Brad and Travis became fast friends in seminary, and when they eventually wound up leading congregations in neighboring counties, they were excited. The two met in the middle for coffee the first Tuesday of every month for several years. Lately, Travis had been sensing his longtime friend wasn’t happy. After their regular monthly update, he looked at Brad and asked, “What’s wrong, man? You look like you’re ready to give up.”
Brad shrugged. “I just feel lost, Trav. Have to drag myself out of bed every morning. Exhausted by mid-afternoon. Every week is the same thing, the same problems, the same complaints, the same lessons I did last year. And Sheila’s gotten cold. We barely speak. Man, I feel like I’m just stuck on some kind of carnival ride and I just want to get off. Everybody expects me to be this bundle of positive energy and I just can’t keep faking it.”
The pastors had always been good about helping each other through life’s twists and turns, but Travis recognized his friend needed more help than he could provide. He’d lost a great church member to a depression-fueled suicide six months earlier and saw the same despair in Brad’s eyes. So instead of trying to cheer him up with a joke, Travis took a deep breath and said, “Dude, I think you need to talk to someone who’s smarter than me. I’m going to connect you with a guy who helped me. He’s a therapist.” Brad raised his eyebrows and Travis shook his head. “No, I’m not saying you’re crazy. You do a great job of helping people who are struggling, but now you’re the one who needs some help. I mean it. You need to get unstuck and out of this funk.”
Everyone turns to pastors and other church leaders for help, but where can those helpers look when they feel stuck, depressed, frustrated, or hopeless? It’s a situation professional therapists understand all too well … and it’s why most longtime therapists make time to see counselors of their own. That might strike you as odd – that mental health professionals can’t “fix” themselves – but recognizing that confiding in colleagues or simply praying harder doesn’t always work isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a recognition everyone has times when they need some extra help. Being courageous enough to admit that about yourself and then finding that help will not only help you deal with the challenges you face. It will also improve your ability to help those who reach out to you when life is far from perfect.
When you see that despair in a friend’s eyes or in your own mirror, please pay attention. Serious challenges need serious help. The professional counselors at Care to Change have worked with many pastors and lay leaders to help them remember what led them to ministry and to re-charge their spirit. Maybe you can’t help your friend get to where they need to be on your own. That’s when to reach out to our team.
John Money is a pastor and counselor who has helped couples, families, teens, and other individuals seeking emotional and spiritual healing.