The Asphyxiation of Hope: Matthew Warren (1986-2013)

I got the news on the road to Florida. My family and I, along with my mother, are in Florida for the Gospel Coalition conference. After this, we will head directly to Dallas, where I will participate in the Christian Renaissance conference. News like this breaks me more than anything else. I fell completely apart. I probably should not be writing. I wept for a bit. We were already having so many other issues on the drive, and this nearly put me over the top.  I just wanted to turn around. The Gospel Coalition and Christian Renaissance conferences are incredible and so valuable . . . for a certain type of person. But for those who have a broken mind and broken spirit, where do they go? What conference is there for Christians who can’t find any peace? What conference is there for those who have all the right doctrine and beliefs, but find no healing from them? What conference is there for those whose hope has been asphyxiated?

As I typed “2013 minus 27” in my calculator to figure out when Matthew was born (1986), I realized I was too hurt to think deeply about that right now. How cold. For some reason, coming up with those numbers put me too close, so a distant calculator was better. But what good would these words be, if I selfishly let Matthew turn into just a set of numbers?  1986-2013. Let those numbers sink in.

I did not know Matthew Warren. I don’t know his father, Rick Warren (at least not personally).  I am very familiar with his ministry. Unfortunately, most of the time I hear about Rick Warren is when someone tries to throw his life and ministry under the bus just to drum up some controversy. I have never joined this crowd in the slightest. Rick Warren’s focus and heart are amazing. What he has done for so many to increase the glory of Christ is beyond measure. His book, The Purpose-Driven Life, is a wonderful book that lit a fire in the hearts of many stagnant Christians.

Yesterday, as I continued to drive after hearing the news, here is where my thoughts went.  Pastor Warren led millions to find their purpose in life.  Yet the one closest to him, the one for whom he undoubtedly felt the most responsible, the one whom he loved the most, could not find that same purpose to drive his life. I also bowed my head as I thought of critics, whose minds might be so poisoned as to make them want to turn the blame back on Rick Warren. I have not read or heard of any who have, but God help those who do.

You see, I know what it feels like, that darkness that led Matt to do what he did. I lived there for a short time. I know how easy it is to pull that trigger. I know what it feels like, the black hole that somehow drains you of every shred of hope you have. It is like hanging on a cross, where you cannot catch your breath anymore. Everyone around is quick to offer their “easy” solutions (which I did before I went through this), heaping shame atop the already insufferable pain. I came out of it, and I don’t know how or why. Matthew never did.

My sister never did. Angie yelled in pain every night as she called on me to save her. I had never heard screams of emotional pain before. I had never experienced the wailing that a tortured soul could produce. The sound and the hurt were apocalyptic. “Michael! Get back up here!! You are a pastor. You are supposed to be able to do something.” I walked downstairs each night for a year, lay my head on my pillow, and called on God to do something that he was not going to do—heal my helpless sister.

Put me in a den of atheists. Put me a room with people who hate me. Put me among those who deny God and my Lord, Jesus Christ. My faith will remain. But put me in the midst of people who are calling on God to save them from doubt, pain, and depression, and my faith will sink in the quicksand with them. Why? Because I don’t know what to do.

Francis of Assisi used to sit with lepers and wash their wounds. He looked for those Christians who were falling apart, inside and out. God called Francis to “rebuild my church” and where does he go? He goes to those who could not be built back.

Rick Warren’s ministry to his son was not unsuccessful. I am told he was with Matthew the preceding night. He was a devoted father. Even so, he will enter into a time of significant despair. Suicide is a death unlike any other. Those left behind imagine the thoughts, looks, and pain of the one who is finally finished. They picture the tears in their eyes and see them begin to pull the trigger. Angie died on the bed of a cold dark hotel room, legs folded, with Chuck Swindoll’s Day by Day open in front of her. My other sister now has that book. She guards it like a treasure. Why? Who knows? We don’t know how to process the pain and darkness of that moment, so we hold fast to a token that represents Angie’s last thoughts or prayers. We do it as self-flagellation, penance for failing at a task we could not fulfill.

I don’t know how Rick Warren and his wife (please don’t leave her and the rest of the family out) are going to handle this. They may do like I did, and stay strong for many years for others’ sake. But at some point, subconsciously, the dam will break and they won’t know why (at least that is my experience). They may handle it like my mother did, with endless sleepless nights until the  pain eventually took her mind. They may handle it like my dad, who is plagued by unending guilt.

The questions are always the same: What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently? Once they are exasperated and find no rest, they will have to find some other footing, or else remain completely adrift, without anchor in a sea of faith.

With regard to Angie, the anchoring conclusion for me is not the conclusion many others reach…yet I don’t know where else to go, biblically. Who is at fault? God is. Not me. Not my mom. Not my dad. And not even Angie. For some reason, in this fallen world, God allowed darkness to rule her life to such a degree that she left this world in tears, crying to a God who did not show up in the way we all desired and prayed he would. His ways are not our ways. He is the one who works all things after the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11), including leaving countless people in pain as they cry out to him for relief.

