I try to avoid commenting on current events.
Today, I’m making an exception.
I imagine you’re aware of the tragic death of Matthew Warren, the 27-year-old son of Rick and Kay Warren. Matthew’s dad is one of America’s best-known Christian pastors. Rick Warren posted this statement on Facebook:
Grieving is hard. Grieving as public figures, harder. Grieving while haters celebrate your pain, hardest.
“…while haters celebrate your pain…”
Matthew committed suicide. He struggled with mental illness and depression that resisted medical care and family support and finally overwhelmed his ability to cope. He told his dad more than a decade ago that he knew he was going to heaven and just wanted the pain to end.
I understand. I’ve been at the bottom of a hole so deep I didn’t even realize it was a hole. I thought darkness was the way the world was and always would be. I didn’t blame God, I just figured that’s how it was, at least for me.
When you believe your entire world is darkness, you don’t think about escaping. Where are you going to go? You believe you have two choices. You can endure endless darkness with its fear and loneliness. Or you can die.
There’ve been many moments in which I wanted only to end the darkness, moments when I knew Jesus would welcome and forgive me and would understand that I couldn’t bear the pain any longer.
It’s pretty easy to judge and stigmatize those who battle depression and other forms of mental illness. It’s tempting to offer platitudes and dismiss us as weak or lazy.
My struggle with depression isn’t a choice or a mood or a spiritual weakness; it’s a physiological, medical issue. I try to live in gratitude for Relentless Grace and the people God used to rescue me from darkness. Those who judge Matthew’s actions condemn me as well.
The church was intended as a hospital, not a hall of fame. Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” (Matthew 9:12)
I won’t rehash the hateful attacks leveled at a man and his family at a time when they deserve compassion, prayer, and support. But a couple of conclusions seem brutally, painfully obvious.
Let’s forgive. Hate is the end result of fear. We must demonstrate compassion toward those who are so fearful that they lash out at others when they’re most vulnerable.
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28)
Let’s stop shooting our own wounded. We’d like to believe this sort of fear and hate originates entirely outside the church. Sadly, not so.
You don’t have to agree with all of Rick Warren’s theology or his politics. I don’t. But this clearly isn’t the time for such discussions. This is the time to show the world who we are and how Jesus wants us to be identified.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35
Regardless of circumstances, when a child dies the response ought to be obvious.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31
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Copyright 2008-2013 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com