Tuesday, March 29, 2016
DEPRESSED AFTER PREACHING
This last weekend was one of those times when I experienced a real depressive episode after preaching. It was one of the worst I have ever had. I felt defeated, embarrassed and ashamed. When I was finished I couldn’t even remember how I had ended the sermon. Afterward, the Lord’s Supper was celebrated and I took the elements. Yet, as my daughter drove me home I was silent in the car. Usually I am asking members of my family how they thought it went, what stood out to them, even how it could have been done better. This time, I asked no questions.
I have had other pastors tell me that preaching is hard for them, that they often feel terrible after preaching, that they feel they have just not done a good job. I can’t objectively tell you if the sermon was really that bad. I know the Scripture is true, and I hope I “divided” the Word accurately. I am not sure if I made a huge mistake and I intuitively know it but my emotions are keeping me from realizing it.
Often I feel vulnerable after preaching. My wife was not with me on this Easter Sunday as she had singing responsibilities at our other church site. I will sometimes find her after preaching and just stand next to her for some emotional support.
I believe in “Spirit filled preaching” because I believe in the filling of the Holy Ghost. I ask the Lord to help me when I stand to preach. I don’t want to “preach in the flesh” as it were, or in my own strength. I certainly don’t want the sermon to be about me, or manipulative or crafty. I want to be full of God, and I want the sermon to glorify Christ. I realize the need to be prepared, to know the text, but sometimes I tend to get lost in the application and fail to end a sermon well. This is my very human failing.
My gift is to be more extemporaneous that to be literate, in short I don’t write out my sermons and have few notes. Yet, the danger is to lose my tether and to wander a bit, to start out on an illustration (which I often think of right at the moment of preaching) and hope it makes sense. Sounds dangerous even as I write about it, and it can be.
I was pumped to preach this weekend. I preached on the night of Good Friday and loved the experience, loved the reason for a sermon on this very special day. I was honored to be asked to preach on Easter, to celebrate the Resurrection. Yet, there I was feeling morose and even frightened after I had finished delivering God’s great truths. The pastor that mentored me taught me enough about spiritual warfare for me to know that the Devil is often involved in our ministries. He is the great accuser. At the time I didn’t even think about him, I just felt terrible. I was also taught to never beg for consolation after I preach as others may have been deeply blessed, convicted, or encouraged and would find my negative feelings very confusing.
I am hardly ever depressed, usually optimistic and very confident. If anything I tend to be over confident. So, this is not a constant struggle. It did make me feel for my brothers though, who struggle with depression, who even dread how they will feel after they attempt to minister. I am sure some people thanked me for preaching, but in a depressed moment we can hardly believe what others tell us since we are already convinced we are worthless. I have pastored a great congregation which has never been reticent about confirming my gifts or expressing their love for me, and my preaching. I can’t imagine what it must be like to never get that kind of emotional support. I tell you these things just in case someone else knows the feeling, and some others might not know their preachers ever have such feelings.
Maybe I need to be rebuked for my lack of faith. Now, a few days later I feel so blessed to be loved and forgiven by God, so please don’t take me to task too readily. Maybe it was a bad sermon and someone will have the courage to come and point out what I did wrong. I believe the Gospel enough, right now, to be able to hear it.