Depression and the Ministry

Depression and the Ministry

My daughter Callie is a student at Covenant College. Last week she wrote a paper on a person in ministry who deals with a disability. Callie chose me. My disability is depression and anxiety. She sent me three questions to answer.

1) How does your faith change the way you interact with your depression?
I believe that dependency on Christ is the essence of Christian faith. In other words, Christians are in a trusting union with Christ and, apart from this union, they can’t do anything to help themselves or anyone else. But, just because I believe this intellectually does not mean that I yield to it easily. I suffer with depression and anxiety. Depression is a weird sort of disability. It’s the kind of thing that has crippled me in an invisible way. Others aren’t able to see it. For years I wanted to believe that I was OK. That I could build enough emotional ‘muscle’ to overcome depression. I tried to use Christ improperly to build this muscle. Maybe if I prayed enough or read the Bible enough or worked enough or toughened myself enough or performed enough – the depression would go away. It didn’t. It has taken me a long time to understand that Christ planned to ‘cripple me’ with depression in order to humble me and love me. And like a Christian man with two paralyzed legs has to grow accustomed to loving Christ from a wheel chair, I am having to grow accustomed to loving Christ from the constrictions of medication and an adjusted lifestyle. I used to feel that Christ would help me conquer depression once and for all. This would work for a little while. But when depression would cripple me I would feel abandoned by Christ. Now I am learning that Christ is using depression to conquer my self-sufficiency, my pride, and my shame.

2) How does your depression negatively affect your ministry?
I can’t do everything that I want to do. I can’t trust the ‘manic’ side of my personality that makes me feel like I’m superman and that I can save the world. Heck, I can’t even save me. No, that job belongs entirely to Christ. I have to adjust my schedule. I have to work differently. I can’t skip taking my medication and imagine that I am ‘healed’ just because I ‘feel’ better today. I have to realize everyday that I am a pastor who is crippled and I need to embrace that. I have to tell people ‘no’ in order to be healthy. That doesn’t always feel good to others who cannot easily see my ‘invisible’ disability. I have to make time to slow down and retreat. All this is very difficult, yet it is very crucial to my life and ministry.

3) How does your depression positively affect your ministry?
Christ uses my depression to teach me dependency. As I lean into him and am often even carried by him, I am learning to pray more and listen to the voice of my Savior.
Christ also uses depression to defeat my pride. I have many gifts and this often produces a lot of pride in me. Depression attacks my pride and mocks my gifted-ness in a way that helps me see that my gifts can’t be trusted; that my gifts are often my greatest enemy if they are not placed in the hands of Christ.
Christ uses depression to defeat my shame. I am often so embarrassed to admit to people that I have depression. I don’t want them to know that I am emotionally weak. Yet Christ is not satisfied to have me hide it. He calls me to humbly share my weaknesses with others. Christ helps me to embrace weakness in myself in way that helps me to also embrace the weakness in others. This has made me a person of prayer, a better counselor, and a more honest preacher. I am able to more honestly point people to the Cross instead of subtly pointing them to myself.
Finally, Christ uses depression to make me a better worshiper. Christ is my rescuer and my deliverer. The Cross is my food and the Resurrection is my life. As I worship God, Christ leads me to the lap of His Father. He comforts me in the arms of the Holy Spirit. He reveals my sin and wretchedness. He reveals his mercy, power, and beauty. He reminds me that I am a fragile clay pot, but I rest in His tender hands.

A couple of years ago, when my depression was at it’s worst, I went to meet with a Christian counselor. In our session together he asked me, “Tim, how long do you plan to stay in ministry?” I said, “I don’t really know. As long as I’m able I suppose. Maybe until I’m 70 years old.” The counselor chuckled, “The way you’re living, driving yourself, acting like a superman – I’ll be surprised if you make it another six months. Tim, listen to me. You are but flesh. You have weaknesses. Frailties. You have to embrace that reality.”

Those were powerful words. The reality is “I am but flesh.” I’m a man who suffers with depression. I always have been. I always will be. Christ has chosen not to take depression away. Instead, he has chosen, in his mercy, to meet me in the midst of my anxiety and depression and to walk me through it. He does this by waking me up in the morning. Greeting me in his Word and in my prayers. And then he gently reminds me – “Tim, go get dressed. Take your medication. Remember you are but flesh. And don’t worry, I am with you.”

