“Missionaries and Christian workers don’t get depressed.” True? No. Even though many people think that they wouldn’t be, couldn’t be, or shouldn’t be… the fact is that there are many who experience depression just like any other person.
And the reason is because they’re human, not super-human. They are vulnerable to experience the same emotions as any other person, and might be more vulnerable to depression because of the enormous amount of pressure they are under as Cross-cultural workers.
The following is an article, which might explain more about missionary depression. And then following this article, we provide links to other web site articles so you can read more helpful information concerning this issue.
-by Grantley Morris (Permission granted to copy)
William Carey’s relentless succession of achievements in the face of oppression suggests he was no more deterred by tragedies than a locomotive by butterflies. I was stunned to learn that this amazing missionary pioneer sometimes suffered what one biographer called ‘sheer black depression’.
C. H. Spurgeon, revered as last century’s greatest Baptist preacher, was so plagued by discouragement, depression, fatigue and illness that he tendered his resignation thirty-two times in thirty-nine years. Interestingly, he gradually discovered that such lows always seemed to precede new times of empowering for ministry.
A modern preacher, world-famous for his emphasis on possibility thinking, sat dejected on a building site and pronounced the death-sentence on his pet project. ‘You can’t give up,’ gasped his advisers, ‘the whole world is looking at you!’
‘If only I could have a good old-fashioned heart attack and fail with dignity,’ was his pathetic reply.
Such grim anecdotes charge me with hope. If past heroes and modern champions of positive thinking can have such bouts, I need not let the Accuser belittle me just because I am appallingly negative at times. For twenty-four-year-old David Brainerd, thrilling experiences in God’s presence were regularly interspersed with deep bouts of melancholy in which he despaired of ever achieving anything in God’s service. Three years later, an unprecedented outpouring of the Spirit upon American Indians erupted after his preaching. This move coincided with a time when the clammy clouds of dejection were so thick that he was seriously contemplating ending his missionary endeavors.
A. B. Simpson —that highly respected missionary statesman, exceptional preacher, and founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance —was yet another great achiever who ‘was always susceptible to periods of despair.’ Though his highs soared to supernatural visions, they did not prevent his lows.
I don’t make excuses. Having the disposition of a professional prune taster is nothing to boast about. Depression usually marks lost faith in the One with whom I have entrusted my future. It dishonors the One who floods my life with endless love and manipulates for good everything that touches me. When I’m low, however, the last thing I need is despondency about my despondency. Though we slide on a downer, that does not make us losers. A horde of spiritual giants have been on the slide before us and lived to excel.
Limp faith might be all you need. Take heart from the man exalted as Scripture’s prime example of faith (Romans 4; Galatians 3:6-9; Hebrews 11:8-19; James 2:21-23). In an early chapter of Genesis, God tells Abraham on two separate occasions that he will give him the land and descendants (Genesis 12:2,7). Just four verses later we find Abraham humiliating Sarah, denying that she is his wife. In cowardly deceit, he stands dumbly by as Pharaoh marries Sarah and takes her into his harem (Genesis 12:10-16).
Next chapter, God yet again details the promise of land and descendants (Genesis 13:14-17). Nevertheless, two chapters on, we find Abraham expecting to die childless. For a fourth time God insists he will give Abraham descendants. At last the old fossil believes. The Lord, thrilled with Abraham’s refound faith, repeats his vow to give him the land. In disbelief, Abraham asks for a sign. (Genesis 15:2-8) With divine patience God dramatically shows the mighty man of faith not only his future descendants, but what will happen to them.
In the next chapter we find our faith model throwing away any hope of a miracle from God. He resorts to dubious natural means to forcibly accomplish what God seems unwilling to do. He bypasses his wife and turns to her maid for a baby (Genesis 16:1-3).
Years later, the Lord yet again reaffirms his promise to Abraham and declares that Sarah would conceive. Abraham laughs. He is sure his wife has more potential as an Egyptian mummy than as a Hebrew one. ‘She’s too old. Just bless Ishmael,’ is the crux of his reply (Genesis 17:17-18). Yet the Lord persists. One more time our hero gropes for that slippery fish called faith.
Before long, he is again passing off Sarah as his sister, showing more faith in his powers of deception than in God’s integrity. This time it is King Abimelech who almost has a go at impregnating Sarah (Genesis 20:2-3). Just weeks later, (assuming Genesis 18:10 – Genesis 21:2 are in chronological order) she conceived Abraham’s baby.
Faith is not a non-stop flight above reality; it’s a fight. What distinguishes people of faith is not how rarely they hit the dirt, but how often they get up again. To be perpetually positive is impossible. The mere attempt embroils us in prayer battles and Abrahamic effort. The enemy often flees to his corner, only to prepare for the next round. You might even have climbed out of the ring, but the reward for getting back in exceeds anything anyone could offer.
More precious than gold. ‘Lord, increase our faith,’ pleaded the disciples.
‘If you have faith the size of a mustard seed…’ came the reply. (Luke 17:5-6)
Perhaps our greatest need is not huge faith, but to fully use our small faith. Perhaps we miss out because we devalue our faith, not using it to the fullest because we wrongly imagine that tiny faith is too insignificant to move the hand of God. If faith is more valuable than gold (1 Peter 1:7), the merest speck is too precious to despise. Do not let feelings of inadequacy strangle your faith. Just keep pressing on. Past greats achieved much with floundering faith. So can you.
