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Pastor Jarrid Wilson dies of suicide

by Lynde Langdon
Posted 9/11/19, 10:48 am

Jarrid Wilson, an associate pastor of a California megachurch and an advocate for mental health, committed suicide Monday. He was 30. Wilson, who served at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., spoke openly of his struggles with depression and co-founded the suicide prevention nonprofit organization Anthem of Hope. Before his death Monday, he tweeted he was officiating the funeral of a woman who killed herself. He also posted a series of statements about mental illness and faith.

Did he have a family? Wilson and his wife, Juli, had two young sons whom Wilson spotlighted recently in a social media campaign that went viral among pro-life advocates. He posted a photo of his family with the hashtag #greatjoys in response to a pro-abortion tweet by actress Alyssa Milano. “Children are our future, and a blessing from God, not a burden that so many people—specifically people who are only focused on their own achievement and goals—make them out to be,” Wilson told Faithwire.

Dig deeper: Reporting on suicides presents news organizations with unique challenges. Read Marvin Olasky’s paper on the topic from the WORLD archives for a historical perspective.

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Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital’s managing editor and reports on popular and fine arts. She lives in Wichita, Kan., with her husband and two daughters. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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  • My Two Cents
    Posted: Wed, 09/11/2019 03:37 pm

    It is so hard for me to fathom the darkness this man found himself in. He advocated for mental health. He was open about his own struggles with depression. He posted pictures of his "greatest joys", his children, in a wonderful pro life statement. Did he not KNOW the lies of Satan seek to kill and destroy, even if he didn't FEEL redeemed? Yet he devastated his wife and two beautiful children because of his own unbelief. 

    Isaiah 43:1 But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob,
    And He who formed you, O Israel,
    “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name; you are Mine!

  • not silent
    Posted: Wed, 09/11/2019 04:22 pm

    It is impossible to know what it is like to be suicidal unless you have been there.  While the person who is suicidal may realize in a more rational state that Satan is lying to them and that dying will cause pain to those they love, when depression is severe enough, it can feed on itself so that the person gets trapped in a deadly, irrational thought process.  When emotional pain becomes that severe, it can seem unbearable to continue living for another minute or even another second; and a person's mind can trick them into thinking that death is the only way out, that it will not hurt others, and even that it will be better for their loved ones if they die.  Yes, it's a lie; but a person in this kind of irrational state really can't see it.

    I have known a lot of people who were suicidal, and I have friends right now who are sometimes suicidal.  In my experience, expressing anger or admonishing the person has never been helpful once they have reached the point where they are seriously considering suicide.  At that point, they may already be overwhelmed with guilt and shame; and they don't need additional condemnation on top of their own self-condemnation.  (That doesn't mean I won't FEEL anger, just that it is not the time to express it to them.)  I have let friends know in a gentle way that it will make me sad if they take their life. If necessary, I will ask if they have a plan and the means to carry it out.  If someone is determined to take their life, I can't stop them; but I have told my friends that I will call 911 if they get to this point.  I'm not an expert, but I can send them to someone who is.

    If anyone reading this is struggling, I've been there.  It may seem like there is no hope, but God can make a way when there is no way.  It may seem like no one would care if you died, but those who love you would experience great pain.  This season of pain may seem endless, but it will not last forever.   Please reach out and get help.

  • My Two Cents
    Posted: Thu, 09/12/2019 12:33 pm

    Not Silent, thank you for your thoughtful response. I KNOW (rationally) that my life has been easy. I have not suffered the despair of no way out. For years, I have felt completely helpless around those suffering mental illness. I try to be supportive and understanding. I assure them I care for them. God cares for them. I've had numerous people respond with "God has abandoned me." It is really a hopeless situation. I've offered to pray for them/with them to be rebuffed. I ask them if they have a counselor they trust. Again, "Yeah, but it didn't do any good." Mental illness isn't JUST a church problem, although the church is sadly in denial about its prevalence among its members. In my own experience, my words of comfort are empty and vain. They are salt in the wound of someone in dark despair. After a loved one takes his life, those closest to them suffer excruciating anguish, wondering if they could have possibly done more to prevent their suicide.  I truly pray for Mr. Wilson's wife. There will come a time she will have to explain to her kids. I can't imagine.

  • not silent
    Posted: Thu, 09/12/2019 05:03 pm

    Thank you, My Two Cents.  I think it's normal for Christians to want to help others, and it's biblical; but it can be extremely hard and frustrating for people who are trying to offer support to someone who is mentally ill.  

