How Can Weakness Be A Strength?

The Outrageously Fruitful Ministry of a Depression-Prone Man       

For almost 40 years, James “Buck” Hatch served on the faculty of Columbia Bible College in South Carolina, teaching courses in Bible, hermeneutics, psychology, and family life. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of alumni of what is now Columbia International University consider him their favorite and most influential professor. When he taught, students listened, riveted.  When he counseled, hurting people received a life-sustaining injection of hope.

You’d think a dynamic personality and get-it-together psyche propelled such an enduring, respected ministry.

That wasn’t the case.

Buck demonstrated the truth of Psalm 50:15: “Call on Me in the day of trouble,” said the Lord, “I’ll rescue you, and you will honor me.” Buck’s life flashes in bold neon letters this truth: our need or weakness provides an opportunity for God to receive more glory.

His son Nathan, now president of Wake Forest University, called Buck Hatch “a painfully shy person, always near the brink of depression…a soul not at home with itself.” Nathan added, “My father has come to radiate a deep and abiding joy. But you could not call him a happy person.  He has always wrestled with thorns in the flesh that drove him not to rely on himself.”

Rather than yield to despair, or conclude he wasn’t fit for a vocational ministry, Buck gravitated to wounded people who judged themselves too severely and perceived God as aloof and uncaring. Ten hours a week he reserved for free counseling sessions, convincing hurting individuals that God is far more faithful and forgiving than folks imagine.

Prolific author Philip Yancey, a CIU alumnus, says that Buck’s influence helped unpollute his faulty concepts of God, ingrained by a legalistic church upbringing. One student represented the views of many when he wrote to Buck, “You’ve been a father to hundreds of people who needed a father like you.”

In my own forty-seven years of vocational Christian service, I’ve never known a name spoken with more reverence than Buck Hatch. What a productive ministry from someone who was, according to Nathan, “insecure, melancholy and introverted.”  Indeed, Buck’s temperamental weakness magnified the sufficiency of God.

Nathan concluded that his dad’s brokenness gave him ready access into the interior rooms of people’s lives. “Buck Hatch’s life demonstrated that the divine economy inverts natural priorities.  In Christ’s kingdom, the last shall be first, a life is saved by losing it, and weakness confounds strength.”  Having known Buck personally, I better understand a comment I heard from the late Joe Aldrich: “Only wounded soldiers can serve in God’s army.”

Whoever believes that recurring depression is inconsistent with fruitful ministry didn’t know James “Buck” Hatch. No wonder the late pastor Ron Dunn said, “Your greatest area of usefulness to God may stem from your greatest area of pain.”

What “broken” person do you personally know who nonetheless exercises a fruitful ministry? How does the person’s brokenness facilitate his or her fruitfulness, rather than hinder it?

(I gleaned Nathan’s remarks about his dad from his November 14, 1994 article in Christianity Today, “The Gift of Brokenness.”  The entire article examined the fruitful ministry of his depression-prone father. He wrote the article as an 80th birthday gift to his dad.)


To find written and audio resources by James “Buck” Hatch, visit the library offered by Columbia International University:




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  1. Wow!!
    Having been a student of this Godly man and admiring him from afar I always felt a kindred spirit, now I know why.
    I have struggled with depression my whole life- and now as my husband and I once again face trials that seem so heart wrenching/ all we can turn to is Jesus.
    I love the statement ..
    “Only wounded soldiers can serve in Gods army!!
    I would rather be wounded and serve Jesus- than not at all!!
    Thank you so much for this. Very timely

    1. Author

      Thanks for your note, Joy. Hope you’ve subscribed to my blog. Much more coming on it each week on depression & faith. Appreciate your words about Buck Hatch. Terry

  2. I had the unique honor of having him call me his “number 1 daughter.” Above all, he showed me the incredible heart of God!

  3. Great job, my brother. Buck and Mittie Hatch had a profound impact on my life as Deb and I were both in the midst of struggles with depression. What an amazing man of God was Buck. Thanks for the great post.
    Zeph 3:17

  4. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful article. I loved this quote, “Your greatest area of usefulness to God may stem from your greatest area of pain.”

    Mr. Hatch’s life offers those who of us who suffer with depression so much hope that not only can God use the broken and weary, (giving us a sense of purpose we so desperately need) but that it is through my pain that He can be most glorified.

    Being an avid reader (and student of the Word) I have bookmarked the Buck Hatch library site you referenced and look forward to gleaning even more about this incredibly humble servant of God.

    I am new to your site having discovered it from your recent interview with Vaneetha Rendall Risner and have now subscribed to following your blog.

    God is so good! Thank you!

    1. Author

      Thank you, Jo. I deeply appreciate your kind words. My blog is only 2 months old, so if you can tell others about it, if you consider it helpful, I’ll appreciate that. Hope you subscribed to it. I reviewed Vaneetha’s book in a post a few weeks ago. I had outside help setting up the blog, and a few of my recent posts on depression are in the Resource section “Depression and Faith” and a couple are in “Christian Living in the Trenches,” which include some old blogs from my former site that were not on depression. The last couple blogs may be in the “My Latest Post” tab that is along the top of the home page. I wanted them all together, but we will try to get that corrected. Thanks again for writing and may God give you and your fammily a meaningful Christmas season. Terry on Dec. 7

  5. Thank you for your article, I appreciated it very much. There are many that continue to use his notes, but of even greater significance was his ability to take you out your mud puddle and point you to God.

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