I would imagine it was the same with Matthew. I don’t suppose that God was a cheerleader in his pain, hoping that he would listen to the right advice or finally find the right pill. God took him violently. God took him darkly. And we have to accept this sometimes dark, violent, God as the one who loved him (and Angie) more than we can ever possibly imagine. If you can have that type of faith. . . if, by some miracle, you can drop that anchor quickly, you can continue your ministry in the hopes that you will join him one day.

I don’t know what kind of advice or hope to give those who have lost someone who was outside of the faith. I am sorry.

To all of those like Matthew: I do not give you permission to die. Don’t mistake my understanding for permission. The darkness that will overshadow the lives of the ones you leave behind is a darkness so terrible, no sun can fully break through it this side of heaven.

To Rick Warren and family: I am truly sorry for your loss. May Matthew rest from his pain, finally. May your pain one day turn to joy. Until then, may the Francis of Assisis of this world break through the judgment you feel, whether from within or without. May you be able to forgive all. May the asphyxiation of hope that Matthew felt be relieved in the arms of Christ, who loves you and gave himself up for you.

131 Responses to “The Asphyxiation of Hope: Matthew Warren (1986-2013)”

  1. Thanks Michael. I too have been there. The emotions storm back unbidden to do damage unwanted in ways unimaginable to hope that seems unassailable. I am glad you are my friend. I am always here for you, and am perpetually thankful for what you do.

  2. Isn’t it amazing? I don’t mind if I die. But what does that do to those I leave behind? My mind goes to those left behind. The pain of losing someone. Why is it we don’t mind leaving, but we don’t want to be left?

  3. Having gone through emotional pain and having a father and son with significant mental illness/despair, I resonate with your heart. Now is not the time to debate theology, but Calvinistic theology (Piper, etc.) is cold comfort. God did not take or kill this guy just because He did not heal Him. Allowing is not desiring, intending, causing. There is complexity vs simplicity to this. God is grieved by this. Jesus comes to give life and Satan comes to rob, kill, destroy. We also live in a fallen world, there is a demonic realm with genuine spiritual warfare as seen in the Gospels, free will is a huge factor, etc. A wrong view of God’s sovereignty (meticulous vs providential control) leads to no intellectual or pastoral comfort. For all the criticism of Open Theism, it offers a more coherent, biblical source of comfort in this situation:

  4. William, you are right, now is not the time to debate theology. So please, let us not turn this into what theology works best right now. I have only expressed my understanding and I know that it is not shared by many. Let’s leave it there for now.

  5. I think any opinion is at risk of offending someone. My son in law killed himself 12 years ago, two days before Christmas. My 2 young grandsons were at home with him when he did it. Newly constructed shed behind the garage. No, the boys didn’t see. This news transports me back to that day. I handled it just fine until a year later. Then suddenly, I experienced the most embarrassing panic attacks in public. I can hardly write about it now. I’m like everybody else…if only I had called to check on him that day.

    I’ve experienced my own bouts of depression. I have no idea how common it is or is not. Doesn’t matter. That gloomy feeling is daunting. At the time you don’t care much how many other people are suffering the same. In other words, if that’s normal, you don’t want to be normal.

    One thing I have been working through & it has helped me. When God said in this world we will have trials & tribulations, I don’t think He just was referring to job loss, economic troubles, relationship troubles, trouble with your teens or even car trouble. I don’t think He was only referring to cancer or heart disease. It’s like it never occurs to us that He might have also been referring to emotional pain & suffering. No one seems to talk about the fact that we may never be able to get away from this kind of suffering on this side of heaven. No one tells us, “You’re stuck in it much the same way a quadriplegic in stuck in his body.” And it’s got to be more than a little frustrating to be a quadriplegic. We are given all kinds of ways and solutions to get away from our pain. And when we don’t have success, how frustrating is that too? Very. Resisting pain, rebelling against pain really hurt me. I went deeper into the pit. No relief. Now I had failure to add to my pain.

    I wonder if we shouldn’t be more adamant about letting others know that their pain will be attached to them until they die a natural death or until Jesus returns? Don’t jack with me. Be real.

  6. For the record, I have been suicidal and my son has also been. I also do not believe suicide is the unpardonable sin (rejecting Jesus against light is closer to it) and that believers may do so in extreme pain. It can also be a godless, selfish act. Survivors should not be guilted or blame themselves. We all need to be more sensitive, supportive, aware.

