I heard about the death of Matthew Warren over the weekend. He was the son of Pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life, and a leader in American Christianity, so the news went all over the internet. I don’t know much about the Warren family or Rick Warren’s teachings, but I have a great deal of sympathy for them at this time.
We don’t talk enough about suicide in our society. Whether we are people who experience suicidal ideation, or whether we have been affected by the suicide of a family member or friend, we don’t talk about it enough. We are, I think, frightened of the extreme emotions it presents us with – if we are suicidal, the intense pain that leads us to think of death, or if we are bereaved, with the anger and guilt and grief that a completed suicide leaves behind.
I have never lost a loved one to suicide, but I have been suicidal many times. It is hard to write what a dark pit I was in when I thought of suicide, what an awful place when I tried to do it. How can English adequately explain the depths of depression? My mind was filled only with mental pain, with thoughts of death, because I felt like I could not go on, could not deal with the agony any longer, that it must kill me – that I must kill me, to escape.
For Christians we have another issue – we know that to die in this world means we will be with God, and where there will be no more sorrow or pain, a true release from depression and a going home, to God. Knowing that, makes suicide seem like a good idea when I’m ill, although I don’t agree with those who say that we should teach that suicide will mean you go to hell, in order that people are not encouraged to die. I felt so awful at one point that I wanted to die, even if it meant going to hell, just to get some momentary relief from the torture that is mental illness.
I do not believe that God condemns a Christian who commits suicide – he loves us, and if we mere humans can forgive a loved one who kills themselves, I do not believe that God would refuse to do so. Obviously, it is not something he wants for us – but he is a God of compassion and mercy, he loves us, and I can’t think that he would condemn us if we die in that way.
I don’t have any advice for the suicidal, really, no wonderful words of wisdom – I survived those times, and hopefully will never be so depressed that I complete the act of suicide again, and the only message I have from it is that things do get better. Not straight away, but someday. It is little enough to live by, when God is waiting for you in heaven, but he placed us in this world for a reason, and perhaps our struggles will help God’s purposes, in some way.
It must be horrible for Pastor Warren and his family right now. It is hard enough when a loved one dies – my only experiences have been the deaths of the elderly, so to see a young person die must be awful, the more so if that young person is your own son. It must be truly terrible that he died by his own hand, that he was in so much pain that he did that. I would urge people who read this to pray for the Warren’s, and for all the families bereaved by suicide, that they may find strength in this time of grief. Apparently the family are also receiving hate mail online, to add to their troubles, which is disgusting. Whether you agree with his teaching or not does not matter – he is in grief, and it is not right to pick on those who are in pain.
I hope that God can use this for his glory, that perhaps Christians and Christian ministries can start talking about mental illness, about depression and suicide and faith. I hope that those who are struggling with depression can come to understand that God loves them, and not be given pat answers (such as I am sure I am guilty of myself) to the problem of suffering, of their suffering, but to understand that we serve a God who suffers and who knows us and everything we are going through.
There are far better articles than this on suicide at the Mind and Soul website, the Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) website and there is also an interesting article on “Sadness and Madness” at living proof ministries. You can also send a comment to Rick Warren on his Facebook page.
Please pray for those bereaved by suicide and those who are suffering with suicidal thoughts today. And please forgive me for the quality of this article!
- Autopsy Underway to Determine ‘Official Cause’ of Matthew Warren’s Death (blackchristiannews.com)
- Matthew Warren, Rest in Peace (girlygirl.typepad.com)
- Son of Pastor Rick Warren commits suicide (cnn.com)
- Matthew Warren, Son of Pastor Rick Warren, Commits Suicide (lezgetreal.com)