Can a Pastor Who Struggles With Depression Remain a Pastor?

Depression doesn't disqualify you from being a pastor. (Photo by Ben White on Unsplash)

Charles Spurgeon is considered by most modern evangelicals to be one of the greatest preachers and pastors since the Reformation.

But did you know that Spurgeon struggled with depression—to the point of contemplating suicide?

He said, "I could say with Job, 'My soul chooseth strangling rather than life.' I could readily enough have laid violent hands upon myself, to escape from my misery of spirit."

Spurgeon went on to say, "Knowing by most painful experience what deep depression of spirit means, being visited therewith at seasons by no means few or far between, I thought it might be consolatory to some of my brethren if I gave my thoughts thereon, that younger men might not fancy that some strange thing had happened to them when they became for a season possessed by melancholy; and that sadder men might know that one upon whom the sun has shone right joyously did not always walk in the light."

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The other day, a popular businessman, known among many evangelicals because of his large social media following, proposed that churches should stop this business of allowing people to be pastors while struggling with depression and mental illness.

His post was disgusting. Would he have fired Spurgeon?

Here's the thing. Mental illness is not a scandal. It's not some secret sin. It doesn't disqualify a man or woman from leading, even as a pastor among Jesus' flock.

It simply makes him human. And further, it gives God's glory a chance to shine all that much brighter through human weakness and frailty.

I've struggled often and openly. Many other pastors I know have as well. If you're one of them, keep going (unless God's Spirit warns you to take a break). Keep loving people and allowing God to be strong through you.

And if you struggle with depression, anxiety or mental illness of any kind, take it to Jesus, daily, as long as you struggle with it. And even when He doesn't miraculously or instantly heal you of it—even when it goes on for weeks, for months, for years—keep trusting Him. Keep hearing His truth.

And keep making the church the safest place on earth for strugglers to gather for hope and healing.

As King David, who most certainly struggled with depression, said, "Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again, my Savior and my God!" (Ps. 42:11, NLT).

Brandon A. Cox planted Grace Hills Church in Bentonville, Arkansas, in July 2011 and serves as the lead pastor. He previously served as a pastor under Rick Warren at Saddleback Church and developed the online global community of He is also a coach to leaders, pastors and church planters.

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