Pastor Battles Depression Behind the Pulpit
By Lori Stewart
The 700 Club
CBN.com -Perry Noble pastors one of the fastest growing churches in America. Each week, he speaks to over 26,000 people at his multi-campus church in Anderson, South Carolina. But in 2007, this successful mega-church leader admitted his true feelings to his wife.
“I remember sitting across the table from her and saying, "(The) church is bigger than it's ever been. Our daughter's beautiful and healthy. Our marriage is good. In the world's eyes I’m successful, and I hate my life.”
The pressures of pastoring were taking a toll on Perry Noble. He was overwhelmed but not willing to admit that he was struggling with anxiety & depression. Instead, he kept working at a fast-and-furious pace.
“I'm going, I’m going, I’m going, I’m going and my attitude was, ‘I can do this because I’m superman. I can do anything. I mean, I can preach seven, days a week. I can do all this stuff.’ I really was a control freak during that time period. I wanted control of everything.”
But this ‘super pastor’ could no longer mask his depression and anxiety. Perry was preaching when he suffered the first of several panic attacks.
“I started sweating and I couldn't control my breath …it felt like my chest was closing in. I literally walked off stage and handed my keys to a friend of mine and said, ‘please drive me home. I can't drive.’"
Perry then started having suicidal thoughts. They began one day while he was sitting at a stop light. (I thought) ‘It would be awesome if they didn't stop and they just ran the red light and they hit me and they killed me and I wouldn’t have to deal with this anymore.’ And then one day it hit me, "well, if nobody's going to kill me, and I want to die, maybe I should just kill myself. I realized I had a problem when I started thinking about ways to do it.”
For years, Perry had been telling others how to fix problems like this. Now, he tried taking his own advice. “I’m like, ‘well, I guess I need to pray more. I need to read my Bible more. I need to be more involved. I need to get more involved in spiritual discipline."
Perry felt like he was doing all the right things. But still, nothing changed. “I wanted Him to change my circumstances. But He wanted to change me and He wanted to change me through my circumstances.”
Perry realized he couldn’t fix this on his own. He went into counseling where he faced painful childhood memories; the loss of his mother, an abusive father. He’d spent most of his life working to gain others’ approval – even in his role as a pastor. “I was still in a performance mindset. I still believed that the bigger the church got the more God loved me and the more He would approve of me. I had worked so hard for God, not realizing that the thing that He wanted me to do was to walk with Him.”
Perry says through counseling, God began to heal the broken places in his heart. He also realized he had been neglecting the Sabbath rest.
“Here's reality; every pastor in the world - and it doesn't matter if they have ten people or 100,000 people coming to their church - is under significant spiritual pressure.”
“What pastors do, is they adopt a pace in life that's so unsustainable. I remember telling somebody when they confronted me on my pace early on, they're like, ‘well, you know, you're going too fast. You're going too hard.’ And I was like, ‘well, the devil never takes a day off. And he was like, ‘well, the devil's not supposed to be your example.’ Maybe like Genesis 1, where God took a day off should be the example that you strive for.’”
Perry talks about his battle with anxiety & depression in his new book, Overwhelmed. Today, this type-A pastor is intentional about resting, spending time with family, and just having fun.
“Learning to take a Sabbath, learning to take a day of rest, learning to actually do something fun and not feeling guilty about it, is essential to long-term health.”
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