By Rodetta Cook

Rodetta Cook has been a pastor’s wife for over 40 years. She and her husband, Ron, have actively served the Lord together in ministry during the entire time and are co-founders of Care for Pastors. She understands the expectations, loneliness and how hard it is to find balance in ministry as a pastor’s wife. Rodetta also leads the pastor’s wives initiative at Care for Pastors called The Confidante and ministers to hundreds of wives each week. She strives to share blogs with other pastors’ wives that will help them in their ministry walk.

    Eric’s Story

    Monday, March 11, 2019

    I want to dedicate the next four weeks to a subject that is becoming more and more prevalent in ministry circles and that is depression. Yes, even pastors and spouses deal with depression. We were recently made aware of a young 31 year old pastor who was dealing with depression and hopelessness who took his own life, and his wife is now speaking out and sharing his story.

    I have sat down many times at this exact computer to write my sweet husband’s story. Our story has been a dance between moments of great joy laced with the painful times of deep sorrow. My husband’s heart was to share his story to help others. His prayer was to use his past hurt, past mistakes and current pain for the glory of God. He didn’t get the chance to share his story before he died. So, to my loving, compassionate, outgoing, broken but God-loving husband-this is for you.

    I fell in love with him when he was only 22. He had a unique way of connecting with people. Everywhere he went, he was always the loudest in the room. His laugh would bounce off the walls. His days consisted of sharing Jesus with anyone who would listen and sometimes those who wouldn’t. When I met him I knew that he was special. Every Tuesday night he would pass out waters to the homeless in downtown Fort Worth. He would bring his own gallon jug of water and cups and just sit and talk with people. His heart was to minister to others no matter what avenue that would be in. He loved Jesus and I loved him. We met in seminary in 2009. We both had big dreams to change the world together. We married in the spring of 2011. We struggled for years to have a baby but in March of 2017, God gave us twins. They are the brightest lights in our small world. They are, and forever will be, our “abundantly more.”

    On January 4th, my husband went home to be with Jesus. He was 31 years old when he took his own life. These words are hard to write for so many reasons. I still struggle to wrap my head around how someone who had so much joy, talent and conviction could also carry so much pain. My husband battled deep depression–depression that he constantly fought–depression that went unnoticed and ignored–depression that was shamed and depression that ultimately took his life.

    His true story needs to be shared. It needs to be a megaphone to those who struggle, to those who hide because of shame, to those who don’t understand and to those who have the power to make a difference.

    My husband wrote about his struggles often and I hope that I can share his powerful words in the future as I continue to pray, process and heal. Several days before he died he wrote a note on his phone. I found it days after he had passed away. It reads as follows:

    It has been quite a journey for me these last few years. I have hit the lowest of lows. I have battled cancer, addiction, job loss, worthlessness, deep depression, confusion, anger, and hate. There have been days of complete darkness and hopelessness. But there is one thing I will not do…

    I will not give up.                                                   

    Yes, I have struggled with what to believe about God. I have had thoughts of “God, you made a mistake on me.” But every time (every time) my thoughts go there I am reminded of this picture.

     Although I am not active in my addiction, I will always be active in my recovery. The mistakes and sinful choices of my past will be used by God to impact my future. I am thankful that when God looks at me he sees a forgiven, pure man that He created and loves. And while I sometimes lack in my faith, He holds me up and tells me…

     “Pick your head up. You are not alone. Don’t you ever give up. And when you feel like it is all over. Run to me, and we will walk together.”

     I am Eric Garland. A person of worth because of what Jesus says, not because of what society labels me…

    His words serve as an example of what so many people feel and experience daily. He fought hard. He battled his deep wounds of worthlessness and shame. The lies he believed about himself were very powerful. The lies he believed from others often spoke louder than truth. Yet, he continued to fight to follow and love the Lord every step of the way.

    Eric was a pastor for 7 years. It was his heartbeat and it was his “home.” Sadly, the ministry isn’t always the easiest place to be. This may be hard to believe, but ministry can be an extremely lonely and stressful world. He never wanted to mess up and he hated to disappoint anyone. He brought in some past wounds and insecurities, but being in the pastorate added a new level to his “need to have everything together.” Some of this was placed on him from himself, but some was placed on him from others. His stress became greater as he began to have physical symptoms showing the weight of everything. In 2017, my husband was diagnosed with kidney cancer. This was devastating. But, what added to the devastation was that we were hit by the shocking fact that my husband was also battling an addiction to opioids. What started as prescriptions for his physical pain became a full blown addiction within a year’s time. When we found out about his addiction, he immediately went to rehab and got clean in August of 2017. We are thankful that he stayed clean and was clean until he took his final breath. I am so proud of him for that. Opioids were an avenue to cover his pain for a little while. Sadly, his pain continued. He was eventually diagnosed with depression and ADHD in 2018.

    He wanted to share about how God healed him of cancer and delivered him from his opioid addiction. However, it wasn’t easy. He was shamed and rejected for his past mistake. He often felt abandoned and hopeless. Though he was clean and in remission, he struggled being accepted by his old world. He was hired by a church where the main pastors (not the church body) also made him feel worthless, asked him to keep his past a secret, bullied him and rejected him. No matter how hard he fought, this was a harsh reality that so many didn’t seem to understand.  Through it all, God did bring several amazing and encouraging prayer warriors and friends our way. They loved my husband and showed him true biblical grace. I will forever be grateful for them.

    Depression is like a raging river that has a waterfall at the end. It’s hard to breathe. It’s hard to fight. It’s hard to see what’s ahead. Though you have moments of relief, it’s a struggle to stay above water. That was my husband’s last years on earth. He loved God, he loved me, he loved his children and he loved life; but he could never stop that feeling of drowning. And ultimately he was swept over the edge.

    My husband struggled with deep depression. His hurt ran deeply. He made mistakes, and he made a mistake on January 4th–one that will forever change the lives of so many. I am praising God that he is in Heaven now, but I want him here with us. I miss him every day. I think about the things I could have done differently every day, the things that others could have done differently. Every day these haunt me. But, I am reminded to think on the things I can do differently today. I can share his story. I can stand up for truth. I can use his words and his life to help a hurting world. I can love deeply and genuinely. TODAY.

    If you are struggling, PLEASE reach out to someone and continue reaching out. I can guarantee you that you are not alone. We are all broken, and it’s ok. It’s what we do with our brokenness. Stand on truth. “You ARE a person of worth because of what Jesus says, not because of what society labels you.” Share your story, keep fighting and do not give up.

    My husband wrote this in a recent journal entry:

     “The truth is, I am not meant to hide. I am meant to live in the freedom the Gospel has given me. I know we all wish we could erase some dark times in our lives. But, all life’s experiences, bad and good make you who you are. Erasing any of life’s experiences would be a great mistake. Mistakes can be our teacher, not our attacker. A mistake is a lesson not a loss. It is a temporary, necessary detour, but not a dead end. 

    More than anything I want my brokenness to enlighten those who find themselves in fear, and shame to be able to see His light… To know that Jesus truly is the great Restorer and Redeemer.” 

    I pray Krissie’s courage to share Eric’s story will help many pastors and spouses reach out and get the help they need and stop believing the lies of Satan. God is a God of a second chance and He loves us unconditionally.

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