___________________

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  •  Samantha E. Trainor – I had to read this in sections… But wow! Thank you for sharing! Your answers were beautiful. The end is my favorite! Love you Tim!
  •  Tim Melton Thanks Sam! Something like this is hard to share, but I feel that it is important not to hide and live under the facade that I have it all together. Love you too Sam!
  • BrandonCandice Streff Thank you for always sharing your heart and your struggles. You’re always such a huge encouragement.
  •  Kim S. Payne I share much of the same journey. God has used brokenness to humble and to minister. It’s called Leading with a Limp. It doesn’t fit the pretty boy superman model of ministry.
  •  Jonathan Rockness – I had to get over the feeling that I was saying, “Christ isn’t enough” if I resort to medication. I don’t deal with the same exact thing you do, but when I am overwhelmed I have learned that medication is one way of saying, “I don’t have what it takes; even if a better relationship with God is what it takes…I don’t have it!” I’ve learned to be grateful for my shortcomings as well, which keep me looking to the Lord. But of course, I hate my shortcomings also! Thanks for boldly sharing – it is helpful to many.
  •  Tim Melton – Jonathan Rockness, great point. I’ve often felt the same way about medication saying, “If I just had enough faith I wouldn’t need this.” Yet, I would never think this about someone in a wheelchair. Christ is enough. Yes. But trusting in the sufficiency of Christ does not mean that I am self-sufficient. Trusting in Christ means trusting his provision – which means, among other things, receving from Christ my daily bread, food, rest, prayer, his Word, and in my particular case – medication.
  • Linda Holt – You can’t imagine how much this helps me too! Thanks for sharing this tender subject with all of us. Sometimes these issues which afflict my own family as well are resulted from chemical imbalance. Much like diabetes, the diet, exercise and medication and you are well controlled. I thank God for all of this. A good Christian diabetic needs his medication no matter how much faith he has. God can cure it, but if He chooses not to, then medication it is. God filled His gardens with medications for us!
  • Gregory D. Ammons – You just articulated the journey I have been on for the last 20 years. Anxious and fearful, yet prideful and arrogant for the gifts he has given. A strange combination. But, I think you stated well that He allows us to be afflicted with anxiety, in order to rob us of our pride. I have never really put the two together. Thank you for being a vehicle for those words of clarity and truth.
  • Susan Morris Jenkins – Good gravy Melton. You hit every nail on the head. If I substitute my own issue for the word depression I could have written those words myself (though not as eloquently). Just this week I finally stopped thinking about “the future when Jesus heals me.” It seems more likely that He will graciously allow me to wrestle with my issue for the rest of my life. Thanks for sharing that.
  • Linda Holt – Sorry, one more thought. I believe God uses the burdens placed on our lives to help others. I have always found that when I openly air my struggles God blows the door wide open with people who need help, encouragement assitance and prayer as they go thSee More
  • Linda Holt – Wether we carry great burdens or great blessing they are all designed to Glorify God. Some of us just have to be a little more creative!!
  •  Tim Melton – Susan Morris Jenkins and Gregory D. Ammons, thanks so much for your thoughts. So cool how your words dovetail with Paul’s in 2 Cor 12 – So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
  •  Karen Merrill Faris – Thank you sharing something so close to your heart. I have no doubt Christ is working through you in ways you can’t even imagine.
  •  Katie Wanless Jean-Rejouis – Christ abounds more and more through your words each time I hear them. Thanks for continuing to reveal Christ in all you do, especially through the vulnerability of your soul not just the understanding of the mind.
  •  Jill Kristen – Tim, your Christ-dependency is beautiful. I feel so blessed to be on your friends list. I love what Katie said above — revealing the vulnerability of your soul, esp. as a leader, is the most fruit-bearing thing you could do for your neighbor, rather than only being a mouthpiece of biblical understanding. The really neat thing here is that God used you and this same theme of vulnerability that you carry at The Well in 2005 to lift me completely from a debilitating depression, and also to give me understanding of it. Eerie. I think this is bc the souls that know the darker depths truly treasure and bask in the lightness of Christ. It is also a Christ-likeness — for He was truly a man who was well-acquainted with sorrow. Thank you for being the aroma of Christ to a kindred spirit.
