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The Problem of Pastoral Depression

“Monday morning blues.” That is what it is sometimes called. Most ministers know what I am talking about even if they cannot find a safe place to admit it. It describes that time just after the high of Sunday ministry when pastors come crashing down into a spiritual low. Pastoral depression is more common than most people realize.

There was a conference recently—a pastors’ conference—where the topic of “pastoral depression” was spoken on in one of the sessions. Believe it or not, it was the one session that had standing room only. Out of the dozens of topics presented, you could not find a place in the spiritual topic of depression. It must have hit on something that few of those in ministry know how to deal with but are relieved when they find solace in the surprising commonality among their kind.

Depressed ministers?

Charles Spurgeon, it is said, often used to preach on Sunday and spend the rest of the week in a state of depression. Martin Luther was as emotionally unstable as they come, wasn’t he? Even Elijah wanted to die just after he brought fire down from heaven. Time will fail us if we speak of Noah, Abraham, David, and Peter. The emotionally unstable among the godly?

But, but, but . . . I thought that ministers were preachers of joy, hope, truth, and contentment. Isn’t depression the very antinomy of such?

I know that I have spent some time conversing with the dark side. The spiritual highs crash you like a drug. Don’t talk to me the day after something I have been preparing for is brought to a completion. I don’t care if I just preached a sermon or lesson on the joy of the Lord, don’t talk to me. You will be discouraged. If it was a sermon about hope and perseverance, don’t look to me for an example—especially the next day. Besides, you never know whether I spoke on that issue out of self-therapeutic selfishness.

I get spiritually tired. I need to crash.

But these depressions, these downs, these times of “woe-is-me,” while present, will not rule pastors everyday. Sometimes the fog clears and the clouds depart. Catch us on one of those days.

Here, let me help:

Sundays are usually good.

Certainly not Monday. The hole is dug and some of us are still digging. 

Tuesdays are bad because we are depressed and feeling really guilty about being depressed on Monday.

Wednesdays we have begun to reason ourselves out of it.

Thursdays we are in third gear.

Fridays we are ready to be martyred for the faith. Don’t talk to us then, because on Fridays we think YOU should be martyred for the faith as well.

Saturdays are full of stress which does not give room for depression. But the stress might miscommunicate biblical principles as well.

Sundays are good.

Aurthur Pink said that this type of ministerial depression goes to show us that “the best of men are but men at best.” That goes for everyone, pastor or not.

Some of this was written with tongue-in-cheek. However, there often is a unique type of depression that is somewhat unique to those in ministry. I think that people should be aware of this.

One Response to “The Problem of Pastoral Depression”

  1. I think you mean “antithesis”, not “antinomy” in the pgrgh just below the Spurgeon ref. Not trying to be smart, in fact, delete this if you see it. But I knew you’d want to know.

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