Category Archives: Depression

The Depth and Breadth of Suicide

I’ve written about depression and suicide in the past, as many of you know. I’ve written based on personal experience with depression and brushes with suicidal thoughts. Hopefully, some of what I’ve written in the past has made an impact and caused you to think about the issue a little more deeply.

But for what it’s worth, my experience is shallow compared to the depth of pain and sorrow an actual suicide can bring. And when you come face-to-face with what suicide can do to those who are left behind, there’s no plumb to measure how deep the wounds will go.

This morning one of my daughters (Katie) called me on the phone, hardly understandable for the convulsive weeping. A young man with whom she went to college, a young man whom she considered to be a best friend, took his own life last night, and Katie had just received the news as she was driving to work.

The question kept repeating from her lips…”Why?”

Christopher Nitzband (photo by Katie Baker)

There were no discernible warning signs. He was loved by all. I even enjoyed talking with him over lunch last week. He was about to graduate college and had already been accepted to the graduate program at George Mason University. He had everything to live for, yet he chose not to.

Why? Indeed.

The wounds will go deep, and the pain will sink deep into the crevices of many hearts. And the many? How will we know? Already there are hundreds weeping. What other ripple effects will there be from a severed relationship and a wasted life?

I want to leave you with the words from my daughter’s Instagram post. She says it better than me.

“…It’s hard to believe I won’t see him walking around campus anymore. No more walks. No more talks. No more random trips off campus. The horizon of possibilities is gone.

I’ll see you later, bud.”

The “horizon of possibilities is gone.” That’s a wide, wide loss.

My daughter’s updated Facebook cover photo.

I’m sorry for your loss, dear Katie. I’m truly sorry.

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Filed under Depression, Life/Death, Struggles and Trials

A Pastor’s Worst Day

Every once in a while I try to share some down-to-earth insight into the pastorate, or ministry in general. Granted, my perspective is limited, being I have only pastored smaller, bi-vocational churches; therefore, I can’t speak for all my brothers who lead larger congregations (200+).

However, some things are pretty consistent with those who regularly stand behind the pulpit (or beside a table, if that’s your thing). Many of the stresses are similar, as well as the spiritual battles we must fight. Whether the battlefield be small or large, our weaponry and armor are the same (Ephesians 6:10-18), and so is our adversary (1 Peter 5:8).

Therefore, all things being equal as possible, I believe Sunday nights – not Saturday nights or Mondays – are the worst times of the week for a pastor. The following are two excellent reasons why I feel this way.

First, the pastor is his own worst critic, especially right after the sermon. After a long Sunday, he may find himself looking back and wondering things like… “Did I give it my best?” “Was I used by God?” “Did I preach in my own strength?” “Did I pray enough?” “Why did God call me?” or, “How much does a truck driver make?” 

Any pastor who cares about his preaching ministry will concern himself, to one degree or another, with the proper exposition and delivery of his sermon. But if he gets no “amen’s,” sees no conversions, rededications, or even a few approving nods, it’s not going to be long before the poor man will question his abilities, maybe even his calling. A lack of visible response can take the wind right out of a preacher’s sails.

Seriously, stop and think about it. If you were to build a small, wooden toy, you could hold it in your hands when finished, admire it, nod with approval, and say to yourself, “Good job! Well done!” Clean a dirty kitchen and how do you feel? A sense of satisfaction, correct? But when a pastor is done preaching, more often than not there is nothing tangible to show for it, especially if there is little feedback; the “well done” will have to wait till later.

So, since the “job” is never done, and much of the fruit of a man’s labor won’t be recognized until eternity, it’s easy to be critical of one’s self. Sunday nights are when we can be the most critical.

Secondly, a pastor expends a lot of mental and spiritual energy over the weekend, especially if he works another job during the week and preaches more than one sermon on Sunday. Believe it or not, some pastors (especially bi-vocational ones like myself) never – yes, I said “never” – get a day off. By the time Sunday night rolls around, you’re looking at a physically and spiritually drained individual, and Satan knows it.

Therefore, because our enemy is not stupid, he knows the best time to attack us, and that’s when we are tired and vulnerable. He is far less likely to defeat a man of God while he’s charging into battle or waging a righteous war against the forces of darkness; it’s when he’s coming down from a spiritual high, or when he’s depressed and down over a perceived failure behind the pulpit, that the preacher’s at risk. No, our Enemy is sneaky and stealthy; he lurks in the shadows, waiting for just the right moment when our guard is down and our frailties are exposed.

