In the Back of the Cave

Andrew Stoecklein was the 30-year-old senior pastor of the Inland Hills Church in Chino, California. He was married, had three beautiful boys, and was surrounded by many friends and Christian brothers and sisters. He had been open for some time about his struggle with depression and anxiety, but few understood just how deep and dark this struggle was. Last Sunday, after preaching his last sermon, this Christ-follower who seemingly had everything to live for killed himself. Later in the week, his wife Kayla wrote a blog post to him as if he were logged in and reading. She apologized for the times he struggled alone (that’s what you do when you are severely depressed). Although she must be dealing with terrible guilt, she placed the blame for this tragedy exactly where it belongs—

The enemy saw how God was using your gifts, abilities, and unique teaching style to reach thousands of lives for Him. The enemy hated it and he pursued you incessantly. Taunting you and torturing you in ways that you were unable to express to anyone… Until we meet again I will cling to my Father in heaven. He will carry me through every second, every minute, every hour of every day. I read a verse this morning and I know God is reminding me that even now, in the midst of my deepest pain that He has got this.

May God bless Kayla and her boys as they deal with grief and loss. What an example she is of faith in the middle of the fire of heartache, pain and loss. Ultimately, that is the only kind of faith that can last.

There are some who suggest strong and faithful Christians should never suffer from silly things like depression and anxiety. If someone really trusts that God “has got this,” they’ll never deal with the “black hole of depression” and it’s ugly cousin anxiety. Anxiety and depression are only silly to people who have never experienced it. Remember Elijah and his cave in 1 Kings 19? He had just had one of the great mountaintop experiences ever, but now he is sitting in a cave wishing to die. Was Elijah a strong believer? But sometime that black hole is no respecter of faith. Ironically, one of Stoecklein’s final sermons was “In the Back of the Cave” from 1 Kings 19.

Depression and anxiety are real threats to people of faith. In fact, faith can make it worse because Christians can feel terribly guilty that they are struggling at all. When you find yourself in that dark cave, get help. If someone you love is in the dark cave, get them help. See depression as what it is, one of the tools in a broken world that Satan uses against people of faith.