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The GoodLion Podcast

Getting Honest About Depression and the Christian Church - With Wesley Towne (Classic GoodLion Episode)

Mon Jun 26 2023

The Problem of Depression for Christians

00:00 - 07:39

  • The Good Lion podcast discusses the problem of depression for Christians and what they can do to face it.
  • The passing of Jared Wilson, founder of Anthem of Hope, sparked a conversation about mental health and depression in Christian leadership.
  • Wesley Town, host of the Better Days podcast, joins the discussion as an expert on mental health and suffering.
  • Many pastors dealing with anxiety, chronic stress, depression, and panic attacks are common in fast-growing churches.
  • The church needs to have a more informed understanding of mental health and suffering to better relate to those who are struggling.

Mental Health and Suffering in Relation to Christianity

07:17 - 14:55

  • The podcast is about mental health and suffering, and how it relates to being human and following Jesus.
  • Christian leaders struggle with mental health conditions, but this is often shocking to people because of false ideas and expectations around spiritual leaders.
  • We need to change the narrative around mental health and recognize that it's incredibly complex.
  • Anxiety, depression, chronic stress, etc. are often oversimplified as solely spiritual issues when they're really just part of being human in an imperfect world.
  • Jesus was described as a man of sorrows in Isaiah 53, which could paint the picture of mental and emotional anguish.
  • Paul had daily anxiety for churches (2 Corinthians 11) and talked about his own anxiety on multiple occasions.
  • Job was severely depressed after losing everything he had.
  • Charles Spurgeon struggled with depression from his early 20s until the day he died.
  • Humanizing biblical characters like Jesus is important because it helps us understand that they too felt these types of struggles.
  • The Bible has a thorough theology of humanity that we need to get back to teaching better within the framework of the church.

Supporting Leaders and Pastors with Healthy Expectations

14:29 - 22:17

  • American pastors tend to appreciate those who work hard and put in long hours.
  • To support leaders and pastors who carry heavy burdens, they should have healthy expectations, encouraged to have margin, invest in their own personal health, share when they're struggling, and have counseling available to them as a benefit for working at a church.
  • Churches should think through this so that pastors can rest, rejuvenate, refill their tanks, not just run on empty.
  • There should be an openness within churches to offer counseling and pay for it if needed.
  • Having a pastor on staff who was there to mentor and council other pastors would be great.
  • Designating a staff member to help people process tough stuff and heavy stuff in life is awesome.
  • The majority of the people coming to churches are not leaders or pastors. We need to start making a difference within the church body at large about the perception of mental health.

The Church's Responsibility in Addressing Mental Health

21:50 - 29:09

  • 84% of people in churches agree that churches have a responsibility to provide resources and support to individuals with mental illness and their families.
  • Overwhelmingly, church goers agree that suicide and mental health need to be addressed and that the church has a responsibility to be a leading voice in this conversation.
  • The church needs to bring mental health issues to the forefront of discussion.
  • Churches need to talk about it, teach about it, equip staff members on how to relate well with people experiencing mental health issues.
  • One in five Americans are dealing with a mental health issue right now currently. Statistics have said that 50% of all people in our country will deal with a mental health condition in their lifetime.
  • Generation Z is going through dealing with mental health issues at an alarming rate.
  • The pastors of those churches need to act if change is going to happen regarding addressing mental health issues within the church body at large.
  • 'Emotionally Healthy Church' and 'Emotionally Healthy Leader' are great books for those who want help in this area.

Understanding Mental Health Issues and Providing Support

28:42 - 36:23

  • There are many resources available for those struggling with mental health, including books like Emotion and Healthy Church and Emotion and Healthy Leader, counseling, and podcasts like Better Days.
  • Mental health is complex and can be caused by biological, psychological, social, or spiritual factors.
  • Anxiety is not always negative in the Bible; it can refer to healthy concern. Obsessive concern is what Philippians 4:6-7 addresses.
  • People who have gone through traumatic experiences need compassion and care to navigate their anxiety or depression.
  • We need to be more educated on mental health issues so that we don't hurt people with our words or actions.
  • To help someone dealing with suicidal thoughts, we should strive to be good friends by building trust while also bringing in proper help when necessary.