Like everyone, my faith levels fluctuate. Usually I am aware that a few moments dwelling on faith-building truths or squashing negative thoughts would boost my faith a little, but I foolishly let myself remain at a lower faith level than I know I am capable of. I have failed to take faith as seriously as Scripture does. If it is as valuable as Scripture affirms, then only a fool would pass up an opportunity to slightly increase it. If our Lord valued faith at a dollar, then a one percent increase is not worth bothering about. What can you do with a cent? If common faith is of immense value, however, everything changes. On a million dollars, one percent is $10,000 —well worth a little effort!
The thrill of faith. Among the lessons to be learnt through Abraham becoming a father is not that we should do nothing and leave it all to God. Had this been Abraham’s attitude, the miracle would never have happened. The key lay not in doing nothing, but in doing the right thing — trying yet again to fill a barren womb.
We can be so paranoid about conceiving an Ishmael, that we fail to produce an Isaac. To stop trying for a child through Sarah would have been just as devoid of faith as using her maid.
Faith is leaving the security of inactivity and deliberately exposing ourselves to the painful possibility of defeat. It is Jonathan and his armor-bearer going out to meet the enemy; not his comrades hiding in holes hoping for a miracle (1 Samuel 14:1-15). It’s Peter saying, ‘If that’s you, Lord, bid me come…’ and then stepping out of the boat (Matthew 14:28-29). It’s that same fisherman saying, ‘Lord, we’ve toiled all night and caught nothing. Nevertheless, at your word…’ (Luke 5:5). It is Paul, once again facing a hostile crowd. It is you, trying one more time.
Faith is fundamental to all Christian service (Mark 11:24; John 14:12; Galatians 3:2-3; Hebrews 4:2; Hebrews 11:6; James 1:6-7; 1 John 5:4). Like a seedling, it should constantly grow (2 Corinthians 10:15; 2 Thessalonians 1:3). It is easier on ourselves if we start exercising faith now, in minor things, than to expect to pluck out of the air mountain-moving faith when it is critically needed in ministry. A delay either quickens your faith to rise to the challenge, or it’s a dead wait.
How to boost faith. I can easily believe the atom-holding, earth-spinning, galaxy-sustaining, life-giving Source of everything wonderful can do whatever he likes. Even the devil believes it. My difficulty is believing that his special love for me makes him long to use that power on my behalf.
Few of us doubt that God can do amazing things. The weak link in our faith is believing that he would do such things for ordinary, inconsequential you and me. We suspect that in the Almighty’s eyes we are not sufficiently special to warrant such attention. Oh yes, ‘God loves everyone,’ but we have a hunch that by the time that love reaches us it has spread pretty thin. I’m just one of millions. Why would God want to focus his omnipotence on me?
If we could grasp the enormity of God’s love for us, our faith would sky-rocket. Pray for a revelation. (The necessity of divine revelation is highlighted by Paul’s prayer that the Ephesians ‘comprehend… and know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge’ [Ephesians 3:18-19].)
Awareness of how much we are loved is forever slipping from our consciousness. Partially in sight for a few days, it begins to fade again. The following suggestions might help.
When we let God down —even if we really foul things up —picture the proudest father the world has seen. The baby screams, dribbles and soils itself, yet Dad still glows with pride. God is like that.
When you feel like a tiny blob in the seething mass of humanity, see the shepherd of a hundred sheep frantically searching for one. If he can be personally concerned for one, the omnipotent Shepherd of our souls can love all humanity and still be devoted to you. In the beautiful words of Isaiah, ‘As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you’ (Isaiah 62:5).
When you feel you can do nothing right, picture a child, paintbrush in hand, gleaming with excitement. Enveloping her hand is the gentle hand of the world’s greatest artist. ‘And what shall we put in this corner?’ asks the man, as his skill and the girl’s imagination merge into one. See the artist’s smile and the child’s delight as together they create stunning beauty. Under God’s guiding hand, your possibilities are mind-boggling.
No matter how you feel, you are the focus of God’s attention; doted on as though you are the only friend God has. If ever a man wanted to shower his bride with love, or his son with gifts, God longs to lavish you with his extravagance. Expect great things from God. Anything less is an insult to your almighty Savior. With your Lord impossibilities are playthings.
Let faith mushroom by seizing the fact that the Omnipotent Lord is powerful enough to use you —over-riding your every inadequacy —and loving enough to want to. And believe that though he may lovingly delay your mission, his timing is perfect. Everything God touches is destined for glory. Even now, you are God’s ‘filthy rags to heavenly riches’ success story.
The Kingdom needs prayer warriors, not prayer worriers. No matter how much you cry, beg, and wish, you have not moved from superstition to authentic Christian prayer until you can thank God for the answer, knowing it is yours before you hold it in your hand. Faith is not thinking that God can; it is knowing that he will (Mark 11:24; James 1:5-8).
You will see it when you believe it.
To help you further, if you are battling with depression, the following are web site links to articles posted on MissionaryCare.com that we encourage you to read:
• WHAT MISSIONARIES OUGHT TO KNOW ABOUT DEPRESSION
• WHAT MISSIONARIES OUGHT TO KNOW ABOUT BURN-OUT
If you have additional tips you can share to help others in this area of marriage, or you want to share requests for prayer and/or ask others for advice, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.
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