. Pastors are to comfort and help those who hurt, but who helps the hurting pastor? Ministers labor, often stressed, with the impression that churches are only supportive and loyal as long as they (the pastors) fit the expected pattern of near perfection. Years ago, I heard one frustrated pastor exclaim that the church is the only hospital that shoots its wounded. So how do pastors and chaplains address this matter? This article will seek to identify the problem and its symptoms, look at those in Scripture who experienced anxiety and depression and their responses, and look at some suggested actions for individuals suffering with depression and those near them, as well as for churches.
The incidence of suicide is increasing. In 2012 approximately 40,000 cases were reported in the US. It is the 10th leading cause of death for those at or under 16. In the US, every 15 minutes someone commits suicide. Men take their own lives at a rate four times higher than women, and whites commit suicide more than any other ethnic group. In 2016 the highest suicide age group was 45–54, followed by those 85 or older. What is more concerning is the report from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention that for every suicide committed, 25 more were attempted. With the number of suicides nationally at 44,965 (2016), there are an average of 123 suicides a day in the US!
The most likely to commit suicide
Various groups monitor mortality and suicide rates, not only to help identify problems but also to make sure that aid is directed where it is most needed. The data is varied regarding those groups where suicide is most prevalent. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) claims that the highest rates are in the medical professions. Yet half of doctor suicides are among women, and health workers tend to live healthier and longer lives. One study identified the top 10 professions most affected—where the stress was prominently financial—as scientists, pharmacists, farmworkers, electricians, Real Estate agents, police, lawyers, those in finance, dentists, and doctors. A CDC study listed 20 categories with farmworkers at the top, followed by carpenters, electricians, mechanics, factory workers, architects, police, and so forth. Dentists and doctors came in at number 12. The last position was for child-care workers and those who cared for animals. Ministers were not included in any of these lists.
Pastors and suicide
The lower incidence of suicide among pastors may be due to doctrine. Some erroneously believe that those who commit suicide will go to Hell. The Bible doesn’t teach that, and we who hold to eternal salvation would recognize suicide as tragic and sinful, but not as something that would undo salvation. God alone holds the authority of life or death. With David we should echo, “My times are in Your hand” (Ps. 31:15). However, pastors are not immune to the struggles of life. Research indicates that almost one quarter (23 percent) of ministers admit to struggling with mental illness. Fifty-nine percent of clergy had counseled people who had, or were later diagnosed as having, some form of mental illness.
Since clergy isn’t on the various lists of high-risk jobs, there isn’t data on the numbers to correspond to the other jobs mentioned above. However, NOISH does calculate a PMR, or Proportionate Mortality Ratio, in cases where death rates are more difficult to obtain. This data is based on a studied estimate derived from the National Occupational Mortality Surveillance database. A PMR above 100 exceeds the average risk compared to other occupations combined. Data for all clergy across the board places the PMR at 70.
Expectations and burnout
Pastors can be hard on themselves, but the reasons vary drastically. Sometimes, it may stem from sins that eat away at the conscience. Some pastors may struggle with exhaustion. Not eating properly or exercising as a way of releasing stress can contribute to negative thinking. Others may struggle from being on a pedestal and trying to live up to the expectations of parishioners. Even if a church doesn’t place their pastor on a pedestal, they may still impose unwritten expectations. The Schaeffer Institute reported that 52 percent of pastors live under the pressure of expectations that they can never fulfill. Whether the expectations are from the people around them or self-imposed, they form the basis of a significant part of pastoral depression or anxiety. Thirty-four percent of pastors reportedly acknowledge discouragement, with 35 percent battling feelings of depression or inadequacy. Another term used to describe some of these emotions is burnout. Again according to the Schaeffer Institute, 70 percent of pastors fight depression, while 71 percent would claim burnout. Clearly these overlap. Many men interviewed acknowledge that the only time they spend in God’s Word is for sermon preparation.