So why do I share this? Not for your sympathy or pity, that’s for sure. As the lyrics of a song go, “It’s a battlefield, brother, not a recreation room…It’s a fight and not a game,” so I am well aware of what I’ve gotten myself into (or, rather, what I’ve been called to do). The reason I share this is to encourage you to pray for your pastor…especially when the church services are over…when he’s tired…when the Enemy is most lethal.

Don’t wait until Sunday morning to pray for your pastor and his family.

Don’t wait until Saturday night to say a quick prayer that he’ll do “a good job” the next morning.

Start right now! Pray! Interceed for your spiritual leaders, for they watch for your souls and must give an account (Hebrews 13:17). Their challenges are unique, and the consequences of failure can be far-reaching and eternally catastrophic.

Brethren, pray for us. – 1 Thessalonians 5:25 

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Filed under Church, Depression, General Observations, ministry, Preaching

Monday Meditations

“When you hit rock bottom, remember this. While you’re struggling, rock bottom can also be a great foundation on which to build and on which to grow.” Dr. Rick Rigsby

But sometimes God has to bring us down to “rock bottom” in order to remind us of an even greater truth: “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.”

 

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Filed under Christianity, Depression, Faith, Struggles and Trials

Deception of Depression

Taking Pictures

Last week, as I was standing on a street in downtown Chattanooga, I decided I’d take a moment and play the photographer. Had my daughter Katie been with me I’m sure she would have had no problem finding good shots, but my eye is not as gifted.

I looked around, first at eye level, then upwards, and that’s when this particular shot came into frame.

After a little tweaking, what I had was, in my opinion, a pretty picture of the Maclellan Building …behind a huge, black tree.

Illusion and Perception

Now, you’re smart enough to figure out that the size of the black tree is only an optical illusion, correct? You do realize the size of the tree in relation to the early twentieth-century skyscraper is not a matter of fact, but of perception, correct?

Unfortunately, the way we perceive our problems is much the way this photograph highlights the perspective ground level. As we look up from rock bottom, even the smallest branch can appear gigantic. That’s when we need to forget what we see down here and consider another perspective – God’s perspective.

Depression and hopelessness can make small things look much larger than they really are. But with the eyes of faith, our perspective can change, thereby exposing the deception of false perception.

Don’t let depression or a lack of faith deceive you; God is bigger! 

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Filed under Christianity, Depression, God

I Tried to Commit Suicide

My Attempt to Exit

If I can accomplish anything with this blog, I want to let people know that Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven. Part of that is allowing myself to be as transparent as reasonably possible.

In recent posts you have read about my personal struggles with depression, and thankfully that has been an encouragement to more than a few. Granted, some of you might have been confused, for you may be under the impression that a pastor of a church… a man of God… a “reverend”… should never get depressed. However, people from all walks of life – including those who have faith in God – can find themselves depressed, the reasons for which are not always easy to determine.

But what many, if not most of you may be unaware of, is that I actually attempted suicide when I was a teenager. I was within moments of pulling the trigger of a loaded 12-gauge shotgun that I had placed under my chin when my father (I believe prompted by the Holy Spirit) knocked on my bedroom door. That was the only time I came that close, but it was not the last time I seriously considered taking my life.

In the late 1990’s God had to do major surgery to remove the cancer of legalistic pride that had infected me. I had become self-righteous, religious, and prideful of my career, money, and stuff. However, in one fell swoop the Lord took it all away, leaving me with nothing but a faithful wife who I didn’t deserve, and a worried, scared family. Where I ended up was not rock bottom, but a depression that nearly put me six feet under. Suicide was an option in the past, so it became an ever-present option once again.

This is not the place, nor do I have the time, to go into every detail, but it wasn’t the friends and family who begged me to see the light; it wasn’t the multiple times every week of sitting with counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists; it wasn’t the anti-depressants I regularly consumed; and it certainly wasn’t the alcohol I began to use for the first time that released me from the “dungeon of despair.”  What changed it all for me were three main things: first, believing that God still loved me! – despite the times I cursed Him; second, believing the promise that God still had a plan for my life; and thirdly (but most importantly), the unmerited, undeserved, matchless grace of God.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m still recovering. In my personal opinion, based on what I’ve experienced and witnessed, when one crosses that line of attempting suicide, the Enemy will forever keep that temptation in reserve. Therefore, just as I sometimes act judgmentally and legalistic, even though I try not to, faint remembrances of the “suicide option” sometimes filter through my defenses. But it is in those moments that I remind myself of the Truth that set me free from the bondage of sin and death, and it is that golden key – the faithful promises of God – which is big and heavy enough to squash down any intruder.

