Posted in: Emotional Health
The Troubled Souls of Pastors
Troubled Souls and Pastors
By Scott Thomas, President, Acts 29 Network
Pastors are often overwhelmed with ministry. I am concerned for their souls. I spoke last week to the widow of a pastor who committed suicide recently. It was sobering. She said that he didn’t just come home one day and explode. Instead, she said, "his soul faded out slowly-just like the song by Casting Crowns:"
It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
Indicators of a Troubled Soul
- Minimal longing for Jesus
- Minimal joy and gladness
- Minimal dependence on God
- Maximal thoughts of self
- Maximal burdens of ministry
- Maximal outbursts of anger (masked fear)
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)
7 Possible Solutions to a Troubled Soul
1. Renew your mind with prolonged Scripture reading
I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. (Psalm 16:8-9).
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16)
Stop holding God’s word as a piece of literature. It is a loving God who is speaking to you personally.
2. Pray with an unhurried heart
First, pray. Then pray without rushing through a list or a formula for praying. Let God speak to your heart. Allow yourself to sit quietly beside the still water. Stop your perpetual motion and sit with God and talk. He might have something to say to you if you stop long enough to listen.
3. Confess the hidden sins of your heart
“But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:4).
God is after your heart, your thoughts and your deepest desires. He will not be satisfied with anything else.
4. Live in true community with others and allow them to truly know you.
How many people actually know you—the private man, not the public man? Do they know about your finances, your marriage, your anger, and your sins?
We need others to help us in our battle against sin (Heb 3:12-13). Paul David Tripp said that Without a community, I will listen to my own lies and buy into my own delusions (Instruments in the Hands, p. 54).
5. Review your calling by God.
Os Guinness said, “Calling is the truth that God calls us to Himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion, [enthusiasm], and direction lived out as a response to His summons and service.” Guinness said, “The notion of calling is vital to each of us because it touches on the modern search for [personal] identity and an understanding of [two crucial questions: who am I? Why am I alive?]”
6. Review the goals and strategies you have for your life
You may have impossible goals or you may lack a practical strategy to fulfill them. Both of them need to be reviewed regularly. Pastors waste huge amounts of time that have NOTHING to do with their calling or objectives. View your life in terms of whole-life stewardship for the glory of God.
7. Rest in God's grace, love and acceptance of you
You don't have to earn God's love and acceptance. Through the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus to impute to you His righteousness, you are a beloved son of God in whom God is well pleased. You can't earn more favor from God. He doesn't demand more than the substitutionary atonement of His Son Jesus Christ to declare you righteous.
The widow of this deceased pastor urged me to tell pastors to seek the help they need before it is too late. She said the pride of her husband didn’t allow others to know about the chronic pain existent for years in his soul. But, she said, his pride, however, was merely fear he had all of his life. No one knew about his troubled soul—until it was too late.
 Os Guinness, The Call (Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 1998)