Recognizing depression and identifying it among ministers may be difficult because so many ministers are acutely aware of the glass bowl in which they live. Often a mask is worn in public, but that only exacerbates the effects in private. Some people believe that a truly God-fearing spiritual person won’t experience anxiety or depression. Perhaps that is one reason why God gave us accounts such as Jonah’s response to Nineveh’s repentance or Elijah’s reaction to Jezebel’s threat. Here are God’s men, notables in Scripture, who well understood depression and despondency.
Getting and giving help
The feelings described by pastors who have struggled with depression indicate some telltale signs. Pastors said they felt overwhelmed, inadequate, incapable, exhausted, or full of anxiety. The feelings of being constantly judged or not measuring up appear often. The symptoms described above warrant immediate action. It is usually a spouse or close friend who can spot these signs. Research indicates that pastors and churches who have attained higher education are more likely to encourage medical help. Indeed, there are various organizations apart from family physicians who may provide direction. Caregivers should also be aware of the importance of encouraging help from Biblical counselors; valuable insight or help may be found by searching the Institute for Nouthetic Studies and the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, or groups like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.
Take the time to speak frankly with those you suspect are struggling with depression and might consider suicide. Ask them if they have considered it. If needed, probe a little deeper to see if they have a specific plan. If so seek help. Remember that not all suicide is the result of depression or mental illness. Demonstrating care and concern is necessary, but never make the promise not to speak with others or seek to obtain help. Provide the message of hope. Those contemplating suicide feel there is no way out of the trap they feel closing around them. Words of hope may allow light to shine into a darkened room.
The seriousness of depression and the potential tragic result of suicide mean that believers need to look keenly to the Scriptures. This both reminds us of the reality of anxiety, fear, and depression and gives us understanding on how those saints addressed the matter. Understanding that others have traveled this road and experienced these same feelings does give comfort. Seeing what they did gives direction. Biblical examples remind us that God loves us and is with us, that we are never alone. That God hears our cries and knows our desperation. That God is working in the midst of our situation. That God cares about us and has not abandoned us.
Scripture records for us the reality of emotional struggle: depression, anxiety, and fear. Great men of God have wrestled with deep pain. Consider Job or Jeremiah, Daniel or Elijah—and expressing more emotion than other Biblical writers—David.
Job lost everything and was “comforted” by friends who sought to blame him for all the difficulties he experienced. Job never did get an answer as to why he experienced sudden adversities, although toward the end of the ordeal, God interrogated him to bring back perspective. Ultimately, God blessed Job, but as far as we know never answered the why question.
Elijah came off the greatest victory of his ministry yet seemed to unravel at Jezebel’s seemingly empty threat. Here we find a great warning about looking at victories as though they were our doing. Pride has a way of initiating depression when things don’t go our way.
Then there is Jeremiah. Here was a prophet of God called to preach to God’s people to warn them, but they utterly rejected him. He was not only rejected but also scorned and imprisoned, sinking in mire (Jer. 38:6). Many a pastor, no doubt, has felt some degree of depression when his best efforts were mocked and rejected.
Above all the rest, David’s words express a keen understanding of loneliness, hurt, anxiety, fear, threat, and abandonment. But David wasn’t the only psalmist to express such feelings. Asaph reveals an emptiness in Psalm 73. Heman, who may have been afflicted with leprosy, writes the darkest lament in Psalm 88, grieving that friend and lover had abandoned him.
Still it is the Davidic psalms that most keenly remind us of the human condition. David experienced close betrayal (Ps. 41:9), loneliness (Ps. 22:1, 12), the harm of gossip (Ps. 41:5,7–8), the threat of enemies (Ps. 54; 56:1; 59:1), fear (Ps. 56:3), feelings of being overwhelmed (Ps. 61:2; 69:1–4), emptiness (Ps. 86:1), and the confusion resulting from delayed answers to prayer (Ps. 70). The feelings of inadequacy are aptly expressed by David with “I am a worm.” He cries out as one poor and needy in Psalm 86. The Hebrew ynf, translated as “poor,” means “wretched,” “afflicted,” or “depressed in mind.” David knew the very struggles with which many ministers wrestle today. It is a great comfort to know that in these matters, we are not alone! The Devil would love to convince you that no one else feels like this or ever has, let alone a saint of God. Remember that the largest genre in the Psalter is that of lament. Laments express hurt, confusion, or anger. But one of the characteristics of laments is that they almost always resolve by turning the focus back to God. It is not necessarily the situation that changes—often it does not—but the psalmist’s sight or focus.
