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Fired up for a different kind of retirement

Staff photo / Burton Cole Dr. Bill Finnigan, 85, stands outside his home in Howland. Finnigan had planned on retiring 20-some years ago, but on the advice of his grandson, got “refired” — fired up about a new job and ministry adventures.

HOWLAND — Dr. Bill Finnigan, 85, had planned to retire 20-some years ago.

Then his grandson said, “Gramp, you don’t mean retirement. You mean ‘refirement,’ don’t you?”

Getting fired up for new challenges is how Finnigan ended up moving to Howland and becoming a Bible teacher and a counselor at the Discipleship Academy at the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley in Youngstown.

He’s fired up to pick up the saxophone again after seven decades of not playing.

Finnigan is fired up to post regular updates on his blog at billfinnigan.com.

And he’s fired up about the release of his latest book, “Facing Depression: Exploring Its Causes and Cure,” a project based both on research and painful personal experience.

“There are so many people who pooh-pooh the idea of mental illness because they’ve never been there,” he said.

A WINDING ROAD

Finnigan grew up in Newark, N.J., and enrolled in college as a physical education major. He had planned to teach phys ed in the Army. He also had been on a pre-med track before answering the call to the ministry.

He earned a doctorate in biblical counseling while pastoring churches in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for 27 years. He doesn’t care to be addressed as “reverend” as he doesn’t believe he should be revered, but he will accept — if he has to — the title of “doctor.”

“The word doctor comes from the word doctrine,” Finnigan said. “Doctor means teacher.”

In 1990, he took a post as headmaster and professor of psychology and Bible at a school in the Atlanta area. In 1997, he accepted an offer to become part of the teaching and clinical staff at the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley in Youngstown. Seven years ago, he officially left the staff but continues to work in the mission’s Discipleship Academy.

He’s also been writing books, including “Healing for the Mind,” “Forgiven to Forgive” and “Living Skillfully: A Practical and Concise Commentary on Proverbs.”

His latest release from The Old Paths Publications is “Facing Depression,” which tackles the topic from the perspectives of mind, will and emotion.

“Most depression books don’t talk about the cause and the cure. They just talk about the symptoms,” Finnigan said. “I deal with surface causes and root causes.”

DEPRESSION IN THE BIBLE

Life disappointments, unattained goals, separation from God — “The word of God speaks to the issue of depression,” Finnigan said.

• King David battled deep despair, as evidenced by many of the Psalms he penned;

• After one of the most dramatic miracles of the Bible, Elijah ran away discouraged and in fear for his life;

• Jonah fumed in anger after achieving a great triumph;

• Job sat in ashes mourning the devastating loss of nearly everything that was his;

• Moses, the great leader of a nation, wanted to quit;

• Jeremiah told God if he’d known this is where his calling would lead, he wouldn’t have answered;

• Even Jesus was so anguished that he asked the Father if there was another way to accomplish the task given to him.

“Any minister worth his salt has been there, whether they talk about it or not,” Finnigan said. “That’s why we need a Savior to heal the body, soul and spirit.

“I was a basket case for several months. When you talk about depression, I was down at the bottom.”

For a number of months, something as simple as balancing his checkbook was beyond his ability.

“He couldn’t do it,” said Chris Finnigan, Bill’s wife of 63 years. “He couldn’t concentrate.”

“I was on the edge of going out,” Bill Finnigan said. “God raised up an old roommate from South Carolina who ministered to me from the word and prayer.

“I finally began to realize that God hadn’t left. I don’t know how to say it — God put a big knot at the end of the rope so I wouldn’t slip off,” Finnigan said.

“God delivered me. It gave me a new understanding, a new compassion for people suffering from depression.”

ROOT CAUSES

Finnigan said he is not opposed to mental hospitals or medications, because God can use anything. What he disagrees with is overly medicating people for symptoms without addressing the root cause.

“When you take Prozac, it goes to the brain, not the heart,” he said.

“I don’t tell people they need to get off Prozac. (I tell them about the grace of God.) When they accept the cure, they often choose to give up Prozac on their own,” he said.

He said his book is about prevention.

“There’s something better than being rescued from a mud hole — that’s not jumping in it.”

First, recognize the root causes that lead to depression, such as greed, covetousness, unbelief, resentment and hopelessness, he said.

“Most guys come to the mission because they’ve run out of hope. When you don’t have hope, faith and love don’t work,” he said.

Repent of the actions and feelings that are causing the depression, take responsibility for dealing with it, and understand that God’s purpose for putting us through trials is to strengthen and prepare us for the tasks he has given us to accomplish.

Seek the cures that reach the heart, such as King David’s pleas, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts” (Psalm 139:23) and “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

“We have compromised so badly in the church that we don’t know what sin is. What is not of faith is sin. Sin is missing the mark. If my thought life doesn’t line up with God, then it’s sin.

“Most people have no idea what the root is. It’s incurable without the grace of God,” he said. “When all else fails, read the manual (the Bible).”

In his book, Finnigan advises: “Don’t faint or rebel, but endure this dark moment knowing it will eventually work out for your good and God’s glory. … His ‘tranquilizing’ peace is still available to those who ‘cast all their cares upon him.'”

Teaching that is what keeps Finnigan “refired.”

bcole@tribtoday.com

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