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Justin Hanvey

Rick Warren's Son Commits Suicide

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From a letter Rick wrote to his staff at Saddleback.

To my dear staff,

Over the past 33 years we’ve been together through every kind of crisis. Kay and I’ve been privileged to hold your hands as you faced a crisis or loss, stand with you at gravesides, and prayed for you when ill. Today, we need your prayer for us.

No words can express the anguished grief we feel right now. Our youngest son, Matthew, age 27, and a lifelong member of Saddleback, died today.

You who watched Matthew grow up knew he was an incredibly kind, gentle, and compassionate man. He had a brilliant intellect and a gift for sensing who was most in pain or most uncomfortable in a room. He’d then make a bee-line to that person to engage and encourage them.

But only those closest knew that he struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression, and even suicidal thoughts. In spite of America’s best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided. Today, after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he took his life.

Kay and I often marveled at his courage to keep moving in spite of relentless pain. I’ll never forget how, many years ago, after another approach had failed to give relief, Matthew said “ Dad, I know I’m going to heaven. Why can’t I just die and end this pain?” but he kept going for another decade.

Thank you for your love and prayers. We love you back.

Pastor Rick

My prayers and love are with them at this time.

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M. Leary   

Mercy. Peace. Having lived through this, down to those very words, I beg the presence of the great Word of life. May the author of life be translating this struggle into newness. [edit: came to life through a gracious pm that this seemed as if I was speaking of myself. I was referring to a similar ongoing family situation that is near identical. Just hurts to hear this stuff.]

Edited by M. Leary

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SDG   
Wow. Very sad.

That about sums up all I had to say about this ... but my friend Thomas McDonald, who writes the blog God and the Machine at Patheos, has written a lengthy, brilliant post about mental illness and suicide that very much bears reading in full. Even if you aren't interested in Rick Warren, or are actively disinterested in him, read this. You won't be sorry.

The Mysterious Joy of Matthew Warren

When this kind of high-profile act of self-destruction happens, we pretend to search for answers for a time. Society imagines it’s having a “national dialog on mental illness.” People will talk of what to do, how to recognize the symptoms, how to help those you love. Perhaps some will become more sensitive to the warning signs in the process.

But in the end, things will return to where they were. People will go back to not understanding mental illness, because it is not something that can be understood from the outside. The mentally ill will forever remain an enigma to a population that can look at a person torn apart by a darkness that devours and say, “Everybody gets depressed” or “You’ve got a good life, so what you have to be down about?”...

There is one striking moment in Rick Warren’s statement: “Today, after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he took his life.”

Did you catch that? Because I could read an entire novel into that statement. Depressives should recognize it right away. Matthew had a good night with his family. He was “high.” No, not on drugs. Depression is a like suffocating fog in the brain. Sometimes, seemingly for no reason, it lifts, and you feel like a human should feel again. You experience joy. You say, “Oh, that’s what it feels like.” And then the fog rolls back in, as it always does, and the final condition is worse than the first. ...

There is, of course, one other likelihood, which is something else people don’t understand about suicide. They often say, “I don’t get it. We had a great time just that night! He was so happy!”

Often, that happiness is because the decision was already made. The fight is over. The relief is coming. You can let yourself be happy. You can have one really beautiful moment with parents who you know love you, even though you want to tear yourself apart because that love–unconditional, overwhelming–will never be enough. You feel the joy of a person who comes in sight of the finish line after a long and brutal race.

Read the rest.

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Wow. Very sad.

As I have never read anything by Rick Warren, and know him only as a name I see in headlines, I can't say that I have any familiarity with him or his family or their circumstance. But I am, of course, sorry to hear about the suicide of a young man who struggled with depression, and I hope the Warren family finds comfort in God's mercies and in the love of their community.

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Anytime I hear of suicide it hits me personally. But I understand that others probably won't feel that same level of pain.

Also thank you so much for posting that piece SDG, that really resonated with me. Probably the best piece I've seen on depression and mental illness in a long time.

Edited by Justin Hanvey

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I really was never into Warren as a leader...I just feel real heartbreak for folks who lose a loved one to suicide. And the tough part about depression is nobody, regardless of their beliefs, really wants to face it. I saw an article from a Christian magazine that suggested taking medication for depression gets in the way of trusting in God. (http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2011/november/should-christians-take-antidepressants.html)

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