- Heath workers.
- Law Enforcement Officers
- Real Estate Agents
To some, this may look like a list of jobs that a kid might say they want to be when they grow up. To others it might look like a list of jobs they would never want to take. The reality of this list? A recent study about professions that have the highest suicide rates. Yes, suicide, and yes, pastors are in the top 3.
This might be very shocking to some, but to my pastor friends we aren’t shocked at all. The reality is that the calling of a pastor is usually very different than what most think…
“Pastor Ben, how hard can it be? All you do is give a sermon for 30 minutes on Sundays?”
“Pastor Ben, how hard can it be? I mean you just sit around and read your bible all day right?
“Pastor Ben, how hard can it be? You get to make your own schedule all the time.”
Yes, these are real things that people have said to me. (And oh how I wish these were the case!) Let me be very very clear, I love being a pastor. I love the church God allows me to lead. This isn’t about a pity party for me. This is information that people need to know so they can be praying for their pastors. This is for pastor friends of mine who have become experts at putting on the happy face while dying on the inside.
A little over a year ago, I lost my father when he took his own life. So I understand the pain of that horrific experience. I can never remember a time in my life where I have had to battle my emotions…until recently. The only way I could explain it to Brenda was to tell her that I am extremely sad and I don’t know why. I couldn’t explain it, and the worst part for me, was I couldn’t fix it. Me. The fixit guy. The happy guy. The #balancedlife guy. I couldn’t fix it. I would put on the happy face and “just push through.” Then it got worse. I got to the place where I felt nothing. Nada. Zippo. There was nothing left in my emotional tank. I simply was out. And then it all boiled over.
Frustrated because I couldn’t fix me. Upset because I have a good life and to be down made no sense. Ashamed to admit where I was emotionally because I am supposed to be a pastor and there for everyone that needed me. But the reality was, and is, I am human. I am flawed. I am battling depression.
So what did I do? I stopped trying to do everything to deny where I was, and openly admitted to Brenda that I needed help. I admitted that I am not capable of fixing me. I did the one thing I want all my pastor friends to do…get help.
It started with me falling apart, breaking down to Brenda and just crying. Allowing someone to care for me. Then it moved to being open to my counselor. I mean really open. Not the “I will be a little open but not too much that you will think I am crazy and never come to my church” open. (Sound familiar pastors?) She began to walk me through things I had never thought about, gave me ideas to help me breathe, and I have begun to see her on a regular basis. I have recommitted to living the #balancedlife I have prided myself on.
Last night I read another article about a pastor that committed suicide. It broke my heart for his wife and two young children. It made me wonder how long had he hid it, not dealt with it, and got to the place that he thought this was his only option.
Pastors, there are always other options. Let’s pull back the dark veil and not just pretend everything is ok. Talk to someone. Get a counselor. Find a friend you trust. CALL ME! Your family needs you. Your church needs you. The world needs you.
Some of you are thinking, “I am not a pastor, but had no idea it was this bad. What can I do?” Glad you asked…
- Pray for your pastor and his family. They need it, even with the smiling faces they show.
- Pray for pastors everywhere. You don’t have to know them to pray for them.
- Encourage them. Remember their birthdays, pastor appreciation days, etc. You have no idea how much little things like this mean.
- Try to love them as much as they love you. It will be hard because most pastors love people in a crazy way. Love goes a long way.
I love being a pastor. Is it hard? Sometimes. Is it rewarding? Most of the time. Would I change professions? Nope. BUT, I am now able to admit when I am weak, broken, and empty. Does this make me a worse pastor……..no, it makes me a better one.
Find life…live grace…become hope.