  7. I heard Joni Eareckson Tada talk about her life as a quadriplegic. I’ve heard her talk about it before. This interview was different. She really got into the depression side of it. She wanted to die. After some mentoring by a dear sister, she decided that was not an option. She said she cried out to God,”I can’t do this. If I can’t die, then You are going to have to show me how to live!” And I’ve been using that line at the very onset of depression. I do not ask God to take it away. But I do now ask Him to help me live with what I cannot live with on my own. I don’t just want to exist. I want to live with whatever ails me with dignity. God doesn’t heal everybody. I don’t expect to have heaven on earth. I really don’t mind if someone looks me in the eye & tells me,”your depression is not going away. It might be better on some days, but it’s not going away unless God does a miracle & heals you & I wouldn’t hold my breath!” I’m good with that. It takes the pressure off of me so I can stop looking for “miraculous” cures. It’s actually OK.This is my wheelchair. But I do put it on God. “If I can’t die, if I can’t be cured of this dark feeling for once & for all, then You, God, have to show me how to live! Have mercy on me & give me a way to get through this, not tomorrow or the next day but today! Or through the next hour. Whatever. I will dutifully live with my infliction but I need You to get me through!” I know, I know. Sounds simplistic. But it’s working for me. I admit, I think a lot. If my child was diagnosed with a terminal illness, TELL ME! I’d want to know. Don’t walk on eggs around me. I have to have the truth. Don’t give me false hope & set me up for failure. Treat me like I, at least, deserve the truth. Don’t expect me to live well for you when you’re in denial about the severity of my illness. Look at it. It’s gross like a deformity. An emotional deformity. Just hold my hand occasionally like you would if I had cancer. That’s all.

  8. Michael,
    When I first heard the news all I could think of is asking God to protect Rick Warren and his wife and family from all the “nice” people who wanted to help. then I thought of you and your sister and I knew that as soon as you heard the scab would come off the wound. Empathy is not all it is cracked up to be, especially in times like this. My prayers for Warren’s and for you Michael and your family, my friend, I know you are hurting. I wish I could do more than just cry and pray.


  9. Reading the news, I’ve been struck by how similar Matthew Warren is to me. He’s three years older than me, was raised in a Christian home, believed in Christ himself and struggled with depression for many years.
    That led me to think how close I came to his situation. In my darkest moments, I cried out to God, asking him to just end my life. I knew I couldn’t commit suicide because of how much that would hurt my family and because it would be a terrible witness to my unsaved friends. But I wished I could. I remember lying on my bed, screaming silently at God in anger that He would put me through this and not let me take my own life. But he brought me out of it. I don’t know why I escaped with my life but Matthew Warren did not. I don’t believe I was stronger than him; it’s more likely that my depression was less severe (not that that’s something you can measure).
    I don’t know where I’m going with this other than to add my prayers for the Warren family. May the God of light and life, the supreme Healer keep them and guard them. May they be shielded with His comfort and guarded until they join Matthew in a kingdom where death, mourning, crying and pain are no more.

  10. Michael, I have taken the liberty of translating and posting this piece on my German blog (and I linked to it on my English blog).
    Very important thoughts. All to often our churches are not safe and welcoming places for those who suffer from depression and we (Christians) need to start thinking about that and make changes.

  11. Rebecca, based on your comments, I think you would really like this. (It’s not mine, I don’t even have a YouTube account.)

    It’s about living through darkness. My church usually sings it the night before Easter. I do often imagine what the disciples must have been going through. Not only did they horrifically lose their dear teacher, but what they imagined life held for them was completely turned upside down. Yet good news was coming. It helps remind me that the darkness is never God’s final answer. Even if on Earth we find no relief, no answers, eternity is waiting.

    God bless Matthew Warren, the Warren family, Angie, the Patton family, and all those affected by that terrible illness.

  12. yes, a remembering for desire and strength to join in prayer for His most afflicted; for His power against asphyxiation of hope while on this earth and praise for the gift of everlasting Hope. In all their affliction, He was afflicted, Isa 63: 9a ; When we are afraid, we will put our trust in You, Lord Ps 56:3

  13. Clint Roberts April 8, 2013 at 8:28 am

    You are identifying something here that was very hard for me to learn early on after seminary, and that is the brutal reality of ‘real’ ministry in the world. I came to see, finally, that teaching and preaching are easy. True pastoral care is gut-wrenching.

    It is nothing to stand before a crowd and explicate truths. Sure it requires some labor in terms of preparation. But to try (seemingly in vain) to counsel people in the throes of anguish is altogether different. Grief, to quote Shakespeare, “sucks out the soul, leaving us but the shales & husks of men.” The attempt to be an ‘answer man’ for people is more than an academic exercise. That part is challenging in its own way, but not as painfully challenging as trying to help people who are battered by life & the “thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to” (sorry, Shakespeare again).

