I know Rick and Kay Warren only from a distance, from what I know of their Saddleback Church and from news reports about them here and there over the years. Yet when I read the statement “Needing your prayers” and learned that their youngest son, Matthew, had died by suicide, I felt a sense of loss, and—like many—felt joined to them in their grief.
Over the last few days I’ve noticed a range of responses:
- an outpouring of sympathy and prayers—as Rick tweeted to his followers,”Kay and I are overwhelmed by your love, prayers, and kind words. You are all encouraging our #brokenhearts.”
- more conversation in the broader church and culture about mental illness and how to talk about it, including this piece which is really for reporters but I found helpful, thanks to Robin Craig for alerting me to this.
- some thoughtful responses on how the church can respond, including this one that fleshes out 4 key points: (1) The church needs to stop hiding mental illness, (2) The church needs to be a safe place for people who struggle, (3) We should not be afraid of medicine, (4) We need to end the shame. Sadly some who call themselves Christians are still into shaming and blaming that Frank Viola rightly describes as “sickening.”
Yet for all of this—for all of the prayers and trusting in God’s provision, for all that I agree the church needs to be a safe place for those dealing with depression and/or other mental illness, for all of the best medical attention and alternative therapies, for all the love and support of family, friends, and community, for all the struggle and heartache—for some the illness is so painful that they can’t get out of bed in the morning or all day, so severe that they’re in the hospital or on the street, so relentless that the illness finally takes them.
Lord, have mercy, when we have done all we can, and the suffering continues still. In our human limitations, surround us and all those who struggle with your unlimited love. Comfort the Warren family and the Saddleback church family in their grief and loss. Amen.
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