RIP Matthew Warren

Matt WarrenRick Warren’s youngest son, Matthew, went to Heaven on Friday night — tragically killed by his own hand.

Twitter and Facebook exploded with the news. And prayers around the world — including my own — are being lifted Heavenward on behalf of this precious and grieving family, even as we speak.

Given the sky-high visibility of Matt’s dad — Rick Warren is the author of the 30 million copies-sold The Purpose Driven Life; as well as the founder and pastor of the Saddleback mega-Church in Southern CA — no doubt a much-needed and long-overdue national discussion will now take place concerning the controversial topic of mental illness. (Though, for the life of me, I do not know why the adjective “controversial” is so-often attached to mental illness. Where is the controversy? Mental illness is, quite obviously, and non-controversially, an illness of the mind, as opposed to an illness of the body. But I digress.)

To look at Rick Warren, as recently as 48 hours ago (I am writing this on Sunday afternoon, less than two days after Matthew’s passing), you would never have known that he and his dear wife and family were living in a world of hurt.

Here’s a guy who gets up in front of 20 thousand people, Sunday after Sunday, week after week, and does a pretty doggone good job of offering them some much-needed encouragement from God’s Word. “Pastor Rick” exudes warmth, compassion, humility, a robust sense of humor, and is a master at making complex biblical/theological topics understandable and relatable to the masses. 

From a worldly point of view, he has it all. Or at least he appeared to have it all (which goes right to my point as you’ll read in a minute) — worldwide fame, fortune, a loving family, a successful church, the favor of God upon his life. I would imagine that there are many a-pastor who, in their darker moments, looked upon Rick Warren with a serious temptation towards envy.

Yet all the while — a while that lasted 27 years — Rick Warren has been dying inside, tormented daily, if not hourly or minutely, by the irony that having helped multiplied millions of people to discover their God-given purpose, he was utterly powerless to help his own son.

And now, his son is gone.

Which ought to be a wake-up call to all of us. Are you ready? Hear this. PLEASE hear this. Every single one of us carries enormous pain.

Every single one of us carries enormous pain.

I do. And you do.

We each crave a community of committed Christ-followers who understand this. And who are willing to share this with one another. And to share their pain without fear of rejection, criticism, gossip, or a finger-wagging and verse-spewing judgmental spirit. 

It hurts enough just to hurt, without having fellow Christ-followers heap upon our hurts even more hurts because they somehow live in denial of this raw reality of life: WE.ARE.HURTING.

Every single one of us carries enormous pain.

Could this undeniable reality be the reason that Paul wrote this to his beloved little church in Philippi: “Always be gentle with others” (Philippians 4:5 CEV)? 

“Always be gentle with others.”

Why is that so easy to say, and yet so hard to do? Especially in so many — far too many — of our churches? Where, as the all-too-common, and far-too-cynical cliché would suggest, church is the place where wounded people go to get shot. Mortally wounded by not-so-friendly “friendly fire.” Creamed by the committed. (You can suggest your own slogan. There are plenty of them to go around. Understandably so, sorry to say.) And yes, you have my permission to read into that uncharacteristically harsh-sounding statement something of my own wounds that are just now beginning to heal. Beginning to heal, BTW, because God has recently blessed me with the kind of a loving, accepting, affirming, healing community that I mentioned a moment ago. Shout out to The Safe Haven.

“Always be gentle with others.”

Here’s the facts of life, coming from a guy who has enough miles on my odometer to be able to say this with some measure of credibility: People are fragile.

I am fragile; and you are fragile.

Matthew Warren was fragile.

The thing of it is, we have no idea just how fragile each other really is. I would hope that if we did indeed know how fragile each of the people around us really are, we would most certainly treat him or her with gobs of gentleness. Transforming each of our relationships into that which builds up, rather than that which tears down; that which encourages, rather than that which discourages; that which gives life; rather than that which brings death; that which creates, rather than that which destroys; that which heals the wounded, rather than that which shoots our wounded.

So here’s my question? Why can’t we then simply recognize the undeniable fact that every person with whom you and I interact today is in fact fragile? That every single one of us carries enormous pain.

And recognizing that, can we please, please, PLEASE, “always be gentle with others?” 


Categories: Uncategorized | 15 Comments

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15 thoughts on “RIP Matthew Warren

  1. Said like only my former pastor could have said it. We miss you so much Dewey, but I am so glad you are doing what you were called to do with a group of loving people by your side. This is not always a loving ministry. However, God takes care of His own.

    Miss you,
    Betty Turner

  2. Christy

    Oh my heart breaks for his family . I know what they are going through all too well with having lost my brother in law to suicide on Christmas. My prayers and thoughts are with them

  3. Doug palmer

    Once again you say what my heart is crying out, and yet when I’m honest if done the hurting to others. I pray someday the church will be the church God wants. I pray I can be the person God wants. Thanks again my friend for point me that way

  4. The family is in my prayers. Many members of my family have battled depression. Years ago, I admitted myself into the hospital. I can relate to the life of hopelessness. Even as a christian. I pray that God gives them comfort through this very painful time.

