Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren is offering encouragement to those struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, emphasizing that “no matter how dark things are, there’s always hope.”
“We all face dark days and thoughts of suicide affects people of all ages,” The Purpose Driven Life author said in a Sept. 10 Facebook video. “There’s a misconception that suicide only affects young people, but the highest rates of suicide are among men my age. This breaks my heart and I want to say to all of you, I am sorry for the pain that you’re experiencing. Please know you are not alone. No matter how dark things are, there’s always hope.”
Warren encouraged those struggling with suicidal thoughts to remember three things: There’s a purpose for your life; you are loved, and you are needed in this world.
“Please talk to somebody,” he said. “There are always people waiting to hear from you. If you’re hurting, help is here. “
On April 5, 2013, Warren’s son, Matthew, fatally shot himself at the age of 27. Following his death, Rick Warren and his wife, Kay, revealed Matthew had struggled with mental illness since childhood. Since then, the Warrens have used their platform to address mental illness and draw attention to how the church can best respond to mental health needs in the congregation and in the community.
“Everyone has a part to play in suicide prevention whether you are a government, medical, business, or faith leader. We can work together to find better solutions to improve mental health and impact suicide prevention,” Kay Warren wrote Thursday.
According to the World Health Organization report: Preventing Suicide: A Global Imperative, more than 800,000 people die by suicide across the world annually. Warren’s message came just hours before it was announced that Jarrid Wilson, a California church leader, author, and mental health advocate, died by suicide at age 30.
Last year, 30-year-old Andrew Stoecklein, a pastor in Chino, California, who often preached about mental illness, also took his own life after an open battle with depression and anxiety.
In January, California Pastor Jim Howard, who led the Valencia campus of the more than 6,000-member Real Life Church, also fatally shot himself in the head after a lengthy battle with mental illness.
Following the news of Wilson’s death, his friend and fellow Pastor Adam Weber reminded Christians that it’s OK to admit they’re struggling mentally.
“I just want to say it’s OK to not be OK,” he said. “Hey pastors, it’s OK for you to not be OK. You go through a lot of crap … There’s just some weird dynamics of being a pastor and a lot of time it feels impossible to raise your hand and say, ‘I’m not OK, I’m struggling, there’s things in my private life that are not pleasing, I’m having these thoughts that I know are wrong, I’m thinking about killing myself.’
“As a brother in Christ, as a fellow pastor, I want to tell you it’s OK to not be OK, it’s OK to ask for help.”
And it’s OK to seek help outside the church, he added.
In addition to seeking the support of a church, Weber stressed the need for getting professional help from a counselor or medical doctor.
“Go get help,” he advised. “That doesn’t make you a bad Christian. That’s not removing Jesus from your life. No. It’s giving you the ability to clearly see Jesus. If your body physically is all out of whack, it’s impossible to really follow Him. So get help.”
In a 2015 interview with The Christian Post, Kay Warren hit back at the notion that Christians who take their own life will be condemned to Hell: “The Church has historically, for thousands of years, been conflicted about suicide — all the way from publicly shaming the people who did take their own lives, doing terrible things to their bodies in the public square, not allowing them to be buried in the cemetery of the church, being ex-communicated from the fellowship of the church, ostracized, stigmatized, rejected. I mean terrible, terrible things have been done to people who have taken their lives.
“And yet, when I look at Scripture, I just can’t see any valid reason for that,” she emphasized.
“I see in John 10 where Jesus talks about His sheep and His sheep know His voice and He knows their voice and nothing can pluck His sheep out of His hand,” Warren added. “To me, Jesus answers that resoundingly: ‘When you are a believer in me, when your faith is in me as your Savior you can’t even take yourself out of my hands.”