When Dark My Road (an LCMS pastor’s descent into depression)
“It was Good Friday, but it was not good for me….I found myself contemplating my own death…planning, expecting to die, if not that day, then very soon.” This opening paragraph gets the reader’s attention. It is from the Preface of Pastor Todd Peperkorn’s personal journey into clinical depression. He is an LCMS pastor and he wrote this book for pastors who find themselves struggling with depression and anxiety in the pastoral office.
This is not a manual for pastoral care nor is it written for lay members of congregations who may also be struggling with depression or other mental illness. This is from a pastor to other pastors who find themselves in an emotional and spiritual fog who may find it very difficult to do their ministries anymore. They may not know what is happening to themselves, and they may have an undiagnosed depression or anxiety. In stark terms, Pastor Todd tells his own story. He finds himself shutting down, distancing himself from his spouse and children, no longer finding joy in ministry, withdrawing from parishioners and friends, spiraling downward into darkness and uncertainty.
This is a very personal book. Pastor Todd speaks honestly about how it all began, the early signs that things are wrong, the early experience with an antidepressant, the plunge into disability, feeling forsaken and ultimately considering suicide as a way out.
We see him as he begins losing his faith, feeling abandoned by God, the pain and suffering from depression, resisting help from others, no longer able to write and preach sermons. He stops seeing shut-ins. He just goes through the motions of ministry while hiding his real thoughts.
We watch and learn how he finds support and turns a corner as he agonizingly crawls his way out of this dark pit. We see how God’s Word plays a significant part in his restoration. We see how a fellow pastor is the key to saving his life. He speaks about the role of rest plays in his healing.
Along the way he shares prayers and Scriptures he finds useful for those caught up in depression. At the end of the book he offers suggested resources for further help.
There are several important take-a-ways from this book:
1. You learn that depression is common among pastors. Some of our LCMS founders such as C.F.W. Walther and Friedrich Wyneken suffered from depression (Martin Luther struggled with it as well) (see the Foreword by Rev. Matthew C. Harrison).
2. Withdrawal, isolation, no energy, feeling hopeless, and separated from God are common symptoms of the disease of depression (see the Introduction by psychologist Dr. Beverly K. Yahnke).
3. There is no one “silver bullet” that eradicates depression. In most cases there are multiple resources for healing this condition including immediate family, close friends, trusted colleagues, medications, mental health professionals, clinical assessments, cognitive therapy, medications, rest, Scripture, and other resources.
4. Seek help. Pray for the afflicted pastor.
Support the pastor’s family. Be patient during the healing process. Keep praying.
One Minute is written by Rev. Ron Rehrer, Counselor for Church Workers of the PSD. He can be reached by phone at 949.433.5182 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org