Clergy Suicide, Betrayal, Rejection, and Disappointment by Dr. Kluane Spake
Suicide is robbing the lives of many of our greatest preachers. Why are soooo many in ministry committing suicide? There are serious and legitimate issues that we need to look at.
Many are overwhelmed. Others sense burnout – and being ineffective or not being able to live up to the unrealistic expectations of others. Tensions at home. The pressures of ministry. Finances. Others are broken-hearted and just tired of deferred expectations. Feeling betrayed and feeling massive disappointment is pandemic right now…
A Bishop friend of mine told me yesterday that he has 7-8 ministry leader friends who have committed suicide THIS YEAR! Clergy suicides include the spiritual adviser to President Obama and several Mega Church pastors.
We also know that many believers are also experiencing this pain. I believe we need to face this horrific growing trend and strategize for solution to help both ministers and everyone who is suffering.
Let us pull closer together right now!
We need to come to the place of UNDERSTANDING!
According to the Schaeffer Institute statistics, 70 percent of pastors constantly fight depression, and 71 percent are burned out. Suicide is certainly not a new problem among clergy, but this increase demands a deeper look at the issue.
We forget that people in ministry are just human beings still working out their own salvation with fear and trembling. Not being perfect often causes preachers to hide and pretend to be who people expect. Isolation just causes deeper depression.
We face endless quarrels over minutiae and the perpetuation of old-womanish myths (1 Tim. 4:7). Quarrels about words (2 Tim. 2:14). Controversies and arguments (word fights) and constant friction (1 Tim. 6:4). Scriptures say that all these have “no value and are useless.”
Often it seems that some people really major on making a religious stand. They load on the guilt. Condemnation. There is no understanding.
Why is it that our individual doctrines seem to have become more important that our love for one another? Is the demand to feel “right” and righteous really more important than supporting one another, accepting the good intentions of the heart, and lifting up and believing in the best in people?
Part of the problem is that we allow the opinions of others to affect us. The need for acceptance and approval looms as a great control of our lives. Confusion and betrayal can keep you from trusting – ever again.
David told Mephibosheth (2 Sam. 9) that it was with LOVING KINDNESS that he brought him into the house of the King. Most of us are lame, in one way or another. Oftentimes, that lameness is not our fault. All of us need covenant of friendship and genuine KINDNESS from the people of the Lord – today.
Love those who serve you — love them with loving kindness! Find those who are hurting and pour out the oil and wine!
What is the answer to Clergy Suicide, Betrayal, Rejection, and Disappointment?
The very first step to freedom is to KNOW who you are. Deal with the truth. We don’t have to try to make God happy anymore! He already is. God loves us just like we are. He KNOWS our weaknesses. He already forgave us. He finds us acceptable to Him. Our job is to believe that! He loves us because of our faith – not because of what we try to do to make Him happy.
Depression can come from eating wrong foods and not being healthy. It can also result from medications. Mental illness can no longer be a taboo subject. Nearly 8.3 million adults age 18 in the United States have serious suicidal thoughts—that’s 3.7 percent—
The Schaeffer Institute tells us that 72 % of pastors say they only study the Bible when they are preparing for sermons; 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families; and 70 % say they don’t have a close friend. No wonder they feel overcome! No hope for a better future.
When we can’t live up to everyone’s expectations, what happens? Job said (3:25) that the thing he greatly feared came upon him! That’s what happens! We all well know Proverb 23:7, “As a man thinks within himself, so is he.”Suicide starts with a thought. The seed grows because of continuing circumstances.
Wrong thinking causes our mistakes. Our thinking directly impacts our ability to fulfill our purpose. The danger in continuing with unredemptive thoughts allows increased disappointed, betrayal, or rejection:
(1) We become double minded and are unable to please God (Jm. 1),
(2) We put our expectation in people to meet our needs, and
(3) We may become people pleasers.The apostle Paul encountered much persecution and betrayal. He said he was “PRESSED OUT OF MEASURE BEYOND STRENGTH (beyond our power to cope), insomuch that we despaired even of life” (2 Cor. 1:8). Other translations say he was weighed down exceedingly, he despaired even of life (ASV). He was unbearably crushed (AMP). He suffered far beyond strength and afraid he might not survive (CEB). The burden was far beyond what they could bear (CJB). The sufferings were so horrible and unbearable that death seemed certain (CEV). We wondered if we could go on living (GW).
But God Delivered Us, And Will Deliver Us!
“We should like you, our brothers, to know something of what we went through in Asia. At that time we were completely overwhelmed, the burden was more than we could bear, in fact we told ourselves that this was the end. Yet we believe now that we had this experience of coming to the end of our tether that we might learn to trust, not in ourselves, but in God who can raise the dead. It was God who preserved us from imminent death, and it is he who still preserves us. Further, we trust him to keep us safe in the future, and here you can join in and help by praying for us, so that the good that is done to us in answer to many prayers will mean eventually that many will thank God for our preservation” (2 Cor. 1:8-11, Phillips).
Paul remained an outspoken leader who demonstrated a powerful example of pressing past the fragility of emotional and personal disappointments.
Paul perfectly summed it up when he said, “But with ME IT IS A VERY SMALL THING THAT I SHOULD BE JUDGED OF YOU, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self!” 1 Cor. 4:3 – what others think is a SMALL thing. What God thinks is important.
Look at this in the Phillips translation, “You should look upon us as ministers of Christ, as trustees of the secrets of God. And it is a prime requisite in a trustee that he should prove worthy of his trust. But, as a matter of fact, it matters very little to me what you, or any man, thinks of me—I don’t even value my opinion of myself— that doesn’t justify me before God. My only true judge is God himself.”
What gives us security and identity? Is it God and His Word, and NOT other people’s evaluations! Remember… it’s not about being validated by everyone! We must be careful to not allow dis-empowering people to affect our lives. We don’t have to perform for the Lord. We don’t have to perform for other people.
At the same time, we must develop stronger accountability structures that allow trusted ones to speak correction and encouragement into our lives and our thinking. Will you find that place of confidential accountability?
Maintaining healthy relationships with others is important to everyone. It is not healthy to require approval or misplaced loyalty. As we search for koininea and love in the Body of Christ, find someone you can trust to mentor you.
TAKE A BREAK. Have a Sabbath rest. Sing. See that Great Cloud of witnesses is still cheering you forward!
Armed with a sense of intentional purpose, you can accomplish your density. Knowing that in spite of your weaknesses, the Lord chose YOU.