Mental Health Awareness – Chris Millar Story
I was reminded the other day by someone that it is still quite rare for people to openly talk about going to counseling. Perhaps even more rare for men, and also rare for pastors.
Well, I go to counseling. I have consistently gone to counseling since 2018. Why did I start going? Because I needed help. Because my brain seemed to outpace my soul and I felt incredibly disordered. I was a college pastor, helping lead a thriving ministry, happily married, and a new dad. Life looked awesome, and genuinely, it was awesome. And yet, in a flash of relational conflict and significant stress, my mind would have horrifying thoughts like “what if everyone was better off without me?”
Part of my role as a college pastor was leading a weekly gathering for college students, and I remember one night in 2018, we had over 200 students and I thought to myself, “wow! This is the biggest gathering we’ve had!” And yet, that wasn’t enough. I came home late that night, landed up in a conflict with my wife, and that night I felt like I didn’t want to live anymore…
The next day, I asked my boss (pastor, and now, dear friend and mentor) if I could have a day off to get my head back on. He fully supported it and encouraged me to get some rest.
I had been invited to a gathering with the Houston Church Planting Network and felt like it was a good excuse to get out of town and go be in a room where I wasn’t the leader and I had zero responsibilities. The meeting begins and a pastor stands up and begins to share his story of wrestling with depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. He shared of mentors who had taken their lives. And in a matter of moments, and felt as though God was personally chasing me down with His loving kindness.
At the end of his talk, he said “if you’re here today , and have wrestled with mental health before, would you raise your hand.” In a room of 300+ pastors, it felt like a bold thing to do, but I raised my hand, somewhat reluctantly, along with around 80 other men. What happened next was a unique moment of grace that I pray I’ll never forget.
He then proceeded to say “perhaps you’re here today, and you are currently struggling with mental health or have thought recently about ending your life. I want to ask you to stand up and we want to pray for you as a community of brothers.” It was as though the Lord Himself lifted me from my seat. Before I had time to even think about it, I stood up, and tears began to flow down my face. I was embraced by multiple pastors who began to pray over me, but more than that, I was embraced by the grace of Jesus which I’ve never been able to outrun.
At that time, they introduced a counseling group that they partnered with called Here Come Better Days. I met Jeremy that day and God has used him time and time again to be a voice of hope, life, and wisdom.
The last 5 years have been marked by a steady maturing and progression towards peace and order in my mind and my soul, and I couldn’t be more grateful for what the Lord has done.
I advocate for counseling regularly because I believe in it. I think it’s a common grace from God to get to work with people that are skilled in helping order the mind, body, and soul.
As a pastor, I have lots of opportunities to refer people to a counselor and talk about why I think it might be a great next step and I often here “but people might think there’s something wrong with me.”
My friend, there is something wrong with you. There’s something wrong with me. That’s actually a huge reason I’m a Christian, is because there is something wrong with me.
But there’s better news than that, and the story doesn’t end with “there’s something wrong with us.” The story ends with a kind Father saying “but there wasn’t meant to be, so let me help you get back to who I made you to be.” That story has a hero and his name is Jesus. For me, counseling has simply looked like Jesus taking me by the hand, and graciously walking me back to who God has made me to be.
One of the best days of my life was when I said “I need help.”
Chris Millar is the lead pastor of The Well Community Church in San Marcos, TX