  •  Danyel Graham – Tim- this is a wonderful message. All these years, I’ve known you guys and never knew this. I applaud your Christian service on this topic. So many people do not get to “see” the depression. It’s real and can tear your life apart left unattended. I admire your words, your wisdom. Thank you for sharing your answers. I will share this with some others that need to see this. Kudos to you as you continue your walk with Christ.
  •  Sean Camp – Love you Tim. Your strength and your faith are both beautiful and inspiring. Your “flaws” only make your ministry stronger. I’m proud to be part of your family.
  •  Sean Camp – Btw, the fact that Callie chose you for this assignment speaks volumes for your relationship with your daughter. That’s inspiring in and of itself.
  •  Tim Melton – Thanks for your words Sean Camp. That means so much to me. More than you know. You’re a good brother. I love you much.
  •  Nanny Helen – Tim (You’ll always be Timmy to me), that was beautifully written, and we can all relate… We are all flawed, and our relationship and dependance on Christ is our strength. Thank you for sharing that. I love you.
  • Tim Melton – I love you too Aunt Helen. And you can definitely call me Timmy. I actually prefer it.
  • Ann Hamilton Senn – Tim, there were great men of God, like William Cowper, who also suffered from depression, so you are not alone. It doesn’t mean you’re any less spiritual if the Lord provides a medication that assists in these bouts. Thank your daughter for sharing her tender heart, especially if it can be a great encouragement to others.
  •  Ami Camp Castillo – Timmy I grew up thinking you were the cutest, funniest and most charismatic character in the family. I still think this today… I know we get caught up in our own lives and seem okay with touching base here and there with each other on social media but I want you to know that my childhood memories of you are some of my favorites. I hate that you suffer from depression but I honestly think it runs in the family baby. I feel so guilty for even feeling depressed sometimes because God has blessed me wayy beyond what i deserve. Just wanted to let you know that I love you so much, I am proud of the man you are and the fact that I got to share my childhood with you. Now let’s try to plan a good ole fashion Camp family Thanksgiving like the old days and give thanks for each other again like we used to!!
  • Nanny Helen – So, Ami Camp Castillo, you’ve forgiven Tim Melton for terrifying you in Gatlinburg with the threat of bears eating you alive in the snow? Let’s see, that was, ummmm, 30 plus years ago? Wow y’all are getting old
  • Melissa Reali – Beautifully answered! I’ve been reading a book called Disability and the Gospel and it so strongly ties to what you say. Depression is such a tough one to deal with. My prayers for your continued success.
  •  Chris Ingram – Tim if it wasn’t for you I don’t know if I ever would have had the relationship with Jesus that I have now. A thank you doesn’t do it … But just know you changed my life as a Christian and that’s something you cannot put a price on. I love you Tim Melton
  •  Tim Melton – Ami Camp Castillo, thank you so much for your loving words. Nanny Helen, We are getting old! I had forgotten about how much I used to torture poor Ami when we were kids. Please forgive me Ami. I’m glad to know you remember the good stuff.
  •  Tim Melton – Chris Ingram, wow… That means so much to me. Your tender heart toward Christ always showed through. I’m so glad Christ gave me a season to help nurture that along. By the way, I had no idea that you lived in MB. I’d love to get together sometime for lunch or something. Emily Matthews, you are the best! I hope you are doing well!
  •  Beverly Dial Jones – You are such an inspiration and a blessing. You are smart, funny, kind, and Jesus is using you in a mighty way…..in spite of your adversities!
  • Angela ‘Wineland’ Valenti – Thanks for sharing this Tim Melton! (btw, I can’t believe Callie’s old enough to be in college…she was just a little girl when Martha Jo was leading my small group at Bonclarken! I must be getting old.)

25 thoughts on “Depression and the Ministry

  1. WOW! I can identify with all you said because depression is genetic…. meaning only that I must of caught it from you! Sorry I’m just kidding about that… but it does run very strongly in Adult Children of Alcoholics. I’ve struggled with it so very long and yet I forget about it on “good” days and easily slip back into Superwoman mode without a second thought.

    Thanks for your honesty your words always inspire me. Love you Tim Melton

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