“You who fear the Lord, praise Him! All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, and fear Him, all you offspring of Israel! For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from Him; but when He cried to Him, He heard. My praise shall be of You in the great assembly; I will pay My vows before those who fear Him” (Ps. 22:23–25).
“As for me, You uphold me in my integrity, and set me before Your face forever. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen” (Ps. 41:12–13).
“In God (I will praise His word), in the Lord (I will praise His word), in God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Ps. 56:10–11).
“But I will sing of Your power; yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; for You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble” (Ps. 59:16).
“So I will sing praise to Your name forever, that I may daily perform my vows” (Ps. 61:8).
“My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. . . . But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Your works” (Ps. 73:26, 28).
The psalms’ focus
These passages suffice to remind us that we need the Lord and we need to focus upon Him and praise Him. In this we see how these saints responded to the fear, hurt, and confusion of their day. They recognized their weakness and cried out to God, sometimes with great emotion, regarding enemies or overwhelming odds. Yet they resolved to exalt God and make God, not the problem, their focus. They learned to rest in His care.
In Psalm 139, David expresses that God cares about our burdens and is greater than our fears. He will sustain us and never leave, so we can rest in Him. This is great faith! However, in the midst of struggle that kind of faith is hard to display. What we feel like doing is hiding. What we are instructed to do is to praise God. Even when surrounded by enemies, David was able to praise God about something. That focus, no matter how small, changed his sight. David saw that even in the midst of trouble God was his refuge and he could pour out his heart to Him (Ps. 62:2, 8), so can we. David certainly did; he held nothing back! He knew that when his strength was gone, God’s was not (Ps. 61:2). He had confidence that God, in His own time, would answer his prayer (Ps. 86:7). As with Job, we often are not given the why, but we are strengthened for the what. There is great comfort in these passages, reminding us that we’re not alone and that the Lord both knows and cares about our despair or anxiety. When we run away, we need to run to the Lord.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1).
“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by” (Ps. 57:1).
Perhaps one of the most recognizable stories of Peter’s life will help pastors understand better the challenges of ministry and encourage them. Most readers will remember the account of Jesus walking on the water in Matthew 14:22–33. After a long day of ministry, Jesus sends the disciples ahead while He remains to pray. Later, in the early hours of morning (3–6 a.m.), Jesus approaches the terrified disciples, who believe He is a ghost. Peter, always the bold one, says, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Christ does and Peter steps out of the boat—a true act of faith. Many pastors, like Peter, heeded God’s call to ministry and stepped out by faith into an unknown realm. Their eyes are fixed upon Jesus.
It’s a few steps later, when beyond the reach of the boat’s safety, the challenges set in. Peter begins to become more conscious of the wind and waves and danger. His eyes begin to move away from Christ to the current situation. Ironically, he is close to Jesus, for when he begins to sink and cries out for help, Jesus reaches out and grabs him.
It isn’t just ministers who can become overwhelmed by a current situation (health, marriage, family, criticism, opposition). How easily and quickly we focus on what is around us, failing to remember that the same storm was raging when we stepped out. I love this story because in his need, Peter recognizes the One Who can help, and in crying out is rescued. Yes, Peter is rebuked for lack of faith, but in His grace God causes the storm to stop, and, secondarily, the boat has arrived at its destination. What they could not do with all their strength Jesus did in a moment. Likewise, what we cannot do with all our strength, Jesus does!
The impossible situation did not gain the victory, Christ did (1 John 4:4). Whatever the raging wind and waves may be in your life, remember that we serve a God Who is bigger than your situation and Who saves. We serve a God Who is gracious. We serve a God Who can deliver when we cry out to Him. There is no storm too big for our God. As David would repeat, He is our refuge. Let us run to Him and keep our eyes fixed upon Him no matter what storm rages on.
