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Christians combat depression and suicide too; pastors and ministers share how they get through

Christians combat depression and suicide too; pastors and ministers share how they get through

Dealing with depression

Erwin McManus, pastor of Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, California, and author of the new book, The Way of The Warrior: An Ancient Path to Inner Peace, says firstly people need to realize that depression would be impossible if the one struggling couldn't imagine something greater.

“A huge part of the reason that we're depressed is actually because we can imagine a better life, a better self, a better world. What I tell people is, 'what happens when we get depressed is we give up on believing that we can step into the life that God has for us,'” McManus shared with The Christian Post.

The pastor explained that subtle lies try and consume individuals to the point that they become depressed because of the belief that the present moment is a “permanent moment.” It brings to mind the testimonies of all 29 people who survived jumping off San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge in hopes of self-destruction — they admitted that they regretted their decision as soon as they jumped.

"I have had to remind myself so many times what I'm feeling right now, what I'm going through right now, it's temporary, that there is a way out, there's a way forward and it's going to get better,” McManus said of his own efforts.

It isn't about changing one's circumstances but rather changing one's perspective because all people have the choice to engage with depression or oppose it.

"As hard as it is, one of the first steps to getting past depression is gratitude. Because when you're grateful you actually begin to see the good all around you. When you're grateful, you see the beautiful and it actually fills you with hope,” he added.

“When you're ungrateful, all you see is everything that's going wrong. And no matter how much someone does for you, it's never enough because when you're ungrateful your soul is like a black hole — it consumes all the light and only leaves darkness.”

Legendary contemporary Christian artist Steven Cutis Chapman knows all too well what suffering from depression is like. The singer lost his youngest daughter, Maria Sue Chapman, in a tragic car incident in front of their family home in 2008. And along with having to face the grief of it all, his wife, Mary Beth, has battled “chronic depression” for years and continues to struggle.

The Grammy Award-winning musician agrees that Christians should apply spiritual remedies and natural ones.  

"If you're battling with that, just like you would be battling with cancer or with diabetes or with any other illness, you pray for those, you pray the same. But there's some stigma that says, 'mental illness, you just need to pull yourself up and pray and trust God more.' I think just being truthful about the reality that we need a good therapist, we need a good psychiatrist, all of that,” Chapman told CP in a recent interview in which he also discussed his new album, Deeper Roots.

"God's a God of chemistry as much as He's a God of anything else. So medicine that can help people is important. I think all of those things are just important for us to address,” he said.

Bethel Music’s Amanda Lindsey Cook said she was able to find some relief for her life-long battle with anxiety, depression and self-confidence when she took some time away in a secluded cabin in the woods.

“I think in our information age and the culture that we have, where we have access to everything at our fingertips, it's really hard to scale down and to pare down to the bare necessities,” she lamented. “For me, it continues. It's not like one day you get there, and then you're like, 'I've arrived.' There's no such thing.”

In this silent season, Cook recorded her new album, House on a Hill.  

“For me, it was one of necessity, I had to go quiet. I needed space, I needed to think my own thoughts for a bit. I needed to find out what I actually thought about some things, what I believed about some things,” Cook said of her recent experience. “I needed to let things rise to the surface, which is what happens in silence, things tend to just arise in us.”

The young minister noted that people tend to run from the pain and hurt in their lives.

“The tendency can be to think that agitation is a problem. So we feed ourselves with the distraction, something different, something that takes our mind off of that thing that's arising. But it will just keep coming back around because it's actually part of healing; it's trying to heal itself.”

It’s important to note that while Cook took her sabbatical, she did have a strong support group of friends that she confided in and even created her new music with.

Pastor Ben Courson, who recently authored the book Optimisfits, stressed the importance of relationships.

“It is definitely easy for leaders to get lonely and withdraw. But it’s germane to our joy that we don’t retreat into ourselves,” the founder of Hope Generation said. “To safeguard against depression, it is imperative that we surround ourselves with friends. The motto of my life right now is: ‘adventures with God, adventures with squad.’ That’s the theme of Optimisfits. I know it’s easier to isolate than to infiltrate.”

Courson’s book was birthed out of his desire to rebel against hopelessness. He himself battled debilitating depression and even thought about suicide.

“We need leaders who are happy warriors, who fight for what we don’t feel, count it all joy, enterprise on an adventure of hope, and show the world that fun is fundamental!” he declared.

Authenticity is also fundamental to being free from oppression, Courson said.  

“It’s important to be real. As an artist once said, ‘I would rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not.’ I want to be who I am, live what I believe, and be a person of conviction rather than convenience."

“Fun side note: the word BELIEF comes from the Germanic origins meaning ‘BY LIFE.’ In other words, if we don’t show what we believe by the way we live our life, our minds will be in conflict rather than holistic. Honesty and authenticity is the pathway to peace.”

The importance of having a support system was also highlighted by Reach Records hip-hop artist and ministry leader KB. 

"One thing I’ll say is that I have a good pastor in my life, someone who I submit to. He has authority, and what he says to me matters," KB said while on the 2019 Unashamed Tour.

"It's not like a dictatorship, but I seriously consider every bit of counsel that he sends my way and I'm honest with him so I'm not asking him to counsel a version of myself that doesn't exist because I'm lying about where I am, and what I'm doing. I try to be open and honest about where I am and then allow him to speak in [to my life],” KB said about one of the ways he safeguards his own sanity.

The emcee stressed that being surrounded by good friends is an important dynamic in staying emotionally healthy.

“I'm using that word 'friends' synonymously with other disciples of Christ who are also walking and strengthening my arm in the battle,” KB maintained.

“Those are two things that have helped me not to lose my mind, that have helped me not to jump off the deep end. I guess it may appear to folks that I'm just strong or something but that's not it, I just got leaders around me and also friends.”

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