  14. Michael Karpf April 8, 2013 at 8:49 am

    I am really seeing a need for people to be able to talk about this. I have been through a black hole, and I do know what it feels like. There is no way out of it, and God won’t do anything about it. The pain is so bad you will do anything to end this suffering. Even suicide if that is a way out.
    This is not a time for theological debate. In a time like this, the best thing we can do is show compassion and be there for people who are hurting.
    I would like to share this. My sister and I were talking about it and we were talking about it yesterday after church. I know of at least 4 suicides over the last 3 months. When people commit suicide, it starts to give others the impression that it might be the best thing to do. So and so committed suicide, so why shouldn’t I do it? I won’t quote Romans 8:28, because I’m sure that nobody left behind sees anything good in this. But it is my prayer, that people are more open to talk about these issues. I do believe, if Matthew accepted Christ as his personal Savior, that he has been welcomed home. But I also know that we need to pray for his family and show them all the love and support we can. People too often are quick to give advice. Please don’t do that. I don’t have answers and I’m not going to pretend I do. But I do know, from being depressed myself, the last thing I want is advice. I had to leave my former church because they preached a prosperity gospel and told me I don’t have depression anymore. Please let’s be sensitive to the one going through depression. My prayers are with the Warrens.

  15. *groan*

    Thank you, Michael for posting this. I always appreciate your rugged honesty and may God comfort your heart (and your family) and the hearts of those who are hurting right now.

  16. Thanks Michael for an honest, out of the heart blog about our collective struggle to understand.
    May the Lord be with Rick and his family and give them so much grace and love in these dark days.
    And thanks for your blog- I enjoy it so much but have never commented before…

  17. Aye, the “friends of Job”, both those so-called positive and negative, can be like “the flaming darts of the evil one.” Best to speak very little at this time! And lest some think I have never felt the depth of loosing friends and even family, I have both seen best friends die in combat (and ordered their positions in the fight, shoulder to shoulder), and my wife’s mother’s sister’s daughter hung herself in her 30’s, with two of her young teen children making the discovery, just a few years back. And I knew her well! All we can say, with that we live in a very evil and fallen world!

    But again, I hate psychological “projection”! (Of psychoanalysis)

  18. Michael, I just can’t imagine the pain that suicide leaves behind. And I can’t imagine or understand the pain that would push someone to that point.

    But through your openness and honesty about Angie and your own darkness, I have come to see the reality of it all in a new way, even if I’ve only gotten as far as understanding that I don’t understand. Your experiences, expressed in what you write, have given me a deeper compassion for those going through such times. I see more clearly that there are no simple answers, and sometimes, maybe no answers at all.

    Thank you for this article and those you’ve written in the past.

  19. Thanks, Michael. This post clearly shows why I am a devoted follower of your ministry. My wife and I continue to pray for Rick and his family. Selah!

  20. @Irene. Thank you so much for the music link. It was beautiful, very touching. I, too, have done the same and brought it to others attention. How the disciples must have felt. Not knowing what to do immediately with all that grief. And Peter. Poor Peter. The loss was so devastating. And how do you emotionally get it all back into gear by the next day. I can’t imagine they’d have any energy at all.

    I like your statement,”the darkness is never the final answer”. I wish we heard more about suffering and that we are all assigned suffering. We just don’t get to choose the level or type of suffering.

    I wonder if suicidal depression is similar to being far away from home, filthy, sweaty, sand in teeth, in a fox hole with bullets flying over your head? Not even a blanket to pull over your head. I wonder if the gripping fear and horrible fatigue is the same level, is as deep as the pain one feels when he or she considers suicide? One, you’re trained to expect the misery, the other you are trained or conditioned to try to escape it. How much does it have to do with training, with conditioning?

    If a suicidal person was told that for everyday he stayed alive, a little girl was given the chance to be cured of cancer, what would he do? His life was like a fund raiser. But if he died from self inflicted injuries, she dies too. Would a child’s life hinging on what he does with his be enough motivation for the person to live? Would responsibility and love for a helpless soul be powerful enough to make a suicidal person stop? Is there really no answer? At least, no better answer?

  21. Excellent post. Christianity is a process a bit like growing older. Let us wisely love each other more and judge each other less…

  22. Michael, thank you for your courage and honesty as we all try to process this tragedy. I lost an unbelieving friend to suicide and the emotional weight of it descended quickly and I thought it was one I needed to carry. At the throne of grace through the Spirit, I was told I was not to carry it, and this is what Jesus meant when he told us to cast our cares on him (Matt 11:28). Frankly, I always thought that verse was kind of glib, really, but now I know it as a provision for our pain. There are just some things too heavy to carry. I still get sad about my friend but it isn’t the heaviness that crushes. I pray this for the Warrens and all those touched by suicide.

  23. Johnny Bailey April 8, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    I have a son who suffers from bipolar disorder and I am in ministry. Not only that this son is currently incarcerated. I cannot begin to tell you how many times our adversary has pointed his boney finger at me and my wife with seeds of guilt as if all of this is out fault. What really hurts is when your own Christian family does this as well. Where is our compassion? Why do we look down our noses as if we will never experience this kind of pain?

