Sunday, September 15, 2019


"For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia:  that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life."  (2 Corinthians 1:8 New King James Version)

It's all over the internet, especially if you're a seriously committed evangelical Christian or a pastor:  Jarrid Wilson, a pastoral staff member at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, and a tireless advocate for promoting Mental Health Awareness, and particularly for making it acceptable to talk about being suicidal in order that such a tragic death could be prevented, took his own life last Monday, September 9.  I must admit that until a few days ago, I had never heard of Jarrid Wilson;  I'd never listened to one of his sermons, nor read any material written by him.  The information that I've read since his death is that he was only thirty years of age, he was a truly wonderful person, he'd participated in a water baptism service just days before his death, and he had conducted the funeral service of a person who had committed suicide on the day of his own suicide.

It does leave a person, especially a committed Christian, and especially a pastor, with a horrible feeling- for so many reasons.  My heart goes out to the man who was his boss, the Lead Pastor of that church, Greg Laurie.  I have heard many sermons by Pastor Laurie and in my opinion, he's one of the finest men of God in America.  I hope to never be in the position of having to try to explain such a tragedy, when really, there's no good explanation.

Please don't misunderstand me.

I'm not offering condemnation nor judgment.  This piece has been difficult for me to write.  I'm writing it during a Patriots game on a sunny Sunday afternoon in the Boston suburbs.  I argued within myself whether it would be wise to write and post this.  I have a friend from Tennessee who posted something a few days ago that was rather difficult for him to write.  He commented that it might cost him some friends.  In a sense, I fear this may cost me some friends; it may cost me the respect of some people, or both.  My friend the late David C. Milley used to admonish me that I posted personal details about myself on the internet that in his opinion I absolutely should not have posted.  "It's nobody's business!"  he sternly told me.  And, many years ago, my District Superintendent (like a Bishop in many denominations) told me firmly that I am "much too candid"!  Today, I have come to the conclusion that my piece would have the potential to stop a suicide, and it would have the potential to change people's attitudes about those who struggle with suicidal thoughts, encouraging them to reach out and help such people, rather than condemn them and push them away.

I have struggled with serious bouts of depression during a number of periods of my life.  The very first that I can remember was in 1962 when I was an eight year old child.  Of course, I did not know it was depression.  I did not know what was wrong with me except that I was very unhappy and felt hopeless and purposeless.  That was during a time my father was going through a terrible time on his job which had a very bad effect on our whole family financially, emotionally, and psychologically.  I received Jesus Christ as my Personal Lord and Savior during the summer of 1970.  I used to tell people during my early days of being a born-again Christian that the Lord had delivered me from depression.  In fact, for several years after my salvation, I experienced no depression at all.  But, down the road, I faced times of depression that I can only describe as a nightmare.  

The Bible verse I quoted above was written by the Apostle Paul.  We think of him as a dynamo; as a very powerful man of God, as a great leader, and as a hero of the faith.  In most of the New Testament he comes across as an amazingly positive man.  Yet, in the above passage, he writes that he went through a time that essentially was meaningless and debilitating and that made life seem not worth living.  Paul did come out of that, but it lets us know he went through it.  If Paul could be susceptible to such depression, then I guess we should not be shocked that all Christians can be susceptible to it.  Roughly eight or nine years ago, I went through the greatest time of depression of my life.  Yes, I had suicidal thoughts.  Yes, I seriously considered acting upon those thoughts.  The pain and deep despair seemed relentless.  It would go on day after day and week after week.  I would occasionally have one day that was pretty much O.K. and then I'd be plunged back into six or more weeks of despair.  It's all a very long story.  Thank God, He saw me through that awful time!  I can't say I'm totally free from such depression, but today it's rare.  These days, I might have one day every six to eight weeks in which I feel total despair, but it doesn't last.  When a day like that happens, I'll play Christian praise music, read Scripture, pray, and seek out the fellowship of other Christians.  Those remedies mostly did not work for me during that bad time eight to nine years ago, but they do work today.  I am, however, very sensitive to the issue of Christians facing despair and suicidal thoughts.  I never want to be anything but a caring friend to such a person.

I feel very bad about what happened to Jarrid Wilson.  May God bless, comfort, and help his family and friends as only God can.  I can't bring him back.  What I can do is to exhort my fellow Christians.  If a Christian you know or even a pastor you know shares that he or she is going through something horrific where that person is being plagued by suicidal thoughts, please do everything you can to love and support that person and to be an encouragement to him or her. And, if you're feeling suicidal, please talk to somebody.  If a person rejects you or condemns you when you talk to that person, then that person is a jerk.  Please just move on to someone else.  I don't care if it's ten people, somebody will listen to you and help you.

Earlier this month, I posted the following on Facebook.  I'm sharing it here hoping you'll act upon it:
THIS month I celebrate a rather significant birthday...well it used to be more significant 50 or more years ago.  I know a lot of folks do those birthday fundraisers, and you may recall in the past I've fundraised for the causes of suicide prevention and Alzheimer's research among other things.  During the past few days, I've thought about it and thought about those the Beatles in Eleanor Rigby called, "All the lonely people".  We're all so busy.  At times most of us neglect people.  I'm TRYING to do better.  I think especially of elderly or disabled or frankly poor people who rarely get an encouraging phone call or even more rarely a "thinking of you" card including an encouraging note.  I know...we don't have time for this stuff.  But when we DO make that call or write that note, we make such a difference!  My late father was very busy and sort of a "workaholic".  He was very macho.  But he was also a guy who'd pick up the phone to encourage a friend going through a rough time, or visit a friend in the hospital or a nursing home, or even write a letter to encourage somebody.  I don't care if you tell me you did it or not, but if I persuaded all of my Facebook friends to do something practical to encourage another person this month, I just think that would be so cool!