As a Pastor’s wife, I felt pretty sure there was an unwritten rule; “Don’t go for counseling.” My excuses were plenty; “We’re in ministry. Aren’t we supposed to have our act together? What will people think? Who needs all that “psycho-babble”? My excuses all sounded pretty reasonable until my life began to fall apart.
Over the course of a few months, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, faced a double mastectomy, and began having panic attacks due to the sexual abuse I had faced as a child but had never dealt with. I mean, who wants to talk about sexual abuse? To make matters worse, the anxiety and panic made me feel guilty, like I was sinning. The more I worried about sinning, the worse my anxiety became. After all, who of us hasn’t heard a great sermon teaching us to “Be anxious for nothing”. But, I was anxious and a bit depressed. To put it simply in today’s language, I was a hot mess! I was a “pastor’s wife”. My husband was serving one of the largest churches in the area. What would people think?
An older and wiser friend, who was mentoring me, suggested counseling out of state. After a lot of prayer and convincing my husband, who wasn’t a huge fan of the idea, I agreed to go. Once. That. Was. All. Once. I met with the godly, Christian therapist who specialized in sexual abuse. Once became many but in those years of counseling, I found wholeness and healing. Now, looking back, both my husband and are so glad I went. And at times he came as well.
Counseling is simply processing your thoughts with a well-trained therapist who can help you figure out how to move forward.
So, why I am telling you all this? What does this have to do with your life? Everything. I believe your church is likely filled with broken and hurting people. People who might need a little counseling but are afraid to say so, for fear they’ll be judged. In fact, it’s possible that you are feeling broken. The statistics for those in ministry who are struggling with depression are staggering. If you value personal growth, it might be good to consider seeing a counselor. Imagine the freedom you would give your people if you authentically admitted you had seen a counselor? Just a thought.
How do you know if you need a therapist? Here are 5 signs I would say it’s crucial to meet with a Christian well-trained therapist:
- If you’re struggling with depression that continues longer than a couple of months. Did you know that suicide is on the rise among pastors? Please. Take a risk. Go see a counselor and get some help.
- If you were victimized by sexual abuse as a child. Or, any other kind of childhood trauma. You likely have PTSD and need to come up with some strategies on how to cope.
- If you have anger issues. It’s astounding how many pastors explode in board meetings. Why not figure out where all that anger is coming from?
- If you’re struggling with an addiction or grew up with a parent who struggled with one. Alcohol. Pornography. Drugs. Let go of the shame. Admit you need help and you’ll find freedom.
- If you’re struggling in your marriage. Don’t let resentment build. Meet with a therapist as a couple because you’re committed to your marriage.
The temptation in ministry is to “hide our baggage” so we look good to the world. Unfortunately, that’s not God’s plan. He calls us to be real. When we allow Him to shine through our brokenness He receives all the glory. And, the astounding truth is that people respond more favorably to those in ministry who are real. It’s a win, win for everyone!
Becky Harling is an energetic speaker, author, and coach, inspiring audiences to overcome their greatest life challenges and reach their full God-given potential. Becky’s life experience as a Pastor’s wife, Women’s Ministries Director, survivor of breast cancer and childhood sexual abuse, all bring depth and realism to her message. www.beckyharling.com