One thing every believer in Jesus Christ can know and rely upon is that believers are never truly alone. Despite feelings to the contrary, we have the Lord with us always. Even in those moments of weakness when we cannot run at all, He is with us. In John 14:16–17 and 15:26 we learn of the Spirit as our paraclete, or Comforter. The Greek word παρακλητος means “comforter,” “advocate,” or “counselor.” In 2 Corinthians 1, the Father is also called our comforter. In 1 John 2:1 it is Jesus who is our advocate/comforter (same word). The Triune God—Father, Son, and Spirit—is with us in our pain. We are never left alone. When we have experienced those difficult moments, we are then uniquely equipped to bring aid to others who struggle also, to remind them of the love and presence of our God.
Paul reminds us it is this comfort that is often deeply needed—not the advice of Job’s friends—just the quiet, and perhaps silent, presence of one who cares. May pastors and chaplains be comforters to those who are hurting and simply need the tender reminder of the presence of the Eternal One. The circumstances and actors of the moment will change, but God remains the same. Let us help focus attention upon Him, Who alone is our refuge!
“Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah” (Ps. 62:8).
Steps toward Ministry Wellness
There are steps pastors and ministers can take to safeguard their own spiritual, emotional, and mental wellbeing. It is imperative to take action before difficulties set in. However, these suggestions may also help those who are already mired in depression or anxiety. Churches must recognize they bear a responsibility to maintain a healthy atmosphere within the church body and to be aware of how to minister to those struggling with depression. Perhaps seminars or support groups or, if permittable, staff training can be added. Books may be added to a library. Sermons may specifically target the subject. Deacons or elders also need to make sure that the pastor has sufficient time off with his family and that their privacy is respected. (This is usually a topic best addressed by someone in the church other than the pastor.) Gossip and mean-spirited people should be addressed forthrightly. Churches must not allow sin to fester and hurt a pastor’s family. Remember that ministers and their families, like all other Christians, are sinners saved by grace. The following steps are suggestions to prepare spiritual leaders to have a healthy, Biblical mindset.
Break the world’s mold, Romans 12:1–2.
If pastors were asked why they entered the ministry, few would say because they wanted to be well known or have large ministries where people admire them. Yet too many ministers care about the world’s definition of success. When pastors get together, it is inevitable that someone will ask a pastor how many people attend his church. This subtle interjection of the world’s success standard infects our thinking. Today it is exacerbated by social media. How many “likes” do you have? How many are on your LinkedIn account? Who follows you on Twitter? None of that should matter in your knowledge of who you are in Christ. We must break the mold into which we are constantly being pressed. We are not to be conformed to this world but to transform it. Part of the renovation of the mind is to break free from this world’s standard of success. John the Baptist was the greatest prophet according to Jesus (Matt. 11:11), yet he never owned land or wore expensive clothes or had a social media presence. He dared to confront the wicked of his day and stood for truth. He was the exact opposite of Mr. Popular, yet he pleased God.
We may look at the megachurches for what we should be like but miss the importance of seeking to hear “well done” from Christ. Christ’s measuring stick is different from this world’s. The better standard should be integrity, faithfulness, and the preaching of truth. Laying aside worldly standards of success, we must ask what we have been called to do. Faithfully preaching God’s Word and loving those in our care should be our greatest ministry desires. Don’t fret when no one hands you a trophy—they’ll all burn up anyway. We may be surprised one day when Christ honors His saints. Let our service not be self-serving wood, hay, and stubble, but that which stands the test of the fire of God’s holiness.
Expect struggle, 2 Timothy 3:12.
The ministry is not a high-risk job, but it does have its challenges. Few enter without others warning them of coming persecution and disappointment. Paul told us that those who live godly lives will suffer persecution. We expect it from the world. The greater struggle is when persecution comes from other believers. Yet here, too, we need to remember that proclaiming to be a Christian and living the Christian life can be two different things. Remember that Simon “believed” and was baptized (Acts 8). Trials and struggles will come. They always have. Until the eternal state we will see them. Expecting them is part of the victory over them. The ministry is work fraught with trials, but it is glorious work with eternal results. Even so, there may be times when it is necessary to stomp the dust off one’s feet and move on.
