I do not know Rick Warren, and I did not know his son. (Yes, I’ve read one of Warren’s books, but that doesn’t mean that I know him.) However, I have known many people who found themselves in Matthew Warren’s place, and many people who have found themselves in the place of sorrow, grief, and guilt that many of Matthew’s family probably find themselves in now.
I once sat in a lady’s living room listening to her nephew talk about his faith in God and his relationship with Jesus Christ. He also talked about his struggles with depression. After he killed himself, I sat in that same living room and listened as his aunt grieved and mourned the loss of her nephew.
I sat in another living room of a close friend who has struggled with bipolar disorder for many years. When he left home that morning, he had left a suicide note for his family and taken a gun with him. His family struggled with what was going on and what they could do. I listened to them and prayed with them, and later rejoiced with them when my friend returned home. As long as I’ve known him, he has demonstrated a strong faith in Jesus Christ and has often encouraged and taught me as we’ve shared our lives together.
I’ve sat in other living rooms, or held the other side of the telephone, or stood next too many other people who have struggled with what has been called “mental illness”: anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc. I’ve talked with them; I’ve encouraged them; I’ve tried to help them.
But, most of all, I listened.
Today, because of the tragedy in the family of a Christian celebrity, the church is talking about “mental illness.” People are defining it, describing it, debating it.
But, are we listening… really listening… to our brothers and sisters in Christ who struggle with these problems?
If we’re not, we should be. We can learn from them, because they are part of us. They are an important part of us. They are a needed part of us.
And, until we accept them as part of us, and until we stop talking and telling and condemning and warning and explaining… until we start listening… we’re going to miss something important that God wants to do in our lives THROUGH them. (Of course, God can use us in their lives too, but that’s a different point.)
A good friend of mine has been struggling with depression for a long time now. Every time I talk to him, he encourages me to trust Jesus and to follow him regardless of where he leads me. He is a good brother in Christ… the kind of brother that I would like to be to others. And, he struggles with depression.
I listen to him, because he is part of the body of Christ with me, because God loves him, and because I love him too.
The church is talking about mental illness now… but are we listening?