    I thought the power to push past pain like this is what the church is about? I love God and I love his people but there are times the way we react when our brothers and sisters are in pain confuses me.

    May God bless and comfort the Warrens

    God help us

  24. I applaud Michael’s courage and honesty, even if I’m not sure I completely agree with everything he wrote. I too have been touched by the agony of suicide. As a 17 year old, my best high school friend took his own life. I reeled from the pain of that event for years, and blamed God and, to some degree, myself for a long time, even justifying prodigal behavior as a young adult because of it. Ultimately, I went into ministry, partly driven by the brokenness I found in my own life, and the observation that this same brokenness was evident in everyone else’s life too. Only Jesus could bring hope, relief, and even joyful purpose. And when I entered vocational ministry, I relearned the burden and brokenness of humanity and my own sin all over again. God is faithful, but life never has become easier. Maybe just more interesting – and profoundly sadder and more hopeful at the same time. I concur with everyone in the preceding posts who desperately long for heaven. And as one who has battled depression myself, I can truly empathize with those who have fatally lost the battle. As one who has a working knowledge of psychology and biblical nouthetic counseling approaches, I am still at a loss as to how to give an answer to someone who is in the darkest grips of depression. In fact, I even have a friend right now who has been debilitated to the point of seeking electro-shock therapy.
    All I can do is pray “God help us all.” And for me, the biggest stop gap for me committing suicide in the past, has always been two things. A sacrificial love for those closest to me, understanding the devastation suicide leaves for survivors. And the wonderful knowledge that Scripture gives us regarding eternal rewards for those who persevere and are overcomes. Truly, suffering is one of the most profound tools in God’s toolbox, in which He “conforms us to the image of Christ.” (Romans 8:29).
    I think God and the enemy can both introduce depression- but results can be very different!

  25. My son is in a mental hospital at the moment. I was in ministry. The Church needs to come out of the dark ages on this issue and learn wisdom and compassion.

  26. I have suffered bipolar disorder all my life. My mother suffered it and my grandmother. I have never lost anyone to it, and regardless of my many attempts I have not lost my own life.

    Some time ago I felt called by God into ministry… it seemed so absurd, but it was God. How do you refuse God? What I didn’t know is the emptiness that would follow. God so emptied me of myself that I’ve lost everything. My despair is so deep that every morning I wake up less and less willing to continue.

    I have a rope tied up in my garage because I assume at some point I will be ready to remove the burden that is me from the world. I have no expectation that death will alleviate my pain. But for some reason… I feel like it might be the only way God will notice me again.

    I hold on though. I hope in some way God will answer me again. For now, there is only emptiness. I don’t blame God… I don’t doubt God loves me. I just don’t understand who I am. Why does God love me. Why would he want me to live this empty life unless he was ready to fill me with Him. And how much of this is just me fooling myself. What if I really am just nothing… a random accident existing only as a burden on others. I can’t live like this.

  27. Another tragic moment amid constant tragic moments each and every day in our fallen world. My dad committed suicide, two attempts before the third and final. There are no words. I saw another post that supposedly Greg Laurie said there are no words, only one word – Immanuel.

  28. My heart goes out to the Warren family. Like most people here, I only know the public persona and the ministry. My church went through the ‘Purpose Filled’ book some years ago. I didn’t even know they had a son with such problems. It broke my heart to learn this news. It’s a terrible thing and it has made me very sad.


    But I do have to comment on this bit:

    “Unfortunately, most of the time that Rick Warren comes up on the radar in my circles is in order to throw his life and ministry under the bus of an agenda that lives or dies by the controversy they create.”

    That’s inaccurate and unfair. Just because one Christian may disagree with and even criticize another Christian’s statements on an issue, their ministry or their theological views does not mean we are ‘throwing them under the bus’.

    Can this type of disagreement/criticism be done in a wrong and even sinful way? Yes, of course. But the mere fact of disagreeing/criticizing does not equal sin.

    It’s called discernment. It’s not only allowed by Scripture, it is commanded for us to do!

    And no, I don’t do the ‘this is not the time’ thing either. That’s just a way to silence others. Just because someone has suffered a loss doesn’t mean we can’t even have a discussion about various issues where we may disagree with the person. That’s the Leftist way of silencing others. We must never fall into that pattern as followers of Christ.

    God’s way is to speak the truth in love. As Christians we can be great on the ‘love’ part, but the ‘truth’ part is more often than not lacking, simply because we’re immersed in a culture where any pointing out of right and wrong is said to be called “mean” and “judgmental”.

    Again, let’s not fall into that trap.


    I will pray for the family. Their pain must be unbearable.

