Tag Archives: Preaching

Preaching the Resurrection to the Mentally Ill


It is hard to overestimate how important preaching the resurrection is to the mentally ill, including the clinically depressed. That’s the illness I know best, but I firmly believe that this holds true for anxiety, manic depression, schizophrenia and a host of other mental illnesses.

The reason is simple. For the mentally ill, you are trapped in your own mind and body. Your brain is not processing as it should, and so the chemical changes in your body interact in a very bad way with the sinful nature which infects us all. If your sickness is telling you that things are far, far worse than they really are, and your sinful nature is telling you that God hates you, put these two together and you have a recipe for personal and spiritual disaster.

Mental illness works as a magnifying glass and amplifier for so many of the doubts and fears which infect us all. Everyone has doubts about the future. Everyone has moments of despair. Everyone has fears about what they cannot control. Everyone questions their own worthiness before God and before their fellow human beings. We all go through these. But for the mentally ill, especially the clinically depressed, these feelings are all consuming. The physical illness can easily lead to anfectung, the struggle of the soul.

So why does preaching the resurrection matter to the clinically depressed? It matters because in the resurrection of the body, there is a future and a hope that is real, that is concrete, that will happen to matter what may be going on today or yesterday or tomorrow. St. Paul puts it best:

“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1Corinthians 15:19 KJV)

For the depressed, there is no tomorrow.
For the depressed, there is only thick darkness.
For the depressed, there is only more misery.
For the depressed, there is no escape except the grave.

But not so the Christian!

There is a tomorrow in Christ.
There is light that shines in the darkness.
There is joy in the body of Christ.
There is escape not in the grave but through the resurrection of the body.

So, my fellow preachers, give us the resurrection. It is my only hope out of the darkness. Give me Jesus Christ risen from the dead. Nothing, nothing else will ever satisfy.

Easter is coming. I can’t wait.

A Sermonic Panic Attack

So this past Sunday was quite an adventure in my illness. I had really been struggling with the sermon. It wasn’t working. I tried writing it three times. Nada. I tried working through one of my old sermons (been doing too much of that lately). Nada. Finally I settled on a sermon that a friend wrote whom I can usually “lift” without too much trouble. But it just didn’t feel right. I knew this, but I had just ran outta time in preparation. So it goes.

The service is going fine, but the sermon is just dogging at me. I can’t get it out of my mind, and not in a good way. It didn’t feel right. As I thought through it, I didn’t know what I was going to say. There was nothing there. Just nada.

We come to the sermon hymn. Thankfully, it has seven verses so I have a little time to think. My mind is racing, but it isn’t going anywhere. I just have no idea what I’m going to say. The manuscript is up there, but it’s like it’s not even though. I finally get up to start reviewing it before I’m on.

I start the sermon. But I can’t read. I get through a sentence, and it’s like the words have no relationship to each other. It makes no sense. I try off the cuff a bit, but my brain has become a black hole, sucking all thought away into a mindless void. I am as we would say in Hebrew class, tohou wa vohou, a formless void.

This goes on for 5-7 minutes. I really have no idea how long. I have no idea what I said. I’d read a sentence, and then try to say something offhand about it, but it wouldn’t make any sense. I’m sweating, fearful that I have now been FOUND OUT for the fraud that I feel I am all the time.

Thankfully, it ended. The rest of the liturgy went fine, and bible class went surprisingly fine. But the whole experience left me shaken.

I think it was a panic attack, just unlike any I’ve experienced before.


God willing, tonight will go better.

So how’s your week?

Anxiety, Depression and Preaching

I’ve seen a number of comments about the ongoing anxiety of preaching. I know preachers who throw up before every service. I know preachers who haven’t loved it for years. Preaching, if it is done right, is profoundly self-exposing. Preachers who know their people must know themselves, the depths of their own sin. These who preach to their congregation best probably preach to (sometimes against) themselves first.

So what does this mean for the preacher who has a mental illness like generalized anxiety disorder or clinical depression? Therein lies the rub. Continue reading Anxiety, Depression and Preaching