EXIT, the Movie

This morning I took a few moments, not even 40 minutes, to watch Ray Comfort’s short new film, EXIT: The Appeal of Suicide”. Tears began to fill my eyes as I empathized with the familiar feelings of hopelessness and despair expressed by individuals interviewed in the movie.

However, toward the end of the movie I was able to wipe from my eyes tears of joy as some, not all, came to the realization that life is worth living.

Please, PLEASE!… if nothing more than to help a friend… take a few minutes to click on the link and watch the film below. It’s free, it won’t take long, and might just save a life… maybe even yours.

If you need help, or someone to talk with, please don’t wait. You are not alone in your pain, despite how you feel. There is always hope, always a reason to live, and your life is far more valuable than you realize. Think about it, Someone even allowed Himself to be ripped apart and nailed to a beam of wood so that you wouldn’t have to die!

If you don’t know anywhere else to turn, call 800-273-8255 and speak to someone who can help, or click on their website SuicidePreventionLifeline.org right now!

Your life is priceless, so live it.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christianity, Depression, Life/Death, self-worth

Imperfect Me

Are any of you perfect? You might think you are, but I’d bet you’re not. I know I’m not. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty messed up.

Just today I was reminded how flawed I am. I’ve screwed up so much it ain’t even funny.

For one, I got into a heated argument with my wife which led me to say things in anger, things I wish I’d not said. Two, it was made obvious that I’ve made some poor decisions in parenting, some of which will haunt me till the day I die. Third, I’ve made some bad decisions in my past, and tonight I wish I could roll back time (cue the Cher music).

On top of all the above, I’m facing issues for which I have no good answers, and I’m not even sure there are any. Do you know how helpless that can make one feel?

Wednesday night I shared an impromptu sermon based on something I had written earlier in the day, and today I was reminded of it. I had been to the church parsonage and seen the work being done, took a picture, and wrote the following.

This a blessing to behold, and further confirmation that God is not only doing something now, but will be doing something more in the future to bring glory to the wonderful name of Jesus.

And to be honest, I’m as clueless as anyone to what plans the Lord has for this little old church, but plans He has. We are just going to be faithful, prayerful, worshipful, and hopeful (not with an earthly hope, but one that rests in His promises that never fail)!”

Faithful. Just keep doing what’s right, even when it’s hard. Don’t be like the one who gets inpatient and steps out in his own strength to accomplish what is not in God’s timing. The results of faithless action never produce a positive outcome. See Proverbs 28:20.

Prayerful. If Dory had been a Christian fish, she might have said, “Just keep praying, praying, praying.” Pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17).

Worshipful. God deserves our worship. But not only that, some of the Israelite’s greatests battles were won when, instead of swords and spears, the first line of offence – their Spec Ops Choir – carried trumpets and lyrics into combat.

Hopeful. Why be worshipful? Why praise? Because we have a hope that is different from the world’s kind, the kind that is more like wishful thinking – like, “Now that I’ve picked the numbers, I HOPE I win the lottery.” No, we can be hopeful in fact, because God’s promises, when made, are as good as done – actually, they’re already done – in Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20)!

I’m not perfect. I’m not a source of unfailing wisdom. I’m not the best husband, father, preacher, pastor, or anything. I have no clue how God is going to get glory from what He has planned to accomplish in my life, but I’ve read the first chapter of Ephesians, and one promise is that I’m going to bring him glory and praise (v. 12). It’s as good as done!

And, even though I feel pretty weak and helpless, He wants me to understand that what’s going to be accomplished will not be determined by my own ability, but His “exceeding greatness and power” which raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1:18-20)!

So, even though I’m not perfect (which is an understatement), my faith is in One who is, and He keeps his promises (Prov. 22:6; Isaiah 55:11; Matt. 16:18).

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Depression, Life Lessons, Parenting, Relationships and Family, self-worth, worship

A Giant’s Depression

Not long ago I did a couple of posts dealing with depression. As best I can tell, the posts were well-received.

One of the main points I wanted to make in those posts was that depression isn’t always something we can help, but something that accosts us no matter our will to be positive.

The following article, “11 Reasons Spurgeon Was Depressed,” was published by the The Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching at Midwestern Seminary, and I want to thank a friend of mine, Kevin Woodruff (Bryan College Librarian) for posting it on Facebook.

If you have found yourself depressed, and wonder if it’s only a spiritual matter, the following look at the great Charles H. Spurgeon, a giant among godly men, should give you hope.

“11 Reasons Spurgeon Was Depressed”

 

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