  29. Bless you Michael, for writing this. I can only imagine how painful it was for you to relive your sister’s tragedy. I have struggled for many years with depression and suicidal thoughts, and have had family members end their lives. I know what a horror suicide is. I was very saddened to hear of Matthew Warren’s suicide. My hearts & prayers go out to his family, friends, and church. In the midst of all my pain and unanswered prayers and questions, this one fact I desperately try to remember to cling to: Almighty God is good. He is still on His Throne. And He loves us more than we can even fathom.

  30. Michael, thanks!

  31. thank you Rebecca and Elizabeth. You have helped me today more than you will ever know!
    Michael, hold on, take the rope down.

  32. There is a difference between asking God for help and meaning it. If Matthew meant it, he was not going to successfully kill himself. God would have prevented its success. Do you really think God was going to allow Matthew to succeed if he was truly his? What many Christians are doing, in this situation, is ignoring everything God has said. James tells us to not ask amiss, for when we do, we get nothing. God said that he will not allow us to go through more than we can handle. He also said that he will take care of us and rescue us. Paul explained how hard things can get and that we must never give up. God abhors murder of any kind. Suicide is murder. God said all murderers will not enter into his kingdom. Besides blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, every other sin can be forgiven except for suicide. True repentance is when you ask for forgiveness AFTER an act, which is impossible with suicide. Death is the cut off point for repentance. Once you are dead, your attempts at repentance will be ignored. So, it doesn’t matter how much many Christians choose to ignore all that God has said: Matthew is in hell and you are foolish to believe otherwise.

  33. April, heresy is half truth. Are you descended from Job’s comforters? What you say is true of selfish, godless suicide, not a Christian who may become psychotic/delusional from lack of sleep, etc.

    Bipolar, Michael. I assume you have tried to get help. Suicide should not be an option.

  34. I really wish you didn’t and would write such articles, it maybe good for those that are ready for it, and for clinical or even some theological studies when people ask for information but in general, for the public, there are many who are gravely depressed or have mental sicknesses and for them this may make it harder to accept life and suffering and lead them ever more closer to the thought of suicide.

    “How do I know this” or ” what makes me an expert”? you may ask. Well, I am one of them. I am a 41 year old male who is working on my Master of Arts in Biblical Studies, wanting to continue with a Ph.D. I “was” a mail carrier (full time) on a 32 mile route and walked 11.5 miles of them and a Union Steward. Worked out 3 days a week, pastored a small church. I loved my job and pastoring and was hoping and praying about going into full time ministry, when I hurt my back on the route and am now almost bed ridden.

    After being off from work for 3 years, have had 2 surgeries and find out Thursday if a 3rd surgery is possible, of which, I hope, taking nearly 40 plus pills for pain, & depression, the United States Postal Service finally terminated my job March 13th, 2013. I haven’t worked since Feb. 5, 2010 and had to step down from pastoring due to pain 6 months later. Needless to say, I have to fight with worker’s compensation constantly because now they are trying to force me either back to work ir going to community college for a desk job, of which, I hurt so extremely bad when I try to sit for over 15 to 30 minutes. And I can’t even drive anymore. I use to have the personality of ” happy go lucky” but I can tell I’m just getting hateful all the time.

    My life has been literally taken from me, I’m getting fat, have lost all muscle that I have ever had. I am no good for anyone, I feel like a complete failure, am sick all the time, I feel like a burden to my wife and 3 kids. Everyone has to almost do everything for me all the time. And I hate it and…

  35. CMP, it was a pleasure and honor to finally meet you this afternoon at TGC 2013. You are indeed as gracious and pastoral in person as on your blog.

    I wish more Christian well-wishers would hear the Lord in Proverbs 25:20:

    “Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda.”

    While I want to believe good motives in those who try to cheer people up amidst the depths of darkness and despair, they know not what they do. They do not understand, and indeed resent, the soda-on-vinegar response that their trite and often ill-timed “exhortations” produce in the wounded. They don’t understand how their emotional discordance is, more often than not, a well-meaning disobedience to the command to weep (not lecture, cheer up, judge, ignore or avoid) with those who weep (Rom. 12:5). In as much as the church needs to come to terms with depression, mental illness, abuse, etc., we need to humbly admit that *few* of us have the personal/pastoral skill to speak into these tragedies.

