When You Are In a Dark Hole and Can’t Get Out

I was nervous.depression2.jpg

I sat in a chair, of a large counseling center located just off the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City. I had begun seeing this counselor just a few weeks earlier. I was there because I was struggling with depression.

I was in the middle of a church situation that was tough – very tough. I wasn’t handling it well emotionally. (To think of this in terms of systems thinking, I wasn’t “managing myself” very well.)

Life at this church was not good. Oh, there were some wonderful people at this church. The conflict at this church was by no means a reflection on most of these people. Yet, deep – seated conflict existed in the underbelly of this church. It was present before I came, and it was there after I left.

Whispering.

Gossip.

Ungodly attitudes and words.

I wasn’t sure whom to trust. I felt betrayed by a few people I thought were friends.

Meanwhile, I was second – guessing myself on a number of fronts. I second – guessed my preaching, my decisions, and my conversations. I wondered if life would ever get better. I felt as if I was in a dark, deep hole and unable to get out. Quite often, I sat in a pool of self – pity, condemning the situation and then feeling less than for not handling it better.

I decided to see a counselor after a push from my wife and our family physician. This counselor was male, about ten years older than I. He had a relaxed easygoing manner. I liked that he didn’t have that therapeutic voice. No, he seemed more like a regular person whose job it was to help someone like me who felt stuck. As I returned for numerous visits, I felt more and more free to talk openly. I realized that if was going to be able to serve in a church, I was going to have to learn how to do so without it destroying me.

That was some years ago.

Right now I am thinking about ministers who are in this same situation and who wonder how it will all play out.

I also think about the spouses of these ministers who watch their loved one in such situation lose their spirit, confidence, and who now feel such discouragement.

Question

Does this sound familiar to you? Have you experienced such difficulties in your life? Have you known others who have? What was helpful?


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  • http://gregengland.com Greg England

    You pretty much described the last seven of the eight years of my stay in Florida. I did a LOT of walking, praying, running (I was a high school basketball official for 20 years), and venting to Janice and a few closer friends, who are still close friends. Janice’s support was what ultimately pulled me through. She didn’t give any answers, but she listened. And she loved me, unconditionally.

    • Jim Martin

      Greg, as I read your note I was struck by the “walking, praying, running.” I thought back to the number of people who I have talked with who found help in such a time by prayer as well as physical exercise.

      You are blessed with Janice’s support. How wonderful.

  • http://nextstopprocrastinationstation.blogspot.com Carolyn

    I really appreciate you posting about this, Jim. I lament over how many churches serve as a source of anxiety, hurt and sadness rather than life-giving places of hope and love; particularly for the ministers and their families. I think it is a huge problem, and one that doesn’t get very much attention. I know what has helped us is maintaining relationships with other Christians that are not members of the same congregation. This can be difficult, particularly in a small town, but it has been worth the effort to reach out to others in ministry or other Christians we trust who are not enmeshed in the same church family.

    • Jim Martin

      Carolyn, your comment really touches on something that is very important. You are so right about the importance of having friendships that go beyond the church family. I have done this for years and this practice has helped me in many, many ways. Most of all, it has helped to keep me from getting totally enmeshed in whatever might be happening in the congregation.

      Hope that you and Matt are doing well, Carolyn. Good to hear from you.