Supporting Individuals with Suicidal Thoughts

36:03 - 43:22

  • Talking to someone about their suicidal thoughts does not increase the likelihood of them committing suicide.
  • Listening and talking about what you're going through is actually healing.
  • Asking questions to gauge the seriousness of somebody's suicidal ideations is important.
  • Always take it seriously, love them, listen to them, understand and be a bridge for help.
  • If concerned, call the suicide hotline and they can walk you through some steps.
  • Real illness is real.

Understanding Mental Illness and Avoiding Judgment

42:53 - 50:28

  • Greg Laurie has done an incredible job of walking with his community through a tragic heartbreaking event.
  • Real illness is real and the complexity of it should be understood to avoid perpetuating uninformed answers.
  • Every person's struggle is unique and taking one's life is never the answer.
  • All mental health conditions are treatable and train of thinking that perpetuates the problem doesn't help.
  • Job chapter 3 talks about human pain because of devastating situations, not sin issues.
  • Mental illness is a result of sin as it corrupts humanity, but it's not the victim's fault for causing it.
  • Living in a broken world causes pain, hard times, and illnesses both biological and mental.
  • Anger at the situation can be directed towards the brokenness caused by sin rather than finding someone to blame.

Grief, Emotions, and Finding Hope

50:08 - 57:28

  • Anger is an element of grief and a response to tragedy and heartbreak.
  • All emotions are real, but not all emotions are healthy.
  • Everyone grieves uniquely, and there's no one way to grieve.
  • There's a biological factor behind some mental illnesses that make it hard to give a definitive answer on suicide.
  • Taking your life is never the answer, and we need to shine the light on hope and help.
  • People can be judgmental of someone who takes their own life without understanding the constant oppression they face.
  • Kay Warren has written articles about suicide and has a good personal perspective on it.

Finding Hope in God's Presence and Purpose

57:12 - 1:04:09

  • Finding hope in God's presence and purpose, even in the midst of suffering.
  • "Honest hope" allows for feeling pain and grief while finding hope in God's love and grace.
  • Purpose can be found even in pain, and our story of suffering can help others.
  • Future redemption provides hope for all things to be made right.
  • Joy in the midst of suffering is not a false expression of happiness but a state of the soul oriented towards God's redemptive work.
  • Clinical depression should not be conflated with situational sadness or loneliness.

Understanding Depression and God's Forgiveness

1:03:49 - 1:11:15

  • Depression is much more than sadness and includes symptoms like numbness, loss of enjoyment, isolation, and sleep complications.
  • Sadness is temporary and circumstantial while depression is ongoing.
  • Depression can have biological factors like gut microbiome, hormone issues, malfunctions with glands, diseases, genetic disorders, diet types of things or trauma.
  • Ministry leaders should be better at defining depression to prevent confusion between sadness and depression.
  • Suicide does not separate a person from God's forgiveness as the gospel is good news of redemption and complete forgiveness of sin past, present and future.

God's Unconditional Love and Hope for Those Struggling

1:10:53 - 1:18:26

  • Romans 8:1 says there's no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
  • Romans 8:38-39 lists all the scenarios and factors that cannot separate us from the love of God when we're in Jesus.
  • Ephesians 1:13-14 says that we're sealed with the Holy Spirit, which designates ownership forever of that item, meaning we are under God's care and a part of His family permanently until the day of redemption.
  • The gospel teaches complete forgiveness and no decision can lead to the unsaving of an individual.
  • Some people have a different position on suicide, but harsh judgment on someone who has committed suicide is not seen in the heart of God.
  • Talking about suicide as if it is someone giving the finger to God and saying they want to go to hell is a faulty understanding that limits the grace of God.
  • There is hope rooted in our relationship with God, practical means to help us work through what we're going through, and avenues like talking to someone or getting professional counseling available for us to find help and encouragement.
  • Wesley Town is a pastor and speaker currently focusing his efforts on speaking and teaching on suffering and mental health. He hosts Better Days Podcast about mental health and suffering.

Additional Information

1:18:11 - 1:20:07

  • Wesley Town is available for speaking engagements at churches and events.
  • Brian Higgins will be discussing the importance of confession in Christianity on the next episode.
  • Good Lion Podcast can be reviewed on Apple Podcasts to help others discover it.
  • The Good Lion website has past episodes of all shows on the network.
  • The Good Lion Podcast is produced by Aaron Salvato and Brian Higgins, and is a ministry of CGN Calvary Global Network.
  • Donations to support the podcast can be made through their sending church or Patreon page.