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This Pastor Died by Suicide. But First He Preached These Sermons on Depression

In Ephesians 2:10 (NLT), Stoecklein says, we read we are God’s masterpiece. God sees us as masterpieces. The word masterpiece is a little difficult to translate. In Greek, the word is “Poeima,” which literally means a thing made, workmanship.

In light of us being “things made,” Stoecklein asks “What in your mess is God trying to do in you?”

Stoecklein says it’s important for us to recognize that “there is a perfect that nobody is.” In other words, we are not perfect. Additionally, the fact that we recognize there is such a thing as perfect means that we recognize God and subsequently recognize that we are not God. In other words, our mess is a lens through which we discover God.

Coming back around to mental illness, Stoecklein shares that people who are more detail-oriented and geared toward perfection are more likely to deal with mental illness. A doctor a day dies from burnout, he offers as an example. Stop trying to perfect your mess by yourself, Stoecklein admonishes the congregation.

The second thing we need to do as “things made” is receive salvation. Jesus did what we couldn’t do for ourselves, Stoecklein says. This is the premise behind John 3:16-17. The only way out of a mess is to follow Jesus. Jesus was unique because he invited messy people to follow him while they were still messy people.

You cannot pray your way out of a mess you behaved yourself into; the only way out is to follow, Stoecklein explains.

Pointing to Philippians 1:6, Stoecklein quotes: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Becoming a masterpiece is a lifelong process. God wants us to become more mature and secure. He wants us to become better lovers of people, not just people who are good at following the rules.

A good thing to ask of God is that he would “complete the work you’ve begun in me.”

In light of the events that occurred the very next weekend, Stoecklein’s conclusion of this sermon almost sounds like a goodbye: “I love you so much. You are such a great, phenomenal church.”

What Can We Learn From Pastor Stoecklein’s Battle with Depression and Anxiety?

When I listen to his sermons, I can’t help but think he did everything he knew to do to battle his depression. Prior to the sermons, he and his wife had taken a four-month sabbatical. He saw therapists, received biblical counsel from the board of his church, and sought medical help. From all appearances, Stoecklein did everything he knew to do to seek healing.

As I dug deeper into his story, I grew increasingly confused. How could someone who had all the resources available to him and who knew Christ feel as if there was no hope left? I know we Christians like to say that we have all the answers we need in Christ, but I don’t think life is as simple as we make it out to be sometimes. Herein lies the very hard tension we manage on a daily basis.

Is Christ the answer to every question? Yes. Do Christians always know what to do because we know Christ and can ask him? No. Definitely not. Do Christians always make the best choices? Also no.

I’m reminded of something Erwin McManus said at the Global Leadership Summit this year: “I think we have to stop pretending that life is easy and somehow faith makes it easier.”