    When I was in some of the darkest times, there were many people who wanted to help; and they often gave suggestions such as read the Bible more, pray a certain way, memorize more Scripture, or "get out of yourself."  Those suggestions were not WRONG, but for me at least, I already KNEW all those things and I was already DOING THEM.  Having friends continually remind me made it feel like I was a failure or like they were judging me.  To be fair, this was probably because of my own anxiety and feelings of shame as much as anything they did or said.  But I sometimes got the feeling that people thought that I MUST be doing something wrong since I wasn't better already.  Sometimes it was even hard to have people pray over me. (There were many reasons for this-and most of them had to do with me and my stuff. Sometimes it felt like people were trying to admonish me or control me through their prayers.  Also, since I was dealing with past trauma, when someone got wound up or tried to "take authority," it would scare me.)  

    Unfortunately, a person with mental illness can do all the right things but still struggle. In fact, some emotional wounds take a really long time to heal.  Forgiveness is very freeing, but TRUE forgiveness may take time.  It can be very hard to listen to someone who is depressed, but sometimes what is needed is for someone to listen without judging or trying to fix the sufferer.  Also, just as someone with a serious physical illness needs a doctor, someone with serious mental illness may need meds and/or professional counseling.  

    It's true that the Christian community can be hard on people who are mentally ill.  One thing that was hard was that everyone loved me as long as I was in denial about my pain, but everything changed when I started dealing with it.  I was once told that people shouldn't come to Bible study if they were depressed. (???!!!)  

    I think willingness to listen and to learn and realizing one's own limitations can help.  My friends couldn't fix me, and I can't fix my friends with mental illness.  But I may be able to listen, and I can still intercede for them on my own.  Grace and a willingness to forgive can go a long way.

  • My Two Cents
    Posted: Thu, 09/12/2019 06:30 pm

    I am learning slowly, what it means to be a listener. You are so right. I still feel like I need to "fix" people. It's human nature, I think. 


  • not silent
    Posted: Fri, 09/13/2019 01:26 pm

    I think you are 100% right, My Two Cents-I think it is human nature to want to fix people, possibly even more so for Christians since we are called to help each other.  Wanting to help is not a bad thing, particularly for someone like you who is willing to learn how to do so more effectively.  It took me a while to realize that I can't fix others.  I can encourage people and support them in their suffering, but the Lord is the one who heals them.  Like with AA, the person can't get recovery until they are ready for it.

    There are a lot of Christians who really do mean well, but they aren't always willing to listen to the person they are trying to help. As I said earlier, the person may not want help or advice; instead they may need someone to listen and show they care.  What I also saw was a tendency for people to give me "quick fixes."  They might imply that I would be healed if I just prayed the right way or if I read more scripture or if I did this or that; but they had NO IDEA what I was going through.  This is not aimed at you, My Two Cents; but it REALLY hurt me when people who hardly knew anything about me would declare that God showed them I should do this or that or that I didn't need meds or therapy.  (I knew they meant well, but I had been weeping and praying ON MY FACE before God for YEARS about my situation; and they hardly even knew me.  Why would God tell THEM something different about what I should do than what he was already telling me?) 

    In fact, the advice I received from people who hadn't "been there" often seemed simplistic and unrealistic.  With hindsight, I think they were often overwhelmed by the situation.  I think Christians sometimes forget that we aren't the savior.  We can be used by God, but we can only do what we can do; and sometimes it is doesn't seem like much.  I would say to anyone in that situation that it's okay to set boundaries and/or to refer the person to someone who is better equipped to listen and to help them. And I would say to anyone who is suffering that it's not safe to share everything with everyone.  Not everyone can handle it.  Worst case, they may get triggered and attack you. God can send safe people into your life and give you discernement.  If you are having a hard time trusting him or if you are angry, it's okay to tell him how you feel.

    It can be very frustrating trying to help someone doesn't seem to want help; but it doesn't necessarily mean they are terrible people or that they won't ever get better.  They may be discouraged or full of despair because no one seems to understand, they may have tried all the generic "quick fixes," they may be angry because others seem to expect them to be better already, they may be afraid of what will happen if they DO get better, and it really may feel like God has abandoned them.  (There are also people with serious mental conditions that require specialized therapy.)  At any rate, telling someone their feelings are "wrong" (i.e., "No, God hasn't abandoned you!") won't make the feelings go away.  The Psalms show us that feelings themselves aren't wrong-it's what you do with them.  What helped me was when people said, "That must be really hard." or "I'm sorry you are going through this," and then just LISTENED.  


  • not silent
    Posted: Wed, 09/11/2019 03:45 pm

    This is a terrible tragedy.  My sympathy to his family and friends.  And I pray that anyone who reads this who is struggling will be able to reach out for the help they need.  


  • JerryM
    Posted: Wed, 09/11/2019 06:03 pm

    Mental health issues are on the rise within and outside of the church.  I understand Jarred considered most churches ill-equiped to deal with these issues.  I would agree.  In particular, with our emphasis on rationalism and the intellect, I think we have so little understanding of the spiritual dynamics that animate these intense feelings.  Strategies involving the truth and spirit are needed.