The headline on foxnews.com read ‘Megachurch Pastor, Mental Health Advocate, Jarrid Wilson Dies by Suicide.’ Jarrid Wilson was the Associate Pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship, where Greg Laurie is the Senior Pastor. Jarrid had been in that position for just 18 months. He was a co-founder of Anthem of Hope, a mental health non-profit that helps people dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts. He is survived by his wife Julianne, and two sons.
Pastor Greg Laurie posted this on Instagram, “At a time like this, there are just no words. The Bible says, ‘There is a time to mourn.’ This is certainly that time. Jarrid loved the Lord and had a servant’s heart. He was vibrant, positive, and was always serving and helping others. Jarrid also repeatedly dealt with depression and was very open about his ongoing struggles. He wanted to especially help those who were dealing with suicidal thoughts.”
Hours before he took his life, Jarrid Wilson tweeted a message about suicide. “Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure suicidal thoughts,” he wrote. “But that doesn’t mean Jesus doesn’t offer us companionship and comfort. He ALWAYS does that.”
Pastor Laurie went on the state on Instagram, “Sometimes people may think that as pastors or spiritual leaders we are somehow above the pain and struggles of everyday people. We are the ones who are supposed to have all the answers. But we do not. At the end of the day, pastors are just people who need to reach out to God for His help and strength, each and every day. . . . One dark moment in a Christian’s life cannot undo what Christ did for us on the cross.”
Wilson wrote about contemplating suicide and said he found no resources in the church to help him cope with depression. Instead heard people saying, “Just have faith” — but that didn’t help. All the counseling and help I received came years after I actually needed it, and it was found in the secrecy of a local medical facility, not a church-where it should have been all along,” he said.
What a tragedy! It reminds us of what can happen to people in ministry.
Kay Warren, wife of Rick Warren who is the Senior Pastor of Saddleback Church in California, who herself lost a son in suicide writes, “Pastors are people first, ordinary men and women who are vulnerable to the same illnesses, life circumstances, and woes as the rest of us. Yet they have the added stress of living in glass houses, always under the watchful eyes of church members. Sometimes both faith leaders and the congregation forget that pastors are merely human and expect superhuman feats of endurance, wisdom and knowledge. The unrealistic expectation that pastors and their families walk on water can only lead to deep disappointment and disillusionment, which can be lethal.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at tel:1-800-273-TALK (8255). Kay also has a wealth of mental health resources online at http://kaywarren.com/freedownloads/
At the same time another writer Larry Crabb states, “The church must be the safest place on earth where we can bring our broken selves, our depressed selves, our addicted selves, our selfish selves – all of who we are and who we are not – and find not only a welcome embrace but also fellow travelers who will journey with us no matter how long it takes.”
STRONG PEOPLE NEED SUPPORT
Recently, I heard of a radio program which pointed out that often people who are considered what you might call ‘strong people,’ like pastors, leaders, counselors, etc, often need to have other people who will minister into their lives and support them. People are often drawing from their strength and forget that they too need others to be pouring strength back into them. Sometimes, when we see people who are strong believers, particularly pastors and leaders, we think, “They are strong, they will come through it all, they have faith.”
No matter how strong a leader is, all of them still need the prayers and support of other loving and caring people.
PASTOR ON A PEDESTAL
I read a story in a newsletter by John Matthews, who lives in Minneapolis, but ministers regularly in Ukraine and elsewhere.
“I recall an embarrassing incident after an evening service when I was pastoring a church. A lady came up to my wife Jackie and said to her, ‘Oh I wish I had a husband like yours! I could imagine him today spending hours on his face before God, worshipping and listening for His voice!’ Though I was standing right beside them at the time, I didn’t have the courage to tell the lady that in reality, I was running around ‘like a chicken with its head cut off’ (Minnesotan farm humor), just like most everyone else in America that day.”
Often people in a congregation or ministry will put pastors or leaders on a pedestal and think that they are almost perfect when in reality they are not. In James 5, where the author is teaching on subjects like prayer and healing, he makes reference to the great prophet Elijah, one of the mighty men of God in the Old Testament. “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours . . .” In other words, Elijah was subject to the same feelings and liable to the same weaknesses we all experience. If you want to check that out, just read I Kings 19, when Elijah ran away from the threat of Jezebel and was ready to die, until God met him and restored his calling.
We need to pray for people in positions of leadership, whether pastor or politicians. As motivation speaker Zig Ziglar wrote, “It is lonely at the top!” We need to pray, as I Timothy 2:1 challenges us, ‘therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers and intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority (i.e. leaders).’
Let’s do it. Let us pray for our leaders and pastors and as God leads us, give them the support and encouragement they too need!