This past week, I heard some news that was very troubling. Andrew Stoecklein, 30, was the senior pastor at Inland Hills Church in Chino, California, and he took his life over the weekend. His wife and three children, family and whole congregation are devastated. In a recent sermon he confessed that even though his church was “thriving, growing and moving,” he was “crumbling, exhausted, weak and tired.” – See article from CBN NEWS.
Andrew confessed he was experiencing anxiety and depression due to the loss of his father from leukemia and various people that were stalking him. His family and his mother even had to move recently to avoid the stalker. That is a lot to deal with. On top of that, he was the pastor of a very large and thriving church and let me tell you it is emotionally, spiritually, and physically exhausting to be a pastor.
Now I did not know Andrew, but I think this news shook me to the core because it reminded me that no matter how good things may look on the outside, people can be in serious trouble emotionally and spiritually and the truth is, in our humanity through different events in our lives, it is possible for us all to get to a point where we question the importance of our existence, Job certainly struggled in this regard.
I will confess to you that in my past I have struggled with depression and anxiety. Although I am at a point in my life where I feel I have a handle on these feelings and patterns of thought, I have to be ever mindful and vigilent when they start creeping in. I am blessed that I have amazing family, friends, and colleagues which whom I can share my life with.
The truth remains that it can be so hard for us to really share about how we are doing, especially if we are struggling with something really difficult. I think it would be fair fo us to say that sometime we do create the impression that we are doing better than we really are and the danger in doing that is loneliness, anxiety, isolation, fear, and shame. People cannot help us if they do not know what is going on in our lives. We cannot be ashamed and need to reach out, especially in our most desperate moments.
Seeing how someone is really doing spiritually and emotionally is what is at heart of the “Wesley Challenge” question for this week. What kind of impression are we creating for others to see? Do we only want them to see the good parts of our lives and then hide all the things we struggle with? Why are we so ashamed to truly let people see our hearts?
On the surface, I think that all of us struggle with this question. We all have a façade we want people to see. We want people to like us and think we are successful. Isn’t this what Facebook is all about? We have the opportunity to portray to others only what we want them to see and not the fullness of our lives. There are filters in pictures to make us look better, thinner, and more beautiful, but the unfiltered world we live in is not something to be in despair about, I believe it is a gift from God. Life is messy. It is beautifully tragic.
Even when we find ourselves in the depths of despair we have to remember we are not alone. We are in this beautiful mess together. We are called to be honest and vulnerable and there is no weakness when we share about our lives with one another.
There is such a stigma surrounding mental health, but the truth is most people in their lifetime will struggle with depression and/or anxiety. Really difficult things happen in our lives and we don’t know how to deal with it so it is easy for us to become depressed. The danger in staying in a mindset of depression is the mindset is creates: a mindset a lies. A mindset where you tell yourself you are not good enough, you do not matter, no one cares about you.
We are all struggling with something friends, but the beauty of our faith is that we have Jesus Christ, we have hope and we have each other.
The truth for our lives today are that we are created in the image of God, we are beautifully and wonderfully made, people do care about us, our lives are important and meaningful and I see you friends. If you need some additional care of prayer please tell me. You are not alone. I am here for you. The church is here for you.
Ever Present God, thank you for seeing us. For seeing our beautiful mess and loving us in spite of ourselves. Be with all those who are feeling depressed, or lonely, or desperate today. Help us to see you have already created a refuge for us, a shelter in the storm from the tragedies of life. Help us to truly see one another. Help us to see all those around us who may be suffering silently and help us to take the time to listen that way that Jesus listened to so many and offered them new life. Help us to hold on to the hope and promise that comes through our faith in Jesus Christ. Gracious God, we especially lift up to you the family of Andrew Stoecklein, and Inland Hills Church. Comfort them in their grief, draw them close to you so that that may feel your presence. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.
There is also a local training event happening on September 8 in Culpeper, Virginia to help people be able to see and respond to those who are feeling depressed and suicidal. Here is the info and it is run by my friends Ed & Gloria Long.