How to Deal with Post-Spiritual-High Depression

Sometimes, following an experience in which God showed up in a powerful way, we can find ourselves overwhelmed with negative emotions. 

Depression.

Fear.

Confusion.

Frustration.

Even anger.

It doesn’t seem to make sense. “Why am I so bummed? Why do I feel so bad after something so good?”

It doesn’t just happen for pastors on Monday. It can happen to anyone after an engaging ministry retreat, a life-changing camp experience, or a cross-cultural mission trip.

Here’s a little-known fact: coming off the “mountain top” of experiencing God is a little bit like coming down from too much caffeine or sugar. When the buzz and thrill are gone, we miss it--badly.

Here’s another fact: it’s normal, and you’ll be okay if you decide to stay the course.

I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Elijah found in 1 Kings.

Elijah was a great man of God. He performed miracles, and he boldly faced down 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). God worked in him and through him in a powerful way.

But in 1 Kings 19, in the aftermath of that great experience, we find Elijah afraid and running for his life from Jezebel. He ends up isolated and depressed, and he even prays for God to take his life!

One of the things I love about our God is that He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He always pursues us. In fact, God appeared to Elijah and confronted him. “Elijah, what in blazes are you doing?” (Bubna Paraphrase Edition).

Elijah complained to God, but then the Lord essentially said, “Get back to work; I’ve still got a job for you to do!” In other words, “Elijah, stop whining and stay the course.”

In over 38 years of ministry, I’ve taken a lot of people on mission trips around the world. I’ve watched God use simple and humble people (like you and me) to do amazing things. I’ve also seen those same individuals come home and get “lost” in a sea of negative emotions.

I’ve seen couples come home from an exciting and encouraging marriage retreat and crash under the weight of reality the real world.

I’ve seen hundreds of youth return from camps or retreats on fire for Jesus, and they’re pumped—until they’re not. To borrow a phrase from Tamera Alexander, "Too many end up as bored as a spud in the mud!"

Tragically, I’ve even seen many bail on God and His Church because “real life” is too predictable and mundane—or the opposite, too challenging and harsh.

Here’s the antidote . . .

When you’re faced with post-ministry misery, depression, frustration, confusion, and whatever else might be plaguing your soul, get back to work serving God right where you live.

He still has a plan for your life.

It won’t always feel like camp or that incredible mission trip.

The daily grind of the morning after can be tough for pastors.

Day to day isn’t quite as exhilarating or awe-inspiring as that life-changing conference with Beth Moore.

But God shows up in the valleys of life too (remember Psalm 23:4).

Resist the temptation to focus too much on “next year in Guatemala” or “next year at camp” or “next Easter,” while missing what God has for you at this very moment.

No one lives on top of the mountain all the time.

So be present in the here and now. And as Elijah eventually did, listen for God’s gentle whisper, and you’ll be fine.

I promise.

God’s not done with you. Not now. Not ever.

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4 thoughts on “How to Deal with Post-Spiritual-High Depression

  1. Thanks for the good words of encouragement for pressing on after the mountain top experience. The let-down after a mission trip or conference is real, and we need the reminder to rest and go forward.

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