Whatever the current struggle we must remember the adage “this too shall pass.” The trials we face are temporary even though they appear as Mt. Everest in front of us. Psalm 103 is a psalm of praise that recognizes our mortality. God knows our limits, that we are but dust. The events of the moment will pass and be remembered no more. Yet David does not to resign himself to despondency but remains joyful. Praise is his response. Here is the unique Christian perspective that recognizes that life isn’t about me but about my Creator. I am not here to have fun or seek pleasure but to serve my Lord. The counterintuitive truth is that my greatest pleasure and joy comes in submission to the service of my God. Struggles and trials will come, but my focus must remain in serving and praising my God. Struggles serve to remind me of my purpose.
Focus on priorities, Matthew 22:37–39.
The greatest command in Scripture is to love God. It is a prime command because all else stems from it. Spending personal time with God must take place each day for that relationship to remain strong. The problem many face is trying to fit into someone else’s pattern. Read a chapter each day! Read this devotional each day! Follow this plan each day! Spend one hour in prayer each day! That all sounds impressive, but in reality, it is a plan for failure and guilt. When and how long we spend with God may change depending on our season of life. What needs to occur is for us to intentionally spend time with God. Who says that your devotion time can’t be what you are studying for a sermon? Why can’t you pray while driving to work or tinkering in your workshop? Without seeking to be sacrilegious, we need to remember that God simply cares about our time with Him. Some of the best moments I’ve had in prayer were when I was working in my garden or workshop.
After God comes family. This is a no-brainer, but often family gets pushed back in our priority list. One of the leading causes of depression apart from expectations is trouble on the home front. It leads to great personal conflict and feelings of unworthiness. How can I be a man of God and leader to others when my own home life is falling apart? For some it may be difficult to say no to church activities, but this is often what is needed. Establishing family time, date nights, and limiting “ministry away” time is a great start. Our wives need to know that they are more important to us than our jobs. The question is, Are they? Would you walk away from ministry for the sake of your family? If you’re not sure about that, you should leave now! None of us is indispensable to the ministry, but you are the only husband to your wife and dad to your kids.
In third place comes our work, the ministry. Not only must this be in third position, but it needs to be communicated to our churches. When my family lived in a parsonage across the street from our church, the lesson of not answering the doorbell during dinner or family time was one quickly learned and taught. Ministers who have conducted funerals have heard it said that no one dying ever wished they could work more! That’s true about our work too. Don’t forget, our families are our greatest ministry. We will find that our ministries will only be joyful when our closest relationships are joyful.
Seek fellowship, Hebrews 10:25.
Living in a glass bowl can be intimidating. It can cause one to run away when energy levels tank. Pastors, like anyone else, get weary, frustrated, angry, upset, and anxious. But pastors cannot share all of that lest they are judged unfit. Without a vent, pressure can build. Some pastors may have great fellowships where they can share deep feelings and know others will keep confidence and pray. Many cannot. We are told to be transparent but instinctively know that too much transparency can lead to ouster.
Every pastor needs to have a close relationship with one, or even a few, who will keep confidence and be willing to challenge him if he strays. Perhaps that person is a close friend or deacon. Maybe a friend outside your area and church. Dr. Land, of Southern Evangelical Seminary, commented after a pastor’s suicide, “What I have always advised younger men in the ministry to do is to try and find someone who can be your pastor outside your congregation. Someone you can trust. Someone you can tell how you really feel. Not how you’re supposed to feel. But how you really feel. And you need to encourage your wife to find someone, normally a pastor’s wife that she can tell how she really feels. Not how she’s supposed to feel.”
