On this now September 12, 2019, I have so many words to say about September 10 and 11, 2019.
September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. A day where we all remember that each person’s life matters and we are all in this together. This year this day took a different focus for me as the news was shared that Pastor Jarrid Wilson took his own life by suicide on September 9, 2019. He is the second megachurch pastor, after Andrew Stoecklein who took his life in August 2018. There have also been more pastors who have taken their lives, it just hasn’t made headline news.
When we hear of the suicide of any loved one it shocks us. We wonder why? We wonder is there is anything we could have done to help. We take classes, we save the suicide hotline phone number to our phone to be prepared to help, and we as pastors journey with those who are suicidal all while dealing with the pressures of life and ministry.
Often times, it is also us who do the funerals of those who commit suicide. Some of these people we actually knew well and others are those we have never met. At some of these funerals we can name that suicide occurred, but sometimes the families are not ready to share that information yet as they are going through their own grief process.
I can tell you I have been doing more of these funerals in the past five years and they are heartbreaking. Sometimes it is a young adult who makes a rash decision to end their lives and sometimes it is an older adult who cannot deal with the pain of their illness anymore. Both cases are devastating. Their lives matter and there is a hole in this world without them.
Although I did not know either of these pastors personally who took their own lives this past year, in the world of pastors we are all connected and I have many friends who did know them well.
Pastors are people too and pastors struggle. Ministry is hard. We journey with hurting people on a daily basis and we also have our own personal lives and families to deal with too. I feel blessed that I do feel like I have a community of support as a pastor, but I know not all pastors share in that blessing as they move around from place to place.
Yesterday, we commemorated the victims of 9/11. After this unspeakable evil occurred I traveled to New York with my family to see the hole in the skyline where the world trade center had been and went to the street in front of where the world trade center had been in see the hole in the hearts of so many family and friends who had lost loved ones or who were still looking for them.
I have been to the museum in New York City and I too have placed my hand upon the names at the Memorial Pools. These people who lost their lives did not lose them by their own hands, but due to the evil in the hearts of others and the hatred they embodied. The lives of these victims matter. Their lives too were cut short, snuffed out, before it was their time.
So today I mourn. I mourn for a nation still grieving the loss of so many people who didn’t have to die. I mourn for a nation that is divided and has forgotten that we are better when we help each other and give one another hope. I mourn for my own community of pastors. Colleagues I have gleaned from 10 years of ministry who are either struggling with depression suicidal ideation, or know someone that has committed suicide. I mourn with the family and and friends of all those who have died by suicide this past year.
Mourning is a beautiful part of who we are as the people of God. This is how God teaches us to respond to evil in the world and to respond to death, but we do not mourn without a purpose.
We mourn because we know that the life that God intends for us is so much more beautiful than the life created for us by terrorist or depression. We mourn, but we also know that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).
We mourn because morning is taking action.
We mourn because in our mourning we still hold onto hope.
God is calling us to continue to be in relationship with each other, even though there is the risk of pain when we lose someone we love unexpectedly. God has given us the gift of each other to love, cherish, encourage and celebrate in this life.
If any of you ever need to talk because you are mourning or depressed please do not hesitate to contact me. Your life matters and I love you.
~ Pastor Jessie Colwell