“I can’t believe the news today,
Oh, I can’t close my eyes
And make it go away.”
– U2, “Sunday Bloody Sunday”
A news story came across Facebook yesterday that forced me to do a double take. A man who was a husband, father of two, and pastor took his own life after battling suicide and anxiety. He was only 30.
I didn’t know him, and despite fighting my own battles with anxiety and depression, I can’t pretend to know what he went through. Never once did I have thoughts of suicide or self-harm, but I’ve talked to so many others who have been there.
As this story has made the rounds, I’ve seen a key message being shared: “If you’re dealing with depression or anxiety, please reach out and tell someone!” This is good advice. There’s nothing wrong with this advice. But there’s one thing we often overlook when offering it…
When people are deep in the pit of anxiety and depression, they don’t want to reach out to anyone.
When the pain gets unbearable, we don’t want to talk to others about it, and the reasons run the gamut. We might be embarrassed, especially if we’re in a prominent position of leadership. We might feel shame. We might feel like no one cares. We might feel like no one understands. And frankly, we might just not feel like it.
So while it’s perfectly fine to encourage those in the pit to reach out and speak to someone, let me challenge you to do something: YOU make that first step and reach out. Chances are good you have multiple friends who are battling anxiety and depression right now. If your relationship has reached the level of trust where they’ve opened up to you about these issues, reach out and offer a word of encouragement. Let them know you’re praying for them and thinking about them. Ask how they’re doing. Ask how you can be a better friend. And if you suspect some of your friends are dealing with these things in secret, that should give you all the more reason to reach out and show love, care, concern, and compassion.
Let me also encourage you to reach out to your pastor today. He’s dealing with more than you know. Our pastors are conducting funerals, counseling people who are dealing with addiction and marital issues, hearing weekly complaints about all the things they’ve done wrong, trying to lead a congregation, and battling spiritual warfare on a daily basis. That’s heavy. That’s really heavy. Despite all the roles he plays, your pastor does not have super powers. He’s human just like you and me. He hurts. He cries. He gets depressed. He deals with anxiety. He struggles with self-worth. He questions why he’s doing what he’s doing.
As my heart grieves for the family who lost a husband and father and a church that lost a pastor, I’m reminded that none of us is immune to the effects of this broken world.
Don’t let today end with the regret that you should have reached out. Contact your pastor. Text your friend. Call a loved one. Send that email.
Someone needs it more than you will ever know.