Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I Knew This Would Happen: Responding To The Suicide Of Matthew Warren

Rejoice with those who rejoice.
Weep with those who weep.
Romans 12:15
When I heard the tragic news of the suicide of Rick Warren's son, Matthew, I prayed for his father, his mother and his church. I prayed for them, not only because of their grief, but also because I knew what would happen. It happens when anyone commits suicide, whether their father is a pastor, a politician, or a postman. Whether it is via innuendo or is more direct, any time a child does something that is wrong, or falls short, or fails people begin to blame the parents. Now, sometimes that is warranted. If an 8 year old child is allowed to play in the street and is struck by a speeding automobile, a parent should be blamed. However, if that parent had warned the child repeatedly, taught them not to play in the street, and the child snuck out a window, ran after a puppy dog and was struck, what blame is there?
Matthew Warren was 27 years old. He was not a child. He was a man who took his own life, and left behind grieving parents, grieving friends, and a grieving church. God is clear. Now is not the time for blame of any sort. Now is the time for compassion. Now is the time to weep with those who weep.
Rick Warren is Matthew's father. Whether you agree with Rick or not, his ministry has effected millions of people worldwide. His book, the Purpose Driven Life has been used by God to change millions of lives. Many love what he has done. Many hate what he has done. And, many of the haters have used the tragic death of Matthew to write, text, facebook, tweet and blog their accusations against Rick Warren. Many blame his theology for his son's death.
I worked with suicidal, homicidal and mentally people in a public mental health setting for 10 years. I have worked as a pastor and hospice chaplain for nearly 20 years after that. I have worked with suicidal people who were pastors, priests, politicians, atheists, agnostics, children, parents, gays, straights, whites, blacks, browns, republicans, democrats, libertarians, doctors, dropouts, addicts, tea-totallers, rich, and poor. I say that to point out that no one is immune from the potential hopelessness that convinces a person that death is the only way out of suffering.
I do not mean to say that theology is not important. It is. Ask Jim Jones' followers if theology is an important influence. I do not mean to say that everyone who commits suicide is mentally ill. I have seen perfectly sane people make bad decisions in the middle of an overwhelming crisis. I do not mean to say that demonic influence is not involved, because I believe it often is.
I mean to say this. When someone commits suicide, it is not time to be mean. It is time to be compassionate. It is time to weep with those who weep. It is time to pray for the survivors who are now fighting their own depression, guilt, shame, and hopelessness. It is time to comfort them, for they will surely blame themselves, needing no help from the mean, thoughtless, and vulgar comments of those who are not God but who have decided to play God.
Suicide is not a time to ask why. It is a time to ask God what I can do to support those who are left behind.


Wade Hood said...

Thanks for a great word.