Sage advice! We all need someone to whom we can vent or share without being condemned or rejected. A true friend can also challenge us when our thinking may stray from truth. True friends stick closer than a brother. Maybe we can begin to appreciate why David loved Jonathan so much. Those two men, who shared a love for God, knew the importance of genuine (not in a perverted sense) love and concern for each other. No wonder David eulogized Jonathan in 2 Samuel 1:26,“I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me; your love to me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women.”
Meditate upon God, Psalms 1:2; 63:6.
This may circle back to number 3, but it is slightly different. While our time with God may focus upon His character, many times it does not. It is important for us to see the person of our God, to see His attributes. The psalmist speaks of meditating upon God. We are to meditate in His law day and night (Ps. 1). Other psalms speak of meditating upon God’s Word (Ps. 119), His works (Ps. 143), His precepts or statutes (Ps. 119), and God Himself (Ps. 63). The man who meditates upon God is blessed (Ps. 1). To consider God’s grace and mercy or think about His blessings to us can change our thought patterns. Pagan meditation is about emptying our minds, but Biblical meditation is about filling our thoughts with the beauty of the Creator. For example, to some rain means sadness, but to God’s children it speaks of His provision for life (Ps. 147; Matt. 5:45). Even to go through challenges is to learn of God’s grace strengthening us for life. When homeschooling our children, my wife and I sought out butterfly chrysalis to show metamorphosis. Part of the lesson was to let the butterfly struggle to escape. The kids wanted to help the insect, but we said no. Without that struggle the insect would not survive. It was necessary to be strong, to develop properly and live. What lessons we can learn when we meditate upon God’s goodness!
Try to write down one attribute of God per day for two weeks. Look for Scripture regarding that attribute. Then see if you can identify how that connects to your own walk with God. How can you praise God for that attribute in your own life?
Let grace reign, Ephesians 4:29; Hebrews 12:15.
Ministers know that we preach God’s grace and are to demonstrate it as well. We are never to compromise the truth but always to display grace. We are to minister grace by our very words (Eph. 4:29). It is too easy to become judgmental and let grace slip, but we must display grace and mercy. People, especially those depressed or despondent, need to know God’s grace and tender care. Mocking words, jokes, ridiculing actions, and slights are that much more painful in a season of struggle and have no place among God’s people. In 1 Thessalonians 5:13 we are instructed to comfort the fainthearted, those who are downcast and have gone through deep waters. How we treat those who are hurting reveals our true character. Different ministers have different strengths, but we can all seek to display grace. Christ’s followers need to be a refuge in a cruel world, gentle but without compromising truth.
Develop a tool kit, 2 Timothy 4:13.
It’s unlikely that most pastors or chaplains will become experts at dealing with anxiety, depression, and suicide. But we can better prepare ourselves for addressing it, especially knowing that the majority of ministers have or will see it in their ministries and that 23 percent of ministers themselves have experienced it. Perhaps taking the time to learn the symptoms or develop contacts and resources to address these matters provides a good start.
Preaching expository messages will doubtless bring us to address the issue of depression and faith. We should not avoid it. Let us speak of Jonah, Elijah, David, and Jeremiah. Let us delve into the riches of the psalms relating to the struggles of life and reveal how the saints of old responded in faith. Let us not avoid the subject of suicide in the Bible but also offer the message of hope and life in the gospel.
We live in a world corrupted by sin, and we are creatures corrupted by sin. Yet we are also God’s children, given a new nature. James reminds us that we are to keep ourselves unspotted from this world, and that’s a daily exercise. If we allow the weight of the world to keep our focus on temporary things rather than eternal, we can easily become drained. As believers we must prioritize our spiritual walk. As brethren we must also demonstrate a genuine compassion and care for each other. In Philippians 2:4 we are instructed to look out not just for ourselves but for our brethren. By aiding others in their time of need and being sensitive to those struggling with depression, we aid the Body of Christ. Our concern should not just be professional but personal, realizing that we are all of the same body. Whether pastor or parishioner, let us truly love and care for one another.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34–35).
Rev. Steven D. Harduk (MDiv, Trinity Theological Seminary) is a chaplain working with the Murphy (Texas) Police Department.