  36. April, have You repented of every Single sin in your Life? I doubt You Are aware of every sinful act, just like all of us. Salvation is by Grace! What if You lie to someone and get struck by lightning right after? According to your theology, you’d be in hell. But if You Are regenerated and have a new heart, how Can You just lose that salvation because of not actively repenting of The sin of suicide afterward?? Doesn’t make sense…repentance is a lifestyle, not an “act You have to do after every Single sin anew, otherwise you’re going to hell”…

  37. Kevin Fitzgibbon April 9, 2013 at 8:47 am

    As one who has been “through it” I found it helpful to let others who have walked down the road of despair and have been taught to in turn teach me…

    My favorite teacher (besides Christ) is Charles Spurgeon:

    “I would comfort thee with this reflection. Jesus Christ said, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” If you come to him, he will say “Amen” in your soul; his promise shall be true to you. He said in the days of his flesh, “The bruised reed I will not break.” O thou poor, broken, bruised heart, if thou comest to him, he will say “Amen” to thee, and that shall be true in thy soul as in hundreds of cases in bygone years. Christian, is not this very comforting to thee also, that there is not a word which has gone out of the Saviour’s lips which he has ever retracted? The words of Jesus shall stand when heaven and earth shall pass away. If thou gettest a hold of but half a promise, thou shalt find it true. ”


  38. CMP, thank you for a thoughtful post and sharing your own experience. Usually you are open to discussion on the points you raise, so I just want to add that I would not be able to find comfort, as you do, in believing that God took my sister as part of his wise and mysterious plan. Instead, I would have to adhere to God’s Word that our enemy prowls around looking to devour and destroy us, and sometimes he is successful. I agree with William that God is grieved over Matthew’s suicide, and over every life that is destroyed by the devil.

    • I believe that God grieved greater than we all could imagine. God’s will is accomplished in a sin stained world. All he has is sin to work with sometimes. If he uses sin for his glory, I will shake my fist but for a moment. Then I will remember the end of evil and rest until he comes.

  39. Being a Christian with bipolar disorder type 2, sometimes it is as easy as finding the right “pill”. Bipolar type 2 is mild and masks itself as depression, when indeed it is not, making it more deadly than bipolar type 1 in many cases. Only a small percentage of people with bipolar type 2 find out that’s what it is, being treated with antidepressants instead of with mood stabilizers. Antidepressants only worsen the bipolar disorder symptoms over the years. Believe me I know. It took 7 years, three doctors to finally figure it out. 1 out of 5 males who have untreated bipolar disorder will take their life. Reading this article, I could relate. God’s ways are not our ways, and his purposes are hard to understand, but I believe those like Matthew who are Christians, whose lives comes to end like this, we will see in Heaven one day…

  40. Michael,

    Thank you for this post. I personally know the pain of depression and that of a family member choosing to take their own life. Your comments here and elsewhere on your sister and your struggle with the situation have been inspiring and helpful in letting me know that my feelings aren’t unusual or unique.

    I wrote about some of this after Matthew Warren’s death on my blog, please take a look if you get the chance:

  41. I can only speak for myself. When I started to accept my limitations, whether they be chronic pain or chronic despair, I changed. I saw my constant unhappiness over my circumstances that were very real as rebellion. I had never looked at it like that before. Where did I even get that idea? When I got it into my head that there is no guarantee that God will take it all away in the here & now, I changed. When I asked myself, why should I be healed, I changed. For me, there is no earthly reason God should heal me now or later when I might have a surgery or terminal illness. My mother died at 54 from a “successful” surgery. It could happen again. When I think of how I have lost so much mobility, I now ask, why not? I realized when I saw others healthy & vibrant & active, I was resentful & felt all alone. I coveted what they had. So my emotions & body may be held targeted by a fallen world but my heart belongs to my Savior. I finally resigned to suffering as part of my testimony & a way to exalt Christ. Yes, I still get down about it. But then I remember, if all else fails, meaning that I have tried all I know how to do & all that has ever been suggested I do, that suffering comes with the territory. And I can’t come up with a good enough reason as to why I shouldn’t suffer? I want to ask a question. Please be patient with me. If mental illness cannot be overcome in certain cases, if the person doesn’t have the capacity for reason, would we think it OK for that person to kill our child rather than himself? No, we don’t think it’s OK. But do we call that mental illness or evil? That said, it’s my belief that one who takes his own life can enter God’s glory. But I really think when he sees Christ, he’s going to wish he could take that day back. Just like the rest of us & our hidden sins. We are granted forgiveness now but go into eternity rationalizing our sin? I don’t want to be called onto the carpet.The crown I most want to lay at Jesus feet, may not be mine to give?

