Trigger warning* If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or harm OCD you may want to skip this post.
To get help:
Call the American National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
The Canadian National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-833-456-4566
Why didn’t God save a young suicidal pastor?
When I heard of the tragic passing of mega church pastor, husband, father and mental health advocate Jarrid Wilson my stomach just sank. I have to say I read the headlines and did not read any further because I hate reading stories like that, it’s too close to home.
I went on with my day.
As I drifted to sleep that evening my mind replayed a headline, “Pastor Jarrid Wilson Officiated a Funeral for a Woman Who Died by Suicide on Day of His Own Death” and my stomach sank again. I tried to brush it off but soon my thoughts began to catch up with the weight of this headline and all of a sudden I realized what that weight of emotion was.
I tried my best to sleep it off (for my own mental health I try not to mull too long on tragic stories) but the following day as I tried to move on I felt this weight of responsibility. “Sarah, you don’t get to move on. People need to hear from you, they need you.”
I don’t want to talk about this but I have to talk about this.
This blog post may be a few days late but I needed those days to process so I don’t come to you with some generic and stupid pat Christian response to a very serious story that has the potential of harming many fragile spirits.
I want to be honest with you, with all of the years I have spent using my story to bring hope and tools to those who are battling the mind this sort of felt like a betrayal. I was angry that he would do this and I was so confused why he would decide to take his own life on suicide awareness day of all days. I felt so grieved for his family and so grieved for his church and I also felt protective of the delicate minds that were looking to him for comfort and hope. Without knowing this man, only knowing this small page of his story and a few photos of him on Instagram I wondered what his thoughts were when he made that final decision. What justified such a final action?
Then my thoughts and anger went to the church, why aren’t we equipped, why aren’t we doing enough, why did they let him direct a funeral of suicide when he was ill and fragile, why didn’t they protect him, where are the resources, who is responsible for this?!
Then my thoughts went to God. Where were you in this?! Why didn’t you stop him? Why didn’t you help?! What does this say about you if you can’t even save a pastor?!
Then my thoughts turned back to myself , what are you going to do, how are you going to prevent this, what are you going to say?
This is why I needed a few days.
My initial thoughts and emotions (the good and the bad) is the fallout of suicide: anger, blame, confusion, betrayal, judgment and grief. I can’t imagine the pain left to his close family and friends when I am only a witness driving past a bad car crash. The truth is that it’s complicated, it’s confusing, it’s not simple because it’s mental illness, it’s satan, it’s human, it’s biology, it’s bad theology, it’s all of the above.
When I was at the tail end of my mental illness recovery, I felt so incredibly fragile. I was exhausted from warding off suicidal thoughts, crippling anxiety and despair, when the news of Robin Williams suicide came out I was devastated and that story had enough momentum to derail months worth of progress. I had been working so hard to swim to shore and watching someone I admire drown in the same lake I was dog paddling in was a wake up call. It was a terrifying realization that mental illness is a very, very serious issue and we have to do everything in our power to fight for wholeness and swim to shore. From that moment on I swam harder and faster than I ever had.
I received an email from a reader yesterday that read:
I have been really been shaken by Jarod Wilson’s suicide. I’m not sure if you are familiar with him or not, but he was a pastor that suffered from depression and was an advocate for Mental Illness. I have so many doubts now about God. Why would God bring healing to me when he didn’t bring healing to him? Why didn’t he help him? I hate it, but I feel like I can’t trust God now.
This was me when Robin died and I knew that if one person had emailed this thought to me that there were 100 other people who were questioning the same thing.
I sat down to write out this post and said “God, I don’t have the answers to why you would allow this to happen, why you couldn’t save him. Am I supposed to use my blog to say “I don’t know either?!”
I closed my eyes and after a few moments Jesus’s human experience fell into my heart.
35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Whenever I read this passage I always feel Jesus’s overwhelmed desire to save the world. I feel his compassion that drove him to heal and touch every person who he came into contact with. He was not naive to mental and emotional suffering, and we have no clue the battle Jesus fought within his own mind and heart. Not only did he witness the suffering of others but he also felt the suffering and he understood it. The Word of God says that Jesus was acquainted with grief and sorrow,
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.Isaiah 53
When Jesus is walking through the streets I see a God trapped in the frailty of a human experience. He desired with all of his being to snap his fingers and heal it all but for some reason (that we are blinded to), he was limited in that moment and began to ask for our help. The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. I don’t know why God can’t just instantly fix this mess we call a life! However, I do know that when his time came he endured the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual suffering of the cross so that whatever Satan had destroyed, whatever illness mental or physical that causes us despair, whatever weight of sin we carry we have hope. There is an order to things that we just don’t fully understand -yet, and God is calling on any of us who has strength in the Lord to stop blaming God and help.
Suicide is not ignored in the bible some were saved – Elijah, some were not – Judas.
Jarrid Wilson died on the battlefield of mental illness. Many survive the battle but some don’t. It’s complicated but life is so worth fighting for.
Mental Health Awareness
I might get a bit of an offended response from those struggling with mental illness. But I want you to know that I am you, healed and I really really care about you. I have to speak in truth as someone who has been there, survived it and now have to navigate survivors guilt.
Many times I have people who share with me that they want to start a blog or write a book to share their personal battle with mental illness. They desire to bring awareness and I think the more people who speak out the better but this is a warning I have in my spirit.
With this recent move of Christians speaking out about their struggles with mental illness there has been this subtle bend of bringing awareness to mental illness with no solution, no hope or resources. I realize more than most of you that there is not an “instant” formula to healing the mind, emotions and soul and that many of us can pray until we are blue in the face and we still struggle. I know more than any of you how mental illness is often an illness of the brain not a sign of personal weakness. But often times people who want to bring awareness to their struggles (This is not in reference to Jarrid, I didn’t know him) have their identity in their illness, have surrendered to it, and have no desire to get better. Often times they share that they’ve done everything, tried everything and it’s just who they are so deal with it, accept it, magnify it.
We, as Christians, as survivors, as those who may be in the thick of it right now must make sure that we are striving for wholeness or at least a ‘little bit betterness’. We have to make sure that we become mental “health” advocates and not mental illness advocates.
Some people don’t make it, but many, many people do with the help of others, with the help of Jesus. It gets better, it really really does.
I know without a shadow of a doubt that when we cling to him with every last ounce of strength we have we “will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” This truth is what brought me out of darkness into the comfort of God. I made it and so can you.
God, cover and guard Jarrid’s family with your grace and love as they walk through this complicated season. Lord, if anyone is reading this that is struggling with the darkest thoughts and the deepest despair I pray that you would make yourself present to them, bring them supernatural comfort, hope and help. – Amen