Kayla Stoecklein met her husband Andrew when she was just 19 years old and quickly fell in love.
When her husband became a pastor, Kayla jumped right in to serve alongside him and help with his ministry.
But now, she finds herself a widow and a single mom after her husband took his own life – and her message on mental health and ministry is something everyone needs to hear.
Being a pastor and serving others through ministry is a beautiful avocation, full of rewards and blessings.
But it can also be incredibly isolating and stressful. Oftentimes, a pastor and his family can become discouraged and end up feeling alone.
As for Andrew, with carrying the burden of ministry and all the stress it entailed, he became anxious and depressed and ultimately burned out.
He thought the only way to escape was to commit suicide and he tragically took his own life.
Left to be a single mother and a widow, Kayla was living every woman’s worst nightmare.
But she refused to let death have the last word – and used her own personal tragedy to open up the conversation on mental health in the church and end the stigma.
Kayla rightly points out she realizes her husband isn’t the only one who struggled with mental illness, and he isn’t the only one who both thought about suicide and actually ended his own precious life.
She points to the importance of the church being a safe place for people to share their burdens with one another instead of hiding them in shame.
Christianity Today reported:
“Many pastors and people serving in ministry positions struggle with their mental health. And sadly, they don’t always feel like there is space for them to share their struggles with their peers or congregants. Fear of losing their job, fear of losing their platform, fear of losing their voice, fear of losing respect from their peers is all a very real reality. From my experience with Andrew, I’ve learned how important it is for the church to set up leaders to respond when they inevitably find themselves in a season of ministry fatigue.
Every pastor needs a safe circle of people with whom they can be vulnerable. They need close friends and a trusted community where they can let their guard down, take off their pastor hat, and just be themselves. Andrew would often say, “It’s lonely at the top,” but it doesn’t have to be. We were never created to do life alone; it doesn’t work.”
And Kayla is exactly right.
God created us to be in community with one another, sharing each other’s burdens and walking the journey of life together.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2
Whether a lay-ministry leader, a pastor, or a church member – every Christian should feel that the church is a safe place to share their heart – and they should run to it when they are hurting.
Our hearts grieve for Kayla’s loss and heartbreak.
While nothing can bring her husband back to this world, it’s incredible to see her vulnerably in sharing her own personal tragedy in hopes to help others avoid the same devastating outcome.
May God bless you and your family, Kayla.
In addition to running into the arms of your church family, if you or someone you know struggles with mental illness and has suicidal thoughts, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 and their number is 800-273-8255.
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