  42. Thank you Michael. I have known a just a few who committed suicide, one of who was a fairly close family friend. I also look back on my Dad’s depression and his thoughts of suicide when I was in jr. high. Perhaps even more, I think back to the countless nights my wife was in a dreadful depression. She said she wasn’t bad enough to hurt herself, but other comments really made me wonder. Just sitting there holding her hand at night with no end to the depression in sight… I can’t count how many prayers were demanding, begging, pleading, screaming at God to save my beloved. I can only imagine how destroyed I would have been had God not given her the grace to pull her from it. I can only imagine the utter destruction you have gone through for however long or that the Warren’s are just beginning to endure. Thank you for such an honest, pained, loving, deeply Christian, deeply compassionate look at this … whatever it is – this issue, this crisis, this pain, this dark night of the soul that may last for years. Thank you

  43. We either have more mental illness than ever before in history? Or we are just more aware of it? If it’s the former, maybe, it’s both? Maybe this is indicative of the last days? With each passing day, Satan is ramping up his antics & one of the best ways is to get to our emotions. Who can deny that? To commandeer a mind is the most effective way to get into control. Right? There have been people that have suffered illnesses, heartbreak, & horrific accidents right up to the bitter end. With the right attitude, we can be overcomers. But go after the mind & it’s like coming up from behind & knocking the props right out from you. Think about it. What do we fear the most when we send our kids off to college? That the enemy will seize their minds. That they will leave as believers & come back as unbelievers. Does Satan not know where we are the most vulnerable? Still, we that are not the target of Satan’s lust at the moment, need to be ready to identify what is bogus in order to not be coached into walk a different path. Additionally, to recognize the source will enable us to help others stand firm & to stick with them through these times. I think much can be overcome with those suffering such pain if we stay the course with them. And this, my friends, could take years, could take a lifetime. The abandonment some experience is not God honoring as well and plays some serious head games. Of course, you have to use discernment here & listen for language that would indicate one doesn’t want to get well. Some can & have regarded their “mental illness” like a comfortable old shoe. So, if discernment is not your gift, find someone who has it. To me, even if someone doesn’t appear to want to get well, I think God will be pleased if we stay the course with them in order to help avoid a suicide. What I think doesn’t please God is for us to allow them to make us their god. Which means we need stamina to deal with the situation. Which means, we need partnership with other…

  44. “partnership with other willing helpers” was my last line that got cut off.

  45. Often I can’t help be wonder what a St. Paul would have to say in this so called age of our modernism and postmodernity? But in fact he has, in his own life, doctrine/teaching & theology. Btw, a study of Paul’s so-called “torn” in the flesh, which was “a messenger of Satan to harass [him]”, (1 Cor. 12: 8-10), is far more of benefit, than looking at our own self’s, time and culture. And of course the life and death of Christ is seen and lived-out in the life and death of Paul, himself, (2 Cor. 4: 7-16 /2 Tim. 4: 6, etc.). But Paul presses more of “Christ Jesus”, crucified, risen & ascended! Is HE not enough? I say with Paul, He is!

  46. i suffer from bipolar 1 disorder. it is a terrible, devastating pain. I have suffered bipolar depression (my most recent lasted for over 4 months after i had surgery), hypomania, and mixed episodes. Recently, the only Psalm that i could connect to is Psalm 88. It is a very dark Psalm where the Psalmist is very despondent. The Psalm does not end on a “Praise the LORD” but with loved and friend is removed far from me. I suffered this for about a year. Often i thought that for me it is far better for me to depart and be with the LORD and to be absent from the body is to be present with the LORD.
    What hurts is that, as a Christian, i am instructed to be filled with his joy, to live a life filled with the fruit of the Spirit. When i study the 9 fold fruit of the Spirit and then i examine the behavior that is displayed during an episodic time or a time of continual decompensation, i easily come to the conclusion that my behavior was diametrically oppose to the way a Spiritual believer is to be. After my episodes, i have to struggle through much shame. I find myself at times isolating myself from people so that i wont hurt them. So i tell myself i must protect other people from me. All this can end up being a huge struggle. To make things worse, i have been gift the gift of teaching and because of my episodes and being unstable at times, i am not able to serve the Love of my Life, and my LORD and Savior by teaching because we must think of others. None of these thoughts do not contribute to my being stable but it can drive me into drooping depression with sinking shame. It is a warfare. The Scriptures teach that we are in a warfare and well i know the battle of the person with mental health issues. Reading these posts have given me some hope. It appears there is much sympathy and compassion for the Warren family. It seems that there is a growing understanding about mental illness and that it is not happening because of sin or a in a person’s…

  47. Mr. Patton, I wept as I read this. My heart is heavy with your pain and I will pray for you. Thank you for having the courage to post this.

  48. Heartfelt and sincere, a difficult subject for sure. Depression? May those who have never been there be grateful. But I’m afraid the comment that struck me hardest was, “Who is at fault? God is.” This opened up a pit in my own stomach. Where is the Great Physician when he is needed most?

  49. A note to Wolf Paul (#10 above). Based on what you’ve said I think it may be worth your while to listen to Aaron Budjen’s Message #57 on Romans (The Love of God). I think this message may put more foot-leather to what you’re driving at.

  50. I can only offer my prayers to all who are suffering loss at this time. Whatever the reason, it is not our place to bring into question God’s ontology. This life is what it is if it were not for this thing called sin. CMP, I love you man for your boldness and raw courage to go there, and be real. Be strong Brother.


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