The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
~ Psalm 34:18, NIV ~
We emerge with true sadness from this weekend’s heavy news of Kay & Rick Warren’s tragic loss of their son to suicide. I am quite certain that I am not the only leader out there who has been haunted by the the thought, “There but for the grace of God go I,” in response to what happened. After all, we Christian leaders are trying to execute perfect service with less-than-perfect lives. We know. We know that every family has some sort of challenge they are facing, whether it be physical, emotional or spiritual. Yet, the pain is so much deeper when the loss is experienced in the ranks of mega-leadership. The hurt is particularly stinging when it happens to one to whom we look up.
Still, we also know that God uses all things for our good and His glory. While we grieve deeply for and with Kay & Rick, we know that this tragedy will be used for some amazing purpose by the Ultimate Recycler. In this light, it’s helpful to point to what the great minds in ministry have to say about the implications of the Warren’s loss:
- Author and mother, Ann Voskamp, shares of the pain experienced in living with a family member hospitalized with mental illness. In her blog post “What Christians Need to Know About Mental Health”, she shares the anguished difference between what she experienced in the church and what she wished she had experienced instead. This brings an extra measure of somberness to the way the church should be examining itself, especially in light of the Warren family tragedy.
- Ed Stetzer, author and president of LifeWay Research writes a 4 point call for the church to make a difference in the lives of those living with mental illness on the CNN Belief Blog.
- Dr. Steve Grcevich, president and founder of Family Center by the Falls, and Board Chairman of Key Ministry writes his unique perspective on the pervasiveness of mental illness and the need for those in the church to do a better job of reaching these individuals with the Gospel message over at Church4EveryChild.
- Rev Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and Senior Pastor of New Season Christian Worship Center in Sacramento, CA not only prays and grieves for the Warren and Saddleback families, but also states it is now the church’s obligation to face the issue of mental illness in the Christian Post.
- Dr. Daniel Amen, family friend, “Daniel Plan” team member and Saddleback attendee assured viewers on CBS News that Kay & Rick would respond to their tragedy the way they always have — by helping others. Dr. Amen’s work has gone ahead of this tragedy, offering a clarion call for the church in dealing with mental health issues.
- “Gifted for Leadership” editor and author, Amy Simpson, gives thoughtful examination of the topic in her post “What Can We Learn from Rick Warren’s Family Tragedy?”. She expresses fresh, practical revelation pertaining to the church, offering my favorite comment of all, “Christians are well-positioned to care for our suffering neighbors and spread hope and acceptance among people who feel terribly alone.”
- Carlos Whittaker, renowned blogger and worship leader, highly esteemed in Christian community, keeps it real by discussing his own battle with raw candor in “My Panic Attacks, My Mental Illness, & The Church’s Dirty Little Secret”. His brutal honesty draws the church into an unavoidable confrontation with the need to love those battling mental illness.
Each of these great minds has a unique and powerful angle to this sad loss. But the overarching theme is that the church had better wake up and step up. No one is exempt from such tragedy. And who better than the Bride of Christ to love those struggling with mental health issues through their often anguished journey towards heaven.