  5. Debbie Smith

    All my sympathy to all of you. I also have depression and go see a doctor for my medicine. I tried to go off a couple months ago and all I did was cry. Thank the Lord I went right back on and am doing fine.

    I pray that the churches wake up and realize how bad depression and mental illness is. Encourage the people, don’t put them down.
    I am sorry that your son’s medicine didn’t work for him.
    May God put His loving arms around you and give you Peace.

    In Christian Love,
    Debbie Smith

  6. Debbie Smith

    Thank you all for the notifications.

  7. LGoss

    I appreciate the thoughts you have shared. I grieve deeply when I hear of someone who has lost all hope. I know how it feels to nearly lose all hope–to wrestle with your thoughts of whether it’s worth continuing to struggle. When I was Matt’s age I suffered similar to how he was suffering. But over the 25 years since, the Lord has graciously brought me out of it. It came in stages and was slow. I look back at those years, and as hard as they were, I wouldn’t trade them. The Lord used them significantly in my life to mold me.

    The sad thing is that many suffer in silence, feeling shamed by society for their weakness. Feeling there is no way out of a deep dark hole.

    I pray that others can find their way to joy through their suffering. I have much to thank the Lord for my suffering because the level of joy I experience today could never have been realized had I not suffered as I did.

  8. Al Gonzalez

    Thank you for your words, my prayers and love to the Warren family. Well said Pastor!

  9. Amy Tyndale

    Suicide is tragic, and even more so when it’s a believer, who should be living in the joy of the Lord, which is our strength. So humbling. Question – I’m ONLY asking this because the author of this blog mentioned it and it’s tugged on my heart for many years. I AM NOT asking this in judgement of anyone who has committed suicide, but to truly learn.

    When a believer commits suicide, how do we know they went to Heaven? From a scriptural perspective, what does the Lord say about suicide? I’ve not been able to find anything, and I’m thinking the author of this blog might have some insight.

    • Hi Amy. Thank you for writing, and for asking a very important and appropriate question. There is only 1 unpardonable or unforgivable sin, according to Jesus in Matthew 12. The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Just after Jesus had performed an obvious and undeniable miracle in full public view, the religious leaders who knew the Scriptures came to the outrageous conclusion that Jesus was not God in a body, but — if you can imagine it — Satan in a body. He was not God Incarnate; Jesus, so they said, was Satan incarnate. And Jesus warned them that they were very close to committing the one sin that can never be forgiven — the final, absolute, total, irreversible rejection of the Holy Spirit’s witness that Jesus in the Christ, the Son of the living God. While suicide is a tragic occurrence, and is certainly a sin, suicide is NOT unforgivable! Again, thank you for asking.

  10. susan smith

    Amy, that is a very good question. My precious sister committed suicide 10 months after her daughter was born. She suffered from severe postpartum depression. I know without a doubt that I will see her again in Heaven. I can’t wait for her daugther to meet her mother in Glory and understand the mental illness that plagued her mother’s mind. It will be a glorious reunion!

    • Nana13

      AMEN! Once we accept Jesus as our saviour NOTHING can separate us from God! Romans 8:38&39. May God comfort the Warren family’s broken hearts and heal the hurts of all those suffering mental illness. Jesus is the answer and the only answer. Thank you for the precious counsel to be gentle with others – one of the fruits of the spirit. Take note Christians!

  11. Tana Pender

    Your words make my heart sing with the rightness of it all. God is good. Life is hard . People hurt people. WE learn a different way of being through the teachings of Jesus. Thank you for reminding us to be careful with each other.

  12. Thank you, thank you for writing this. ~ blessings ♥†

  13. I am now 39 years old but came close to suceeding at suicide at age 15. As an adult I’ve had on an off bouts of depression and have spent time on an off meds. Even with a picture perfect life I occasionally fall back into the pit. I was a believer at the time of the attempt and know I would have gone to heaven that night. I was deeply praying that night, and God would never have turned his face from what I felt deep within.

    During my early twenties I was a member of a tight singles’ group within my church. None of them knew my past, and I quickly learned many Christians don’t understand depression, among other things. My boyfriend at the time told me if I truly loved God I would be happy. His words caused me many problems. FINALLY, a doctor told me it was a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is a physical problem, and even the doctor suffered from it.

    Hearing those words released me from the Christian guilt I felt for so long for not being able to be happy. I realize it is hard for people to understand what depression truly is like, but depression DOES get judged by some. It is sad at the damage done by “Christian advice” when it comes to depression.

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