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My Depression Is Not Wasted

What Gillian Marchenko learned when mental illness mixed with ministry

You minister at home, church, and through writing and speaking. How has depression affected your ministry?

God provides through Jesus. I have nothing to offer in my own strength. I rely on the solid ground (to use an overused cliché). I have no other choice. If my life were up to me, I'd probably be dead. I don't worry so much now about trying to build my aspirations and desires for a life on my own because it just can't happen. Anything I try to build outside of Christ tumbles like a Jenga tower. So, in whatever ministry God leads me to, I lie on the cool, hard, pavement of Jesus and invite others to join me; to rest there and attempt stillness. I think people appreciate this ground level approach and (especially for my children) the reality that life is hard but God is there.

Also, God uses my illness. When someone approaches me saying that she has suffered silently with depression for over 30 years, I am reminded that nothing is wasted. The days I can't brush my teeth are not wasted. My depression is not wasted. It may not be the ministry I would have chosen for myself but I'm obviously not God. My mask has been ripped off because of Still Life and you know what? It's not so scary. Sharing our wounds and brokenness brings us from darkness to light. There is power in the light.

Is there ever a point at which depression disqualifies a person from ministry?

I'm not a professional in the field, but I think that if a person is at her lowest of lows, if she is battling serious plans of self-harm, or is unable to function on a basic level, she is better off taking a reprieve from ministry to focus on health.

Do I think people with mental illness should automatically be disqualified from ministry though? A resounding no! God has a plan and purpose for every one of his children to serve and be served in church.

What advice do you have for female leaders in the church who are depressed but are too ashamed or too scared to share about their depression?

Not all leaders experiencing depression have to share about their depression from the pulpit or in a public area of ministry. But they do need to reach out for help. Sometimes people think that if they ignore symptoms or pray harder or start exercising more, they will go away. Not so with depression. I usually tell people to start with a general doctor and make sure there aren't any medical issues that can mirror depressive symptoms such as a hormonal imbalance or a thyroid issue.

May26, 2016 at 8:00 AM